Oklahoma foster care reform efforts criticized

dhs[1]OKLAHOMA CITY —— Oklahoma is making lackluster progress toward its promise to improve its foster-care system, according to a report released Wednesday morning by an independent monitoring panel.

The second report from the monitors of the Pinnacle Plan implementation by the state Department of Human Services gave their first opinion on the state's "good faith efforts to achieve substantial and sustained progress."

The Pinnacle Plan is the negotiated settlement between the agency and the nonprofit Children's Rights, which filed a federal class-action lawsuit in 2008 alleging abuses of children in foster care.

An agreement was reached in early 2012, and the five-year plan started being put into place in August that year. It has 15 areas to improve, with goals and target dates, such as shelter use and the number of available foster placements.

The monitors make twice-a-year reports on how the state is meeting its goals.

At any point, the monitors could obtain court orders if they believe the state is not making significant progress.

The latest report expressed concerns about the sluggish recruitment of foster homes and therapeutic foster homes and the use of emergency shelters for children age 6 and older.

The monitors complimented the caseworkers for their dedication.

"Throughout, the (monitors) have been impressed by the commitment of DHS caseworkers and supervisors to strengthen the Oklahoma child welfare system so that it works better for children and families, although the DHS staff bear an enormous burden trying to do so in the face of very high caseloads and a shortage of safe, family-like placements for children," the report states.

Marcia Lowry, executive director of Children's Rights, said this report shows Oklahoma has not changed its priorities regarding children.

Because voters abolished the oversight commission in 2012 in favor of governor oversight, Lowry said the state's top elected official should be held accountable.

"There is clearly a leadership problem here, and the state's promise to implement the plan the state itself outlined in the Pinnacle Plan is clearly not being implemented in many respects," Lowry said. "Although the people in charge have changed and the buck now stops with the governor, children are not any better off."

Lowry said the findings of not making good faith efforts in foster-home recruitment, shelter use and caseloads are "troubling findings."

DHS officials say there has been some disagreement on the data collection and interpretation. A nationally recognized Chicago-based company has been hired to help in those discussions.

Lowry said the lack of data is a reflection of continued bad practices, pointing to problems getting data during the court process.

"There hasn't even been corrected data available and that is so critical in many respects, like foster home and therapeutic home recruitment," Lowry said. "They cannot even get the data straight. I am surprised by this, and I do attribute it to a lack of leadership. They could have done a better job, especially with regard to recruiting foster homes, which is so critical to all of this."

While the monitors have not sought court orders to date, Children's Rights did express concerns to them about the state not giving promised raises to workers and foster parents. The monitors noted that the increases were made late and no orders were needed.

"It is disheartening that Oklahoma seems unable to prioritize the needs of its most vulnerable citizens," stated Fred Dorwart in a written release. His law firm served as co-counsel for the plaintiffs.

"Children in state care, who already have suffered horrifying trauma, deserve nothing less than good homes and the full attention of those overseeing their cases. The state's practices continue to expose children to harm and the threat of harm."

The report findings are not a surprise to DHS, though officials disagree with some of its findings.

Director Ed Lake has spoken publicly for the past few weeks about the challenges being faced, from high staff turnover to a need for supplemental funding.

The most significant is a jump in the number of children taken out of abusive and neglectful homes, from 8,500 to 11,300, at a time when these reforms are being made.

Lake said he was pleased monitors recognized the work of the staff and those challenges. But he said improvements have been made in each area even though some fell short of the goal.

"It has been an uphill battle at almost every turn with the unexpectedly rapid rise in the number of children being placed in state custody," Lake stated in a written release. "That fact alone has affected key goals in the Pinnacle Plan. The pace of a few of our initiatives hasn't been what we all wanted it to be, but that certainly hasn't been for lack of effort or support for our work.

"We believe progress is being made, even with the number of children in our care, and the data supports our belief."

DHS overhauled its structure of child welfare, hired about 600 workers, reformed investigative procedures and responses to child-abuse allegations and eliminated shelter use for children 2 and younger, and has nearly rid shelter use for all children younger than 6.

"This is not the same department it was two years ago," Lake said. "We are headed in the right direction, but it will take time to get where we want to be. This is only the second year of a five-year improvement plan, and we still have much work ahead."

The cost of the Pinnacle Plan is estimated to be about $100 million over five years. It received $25 million out of the $30 million request to the Legislature the first year, and $32 million out of the $40 million request in the second.

Lake requested $33 million in supplemental funding to get through the fiscal year but no action has been taken.

Though the funding falls short, Lake said DHS has fared better than other agencies.

"We are extremely grateful to Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Legislature for their continuing support and investments they have made to enable these improvements," he said. "The state's financial investment has been considerable, and it's clear this critical work to improve our child welfare system is a high priority."


Highlights from the Pinnacle Plan Monitoring Report

Foster home development and support: Found that DHS was not making a good faith effort in recruiting homes and giving enough resources. Monitors were critical of the delay in establishing contracts with private agencies providing foster care support. They found a net gain of 50 homes last year while the goal was 615.

Foster care rate increase: One increase was made last year. The second scheduled increase has not been given because the Legislature did not provide funding in a supplemental appropriation. DHS plans to make up for that in the next year.

Therapeutic foster care: Found that DHS was not making a good faith effort in recruiting these more specialized homes. The explanation provided indicates some disagreement on how to calculate the number of homes available. A revised plan to meet the goals in this area was submitted by DHS to the monitors and is under review.

Caseloads: Is withholding judgment on good-faith effort until October. Monitors said DHS implemented several ways to improve the environment and turnover, including a redistribution of caseloads. Data was submitted by DHS in December for review. Monitors stated they "do not yet find evidence that workloads are improving in a substantial and sustained direction and DHS will need to demonstrate very significant movement over the next several months." An allegation made by Children's Rights in the lawsuit was that DHS routinely assigned workers at least 50 children and some had up to 100 children.

Shelter use: Monitors found DHS is making a good faith effort on eliminating use of emergency shelters for children 2 and younger. However, the monitors say they are "very concerned" about the growing number of children 6 and older in shelters. They are reserving judgment on good faith for the 2 to 5 age group until October.

Caseworker visitation: Is reserving judgment on good faith until October. DHS submitted data in March, and the parties are reviewing the information.

Placement stability: DHS and the monitors are currently reviewing data. Judgment on good faith is being withheld until October.

Permanency placement: DHS and the monitors are reviewing data. Judgment on good faith is being withheld until October.

Source: Report from the independent monitors of the DHS class action settlement

 

Oklahoma foster care reform efforts criticized

 

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Arizona CPS Exposed discusses the CPS and police investigations

There is so much involved with the CPS investigation it is difficult to cover in a 30 minute radio spot. The investigation, or lack of, often results in the children being removed from the family and placed in foster care while the family has to wait out an “open police investigation” and then face the months or years long fight to get their children back.

If the case involves a potential criminal charge the police investigation isn’t any better.

Part of the issue with both investigations is the agencies commitment to believing only the victim at all costs. They refuse to acknowledge that children lie or exaggerate the truth. So what can you or the children expect if CPS and/or the police call you in for questioning?

What kinds of tactics are used or are you aware of when questioning the children?

You have to remember it is not the intent of the investigators or CPS to discover the truth. It is only their objective to get enough information to declare dependency for the removal your children, putting them in foster care. They don’t care about the truth – only their version of the truth that will support their actions.

When questioning the children:

  • They will word questions in a manner that there is no correct answer for the child. For instance, they may ask the child “After your mommy smokes marijuana are you afraid of her?”

No matter how the child answers that question it will implicate the parent in some manner. Most children are not able to evaluate that type of question accurately. Young children are usually not mature enough to handle this type of questioning; heck many adults can’t handle it! The child may also be scared, uncomfortable and nervous being questioned in the first place and will simply answer “no”. By answering “no” the child is implying that the mother does smoke marijuana but that the child isn’t afraid of her. CPS will then use that against the parent.

  • They will use questionable interrogation techniques.

In our case stuff just didn’t add up, so we had one of the video interviews analyzed by a professional. While the questioning by the investigator started out okay, after a short period of time the investigator was using questionable tactics. He was leading the child instead of asking.

In subsequent interviews with this same child the investigator had to “remind” the child of their previous interviews as well as remind the child of what had been disclosed in these interviews as the child claimed they did not remember. This is not a young child but a 17 year old teen! So based on the investigator’s “reminders” he then proceeded to ask additional questions.

They also had a male in the room alone with the female child asking about sexual abuse. There should always be two adults in the room and one should be the same gender as the child.

  • They never ask for details from the child that could be proven false.

Since it is not their intent to discover the truth, they don’t ask for facts that can be confirmed or proven false.

For instance, they never asked the victim in our case how many times the alleged abuse happened. They never asked where the mother was while this abuse was taking place. They never asked what age it started at. They never asked which home(s) it took place in, and didn't always what rooms in the home. They never asked for dates or specific events when the alleged abuse took place.

The only reference the child made to a date when the abuse allegedly started was a date that both parents could confirm and verify where they were – and neither was with this child! But the investigators weren’t interested in this information and when the parent shared this information the investigator made excuses why the child might be mistaken.

  • They never question the parents or family to confirm or rebut the information the child gave.

They will ALWAYS assume the child is telling the truth. According to CPS children do not lie. Yet CPS and the AAG will pick and choose which “truths” to believe and bring to court and which “truths” to ignore because they don’t further their case or may undermine their case. The child is “telling the truth” with one statement, but when asked about a contradictory statement they will ignore it.

If the parent offers any information that may prove the child is not telling the truth, the parent is accused of not believing the child and the child will be removed from their custody.

When you are finally able to get the summary interview reports from CPS they will not necessarily reflect the statements made by the children.

Because we were able to watch the video interview and read the summary report, we found they had summarized the information in order to further their agenda. The summary did not reflect what the child actually said. They left out sentences and merged events together to come up with a completely different scenario than what the child reported during the video interview.

This is common.

Your children and the investigation

If they bring your children to Child Help they will question the victims. They will do physical exams on any child they believe is a victim. Yes, this does include an invasive physical exam if they believe sexual abuse has taken place. You will not be permitted to be with your child during this exam.

They will interview the victims and should video record the interviews. These video interviews can be obtained by your attorney.

Children in the family who are not victims but are brought to Child Help because they are going to remove all children may not be questioned until weeks later. The children told us that they were not questioned until much later, and most said it was two weeks later!

This was used against the family in court. This is what happened in our case. They would not permit any of our family contact with any of the children, nor could the children have contact with each other because of “an open police investigation.” When the investigation was not completed by the first court hearing the court had to order CPS investigators/police to complete the investigation.

This is wrong. No children should be moved from the CPS/Child Help offices without being questioned first. They should never be placed in foster care until they have been examined, if necessary, and questioned. If they do not question the children until weeks later any evidence they may need for a criminal case may be gone. Likewise, any abuse to the children in foster care may be alleged against the parents!

What is Child Help?

You need to be aware of what Child Help is and where they are located. Child Help is CPS!

Our daughter was asked to follow the police because her husband would need a ride home after questioning. He was not placed under arrest but went to the police station voluntarily to answer questions. Our daughter didn’t think anything about it. She followed and ended up at Child Help, which she did not realize was CPS until it was too late.

Once you get to Child Help they don’t need to do anything to take your children. They already have custody and they can remove you from the building.

If you are asked to go to Child Help or are tricked into going there CALL YOUR ATTORNEY IMMEDIATELY. This is not likely to end with you leaving with your children.

  • Be careful about what you say or disclose to all CPS workers and police officers, even in hallways.
  • Do not rattle on about problems or issues the family has or has had – keep your mouth shut!
  • Be extremely careful about what you say about YOUR past. What you tell CPS can be used not only against you but against any family member to keep them from getting your children, even temporarily.
  • Ask for an attorney before you speak to them – especially if you believe you are innocent.
  • Cooperate and be polite.
  • Only answer questions that are directly asked of you.
  • They may ask you to sign forms – you do not have to sign them. One will be the TEMPORARY CUSTODY NOTICE and the other is the CHILD PROTECTIVE SERVICES NOTICE OF DUTY TO INFORM. We have both of these forms posted on our website in “Understanding the Issue – Parental Resources.”
  • You should also be given the CPS booklet “A Guide to Child Protective Services,” which is also posted on our website.
  • CPS is not looking for the truth – they are only looking for information to substantiate their involvement. You are guilty.
  • If you want to keep custody of your children you MUST believe the victim! You must also have taken steps to protect the victim from the abuser. This may mean someone in the home must move out (the alleged abuser). You may have to get an order of protection. Unless you had absolutely no knowledge of the abuse, YOU must have taken steps to report the abuse.

If they believe drugs are part of the issue you will be required to get a drug test. If you are nursing an infant and wish to continue to provide breast milk for the infant you will have to get and pass a drug test before any milk will be accepted. The drug testing is not provided at the Child Help facility, so you will be required to get yourself to the testing location in order to participate in the required drug testing.

Once you have finished speaking with CPS, no matter what the outcome, write down what you remember immediately.

You will find that in motions to the court, reports, and even court hearings, what you actually said will be twisted into something you didn’t say or didn’t mean. Document everything!

CPS will make up stuff, so be prepared.

In our case CPS claimed our daughter made a statement about us during her questioning. The statement never made it into any report. We could not obtain the statement because we weren’t a “party to the case”. The attorney asked for the information and was never provided with it. And when we filed our appeal CPS still refused to disclose the information. In fact the interviewer on the appeal was not aware of the statements they claim were made against us. To this date it has never been provided. But that kept us from getting the children at the beginning of the case and it took almost 6 months to complete the appeal process.

We believe they made up the information because they knew we would have been the best placement for the children, and it would have been in the children’s best interest, but they had ulterior motives of severance and adoption from the beginning and didn’t want family to get custody of the children.

Police Investigation

If your case involves a possible criminal charge, be prepared.

While I am not advocating for permitting child abusers to go free, we do believe that everyone is entitled to have their constitutional rights protected and their day in court.

If you or anyone is taken to a police station for questioning you must invoke your constitutional rights. Remember:

  • CPS believes you are guilty.
  • Ask for an attorney – even if you are innocent! Do not believe that innocent people don’t need an attorney. Do not believe that by asking for an attorney you are somehow guilty.
  • If you are being charged with a crime you have a right to a court appointed attorney, if you cannot afford an attorney.
  • Do not speak to the police or investigators or make any statements until your attorney arrives. They may hold you for hours until your attorney arrives. Wait it out and don’t speak.
  • Do not talk to yourself while waiting. They are recording everything and they will use it against you.

Remember:

CPS is not investigating to find the truth. They are only investigating to get enough information to accuse the parents of wrong-doing so they can claim dependency and put the children in foster care.

They ignore the wishes of the children, even when the children say they feel safe at home and want to be with mom, dad or both.

They have to substantiate their case and CPS will work with the attorney general’s office to make sure they can justify the removal of your children.

What made our family’s case even sadder was that this happened on the 5th birthday of one of the children. He was looking forward to spending his birthday with family. Instead he was taken to Child Help. He begged his mother not to make him go into the playroom; he wanted to stay with her. She assured him it would be okay. That was the last time he would see his mother until 2 ½ months later. He never celebrated his 5th birthday.

Next week’s show

Next week we will discuss the initial process for dependency.

LA County leaders disagree on how to proceed with foster care reform

Andres Aguila/KPCC Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas pushed for a blue ribbon commission to examine L.A. County's child welfare system. Now, the question is what'll come of the group's recommendations for reform.

Andres Aguila/KPCC
Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas pushed for a blue ribbon commission to examine L.A. County's child welfare system. Now, the question is what'll come of the group's recommendations for reform.

A blue ribbon commission report on the ills of L.A. County's foster care system received a mixed reception at the Board of Supervisors Tuesday, as members signaled widely different views on a path towards reform.

But all of the supervisors agreed to study it further before taking action on the recommended reforms.

The commission was convened last year after the death of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez, who had repeatedly come to the attention of child welfare workers, but had been left in a home with his mother and her boyfriend, who are accused of abusing him. The two face murder charges in his death.

Fernandez's death also resulted in firings at the Department of Children and Family Services, and a flood of attention – much of it criticism – on the nation's largest child welfare system.

Over a year later, it's unclear what will come of outrage that followed his death.

Citing years of reforms, reports, and even court cases aimed at overhauling the Department of Children and Family Services, commissioner Leslie Gilbert-Lurie told the board that the county needs an oversight team to make sure the reform proposals don’t gather dust on the shelves in the county building.

"Recommendations will come and go," Gilbert-Lurie said. "As we can all now recite in our sleep, there have been hundreds of them. The problem fundamentally is not a lack of good ideas or of good people."

An oversight panel is the reform several commissioners called the most important. It's also the most controversial among county leaders.

The panel has also suggested creating an Office of Child Protection to coordinate amongst the numerous agencies (DCFS, law enforcement, District Attorney, Department of Health) that touch on child welfare going forward.

“A solid structure that takes in good ideas, assesses them, funds them, implements them, and holds people accountable for better results than in the past will lead to sustainable change,” Gilbert-Lurie said.

Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who voted against creating the blue ribbon panel in the first place, called the idea a "turkey."

"What this issue needs is not more bureaucracy and more commissions, it needs results," Yaroslavsky said.

The supervisor said moving resources from one under-funded department to a brand new one is hardly a solution.

"It's a non-starter with me," he said, though he said many of the ideas contained in the report were worth pursuing and more practical.

Board President Don Knabe has also expressed skepticism that more county agencies and commissions is that way to go.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who pushed for the blue ribbon panel, said he's "undeterred."

"We have to have a more thorough analysis of (the report)," Ridley-Thomas said.

Supervisor Gloria Molina said no issue is a non-starter for her.

“There’s a lot of self-defense and protectiveness of the status quo,” Molina said. “I welcome any ideas to reform the system and make it better.”

Concerning the possibility of more oversight commissions and departments, Molina said she has to hear more.

“I would like to see how it would be more pointed and direct,” she said.

In all the agencies that deal with foster children: “there isn’t one person that’s in charge of that child,” Molina said. “We need to have a person who’s making sure that all those services are received by that child.”

The Board asked the county counsel and the county’s chief executive office to review the recommendations and report back on their legal and financial feasibility. That analysis is expected to be presented at the board’s meeting on May 20.

 

A version of this column originally appeared in:

El Paso Struggles With Lack of English-Speaking Foster Homes

FosterCare_jpg_312x1000_q100[1]Nearly a quarter of the young children who came to the Child Crisis Center in El Paso in 2013 were from military families. Many ended up in the emergency shelter after state officials could not find English-speaking foster care families in the heavily Hispanic community who could effectively communicate with them.

“Repeatedly, we’re seeing placements break down, a lot in relation to the military family," said Alfonso Velarde, executive director of the Child Crisis Center of El Paso. "It’s difficult to find placement for a non-Spanish-speaking child in a foster home in El Paso."

On the heels of an expansion of Fort Bliss over the last several years, the emergency shelter in El Paso is seeing an increase in the number of children who can't be placed in foster homes because there aren't enough English-speaking families available. It's a problem that seems to be unique to the border community that is home to the burgeoning U.S. Army base, but it's one state lawmakers and policymakers hope will be considered during a redesign of foster care in Texas.

In 2013, 115 of the 496 children in the crisis center — who ranged in age from newborns to 13-year-olds and were brought to the shelter by Child Protective Services — came from active-duty military families, Velarde said.

The trouble, he said, stems from the demographic disparity between the population in the city and on the base. U.S. census data shows that 81 percent of the El Paso population is Hispanic. The Fort Bliss population is only 18 percent Hispanic, and white residents account for 61 percent of the base's population.

There are currently 617 foster homes in El Paso County and 307 children placed in those homes, according to the Department of Family and Protective Services. Despite the large margin of available homes, many children still land in the emergency shelter because there aren't enough English-speaking foster families.

The number of children from military families being placed at the crisis center began increasing two and half years ago, but the number of English-speaking foster families in the area has not kept pace with the non-Hispanic population growth at Fort Bliss, Velarde said.

Fort Bliss has grown explosively in recent years as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process that tripled its population as it transitioned from an air-defense center to an armor center. The expansion brought an additional 20,000 soldiers and 27,000 family members to El Paso, including 9,600 school-age children, according to the American Forces Press Service.

CPS Director of Placement Gail Gonzalez said instances in which language barriers complicate the placement of children with foster families are very rare and that CPS continuously works to meet the cultural and ethnic needs of children in foster care and to recruit the appropriate service providers, particularly in areas with “unique qualities” like El Paso.

“It’s one of those things that develops over time as your population grows or your population changes [and] then you start seeing something emerge,” Gonzalez said. “It takes a little while before the data … catches up.”

CPS does not track cases in which children are unable to be placed with a foster family because of a language barrier. But Gonzalez said that CPS has not experienced a “similar strain” in San Antonio, which houses the Army's Fort Sam Houston and also has a large Hispanic population. Other Texas bases, she said, have not seen the same dramatic expansion as Fort Bliss.

The increase in foster children from military families is seemingly unique to the emergency shelter in El Paso because of the younger children the center takes in and because of the differences in population on and off the base.

Sandy Rioux, executive director of the El Paso Center for Children, said his center, which serves as an emergency shelter for older children, between ages 10 and 18, is not seeing the same challenge in finding homes for children from military families.

Velarde said the uptick in younger children from military families at his center is largely the result of an increase in younger soldiers and families coming to El Paso as Fort Bliss became a leading training and deployment center for the U.S. Army.

Concerns about the availability of foster care in El Paso come as the state is gearing up for wider implementation of “foster care redesign,” which includes increasing partnerships with private contractors, to streamline the foster care placement process and keep children closer to home when they’re placed with a foster care family. 

The placement issue in El Paso came up during a House Health and Human Services Committee hearing last week to assess the implementation of foster care redesign after state Rep. Naomi Gonzalez, D-El Paso, asked Velarde to testify.

This week, Gonzalez said Velarde’s testimony was a “very basic step to alert the committee on what the challenges are going to be” when implementing foster care redesign in El Paso, where placement capabilities are already strained by the varied English proficiency levels among potential foster families in a majority-minority city with a growing military population.

“For a child that may be coming in with Fort Bliss and this may be their first experience in a border community, those type of families may not feel well-equipped to deal with a child whose whole life has only spoken English,” Gonzalez said.

This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Family charity criticises government’s fostering for adoption plans

Photo by Jayson Lorenzen via Flicker under a Creative Commons License

Photo by Jayson Lorenzen via Flicker under a Creative Commons License 

Charity the Family Rights Group has criticised government plans to introduce a ‘fostering for adoption’ scheme.

In a recently published consultation entitled Adoption: Getting It Right, Making It Work, the Department for Education outlined regulations and guidance designed to accelerate the adoptions process. These include ‘fostering for adoption’. The now closed consultation stated:

“…new Regulations require local authorities, when they are considering adoption, to consider placing the child with foster carers who are also approved prospective adopters and who could go on to adopt the child if adoption becomes the plan and the court makes a placement order or where there is consent.”

The document continued:

“The new Regulations and guidance make clear that the local authority must have considered and given preference to suitable family/friend carers before they consider adoption; and when it would be appropriate (and not appropriate) to consider this provision for children who are voluntarily accommodated.”

The consultation asked reviewers:

“Does the…statutory guidance set out clearly the need to consider and give priority to family and friend carers?”

In its response to the question, the Family Rights Group claimed:

“We support the Government’s intention to reduce delay, to minimise disruption for children, especially babies, who are unable to be raised by their parents, and to help them form secure attachments to their long term carers as early as possible.

However, despite S.22C (9A) [of the] Children Act (CA) 1989 requiring the local authority to consider family and friends placements before considering a foster for adoption placement for a looked after child, we are concerned that the Regulations and associated guidance in this consultation do not provide adequate safeguards to ensure that their chances of being raised by suitable family members are maximised and that the child and their family’s rights to family life are respected.”

Potential carers among the child’s extended family or friends are often late in coming forward during care proceedings because they do not wish to undermine the parents or are unaware of the involvement of social services altogether, the Family Rights Group explained.

“Yet, if an otherwise suitable relative only comes forward to offer to take on the care of the child once the child has been placed in a foster for adoption placement, it is very likely to be too late for them to successfully argue for the child to be moved in order to be placed with them. Given the positive outcomes identified for children in family and friends care as compared with unrelated care and that suitable relatives can offer exactly the same continuity of care in the short and long term as foster for adoption carers, this may well be contrary to children’s welfare. It is therefore essential that there are more robust procedural safeguards than are currently proposed to ensure that all suitable family and friends carers are sought out and assessed before a foster for adoption placement is made.”

In addition, the charity claimed that:

“Although we entirely agree that each child’s welfare needs should be considered when deciding the most appropriate placement for them, this must include their existing relationships and their identity. We are concerned that there is an unsubstantiated, underlying presumption in the guidance against siblings being placed together unless it is proven this is the right option.”

The Family Rights Group “advises families whose children are involved with or need children’s services because of welfare needs or concerns.”

Photo by Jayson Lorenzen via Flicker under a Creative Commons License

A version of this column originally appeared in www.marilynstowe.co.uk.