Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Lloyd Doggett have introduced to the U.S. Senate The Family Stability and Kinship Care Act. I have urged a number of organizations supporting this to withdraw their endorsement until the following changes/additions are included in the bill. The evils inherent in the current foster care system are too well documented to ignore. This bill represents an opportunity to demand the changes now that are desperately needed.
The bill states under the lines below:
11 (b) REQUIREMENTS.—Section 471 of such Act (42
12 U.S.C. 671) is amended—
13 (1) in subsection (a)(1), by striking ‘‘and’’ and
14 all that follows through the semicolon and inserting
15 ‘‘, adoption assistance in accordance with section
16 473, and, at the option of the State, time-limited
17 family services in accordance with subsection (e);’’;
19 (2) by adding at the end the following:
‘(e) REQUIREMENTS FOR TIME-LIMITED FAMILY SERVICES.—
‘(1) IN GENERAL.—A State may provide time limited family services (as defined in section 475(13)) to individuals described in subparagraph (C) of section 475(13) only if the State—
……….includ[es] a description of how Federal funds provided for such services will be used to supplement, and not supplant, the level of State and local funds expended for child welfare.
Totally disagree. Federal funds for front end services ought to by all means supplant the level of State and local funds expended for child welfare, not simply “supplement” them. The incentive for taking children from families is going to be just as great unless States are forced to refocus their efforts on front end maintenance of family integrity rather than simply throwing in a little extra for such an effort. At least half of funds now allocated by Title IV need to be shifted to front end services, forcing States to re-evaluate their policies. They will always follow the money.
States ought to be required to review and evaluate all cases and determine which children may be safely transferred from foster care back to their families with adequate front end services. lncentives need to be blocked where providing increased services in foster care increases payment of Federal funds to states. This is at the heart of all systemic abuse. There must be a balance to the weight of financial benefit to a State between determining foster care as a choice and maintaining family integrity.
In addition, a requirement that direct and obvious sexual or physical abuse and/or neglect must have occurred based upon reasonable doubt, not a preponderance of the evidence, before a child may be considered a candidate for foster care, and that any decision regarding the “probability” of it occurring again meet a high threshold of evidence, such as the necessity of filing criminal charges, A clear pattern of behavior must be absolutely established before any determination of a child’s removal from the home can occur.
A requirement that all caseworkers who make decisions regarding the disposition of children have proper academic qualifications, such as a degree in sociology and/or psychology. Jean Levy Zlotnik, senior consultant for the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Social Workers, says that “nationally, only 40% of child welfare caseworkers have a degree in social work.”
Caseworkers should be required to be married. They should have direct personal experience in raising children and in being a parent before they are given the power and discretion to make judgments about parenting.
Clear acknowledgement by states when accepting Federal funds that preserving the family is the primary foundation of civil society.
Strict policing of States’ adherence to a policy of prioritizing family integrity. It’s a numbers game. Nationally, only about 44% of children taken from their parents ever go home again. That number ought to be raised to 95%.
Strict prohibition of any child being removed from the home based upon evidence that the child was abused by a third party who is not a family member. Parents are stigmatized by fear that they will lose their child if they report sexual abuse to the police or take a child to a hospital for a medical exam that might indicate possible abuse. There is no healing for abuse that goes unreported. Measures need to be in place to encourage reporting, not discourage it. Parents who report clearly have the best interests of the child in doing so, and they ought to be given support and encouragement, not penalized because they are seen as bad parents.
Open up juvenile court procedures and cases to public review for the sake of transparency.
Dependency cases are now highly adversarial. The State does its best to prove abuse or neglect by painting the worst possible picture of the defendant parent. Parents typically do not have the resources to fight a whole army of caseworkers, investigators and attorneys and are threatened that if they don’t cooperate, they could lose their child. This needs to end. Most parents want to do a good job of raising their children. This must be presumed. The benefit of the doubt must always be given to parents in the spirit of What can the State do to HELP resolve this problem? Parental rights must not be threatened. Parents must be made to feel in control and given all the resources they need to overcome any obstacles to achieving good parenting.
I urge those weighing the passage of this bill read the following, which demonstrates the level of casual abuse of parents and children perpetrated by the State itself, which is enabled by current policies focused on the foster care business.