Is Foster Care “In the Best Interest of the Child”? Not on your Life!

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The philosophy of “best interest of the child” sounds so very wonderful. It must keep children safe and help them to be successful for the remainder of their lives. Taking them from horrible parents, away from the abuse/neglect and placing them with foster parents in wonderful foster homes is the true solution to one of society’s worst corruptions.

Arizona Revised Statute A.R.S.25-403. Legal decision-making; best interests of child

  1. In a contested legal decision-making or parenting time case, the court shall make specific findings on the record about all relevant factors and the reasons for which the decision is in the “best interests of the child.”

So, let us look at the National Foster Care Outcomes achieved from this wonderful intervention strategy to save children and put them on the road to a life of success. It must be exciting since we have federal funding that helps support this special cause, our future.

National Foster Care Outcomes

  • On September 30, 2012 there were approximately 397,122 children were in the foster care system. (1)
  • In the General Population of people that are 25 years of age or older, there are 31% that have a Bachelor’s degree (2)
  •  In the former foster children population that are age 25 and older, there are 3% that have a Bachelor’s degree (3)
  •  In the former foster children* population incarcerated since age 17: Males: 64% percent, Females: 32.5% percent. (4)
  • In the former foster children* population there are 24% percent who experience homelessness after aging out of the system. (5)
  • In the former foster children* population there are 61% percent who are unemployed one year after aging out. (6)
  • In the former foster children* population there are 53.5% who are unemployed five years after aging out. (7)

Question: Is it in the “best interest of children” from foster care to have 3 out of 100 with a Bachelor’s degree? Or 61 out of 100 unemployed? Or 24 out of 100 homeless? Or 64 out of 100 males incarcerated? Or 32.5 out of 100 females incarcerated?

Those outcomes do not seem to be in the best interest of these former foster care children.

America is:

  • 26th of 29 among developed nations based on measures of child welfare. (8)
  • 25th of 27 among developed nations based on the rate of child deaths from abuse and neglect. (9)

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration of Children & Families, Administration on Children, Youth & Families, Children’s Bureau identified:

(10) “Children Entering Foster Care during FY 2013,” was N = 254,904.

  • White children N = 114,666                                          45%
  • Black/African-American children N = 54,835               22%
  • Hispanic children N = 53,786                                        21%
  • American-Indian children N = 5,456                             2%

A national study of child protective services by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that “minority children, and in particular African American children, are more likely to be in foster care placement than receive in-home services, even when they have the same problems and characteristics as white children”. (12)

Child Trends Data Bank, Foster Care December 2014 pg. 5 (11)

  • Non-Hispanic white children, who made up about 52 percent of American children under age 18, accounted for 42 percent of foster children in 2013.
  • Black children, who made up around 14 percent of all children, accounted for 24 percent of foster children in that year.
  • Hispanics (who can be of any race), who were 24 percent of U.S. children, accounted for 22 percent of foster children in 2013. [6]

See more at: http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=foster-care#sthash.IzaMNls5.dpuf

Dorothy Roberts, a professor at Northwestern University’s School of Law, shares:

  • “If you came with no preconceptions about the purpose of the child welfare system, you would have to conclude that it is an institution designed to monitor, regulate, and punish poor families of color.” (12)
  • Black children make up more than two-fifths of the foster care population, though they represent less than one-fifth of the nation’s children.” (12)
  • Black children in New York were 10 times as likely as white children to be in state protective custody.” (12)
  • “According to federal statistics, Black children in the child welfare system are placed in foster care at twice the rate for white children.” (12)
  • “And once removed from their homes, black children remain in foster care longer, are moved more often, receive fewer services, and are less likely to be either returned home or adopted than any other children.” (12)

Well, surely the outcomes for Arizona’s Foster Care children will be significantly better than the national statistics. Remember we actually have a law, A.R.S. 25-403, that assures taxpayers that Arizona’s outcomes will demonstrate the spirit of “best interest of the child,” right?

Arizona Foster Care Outcomes

According to Children’s Action Alliance, as of January 9th, 2015, the Arizona Department of Child Safety records share:

  • 53% growth in the number of children in Foster Care from June 2008 to October 14, 2014. (13)
  • June 2008 there were 9,148 children in Foster Care and in October 2014 there were 17,184 children in Foster Care. (13)
  • In June of 2009 there were 5,509 families receiving In-Home Services and in November of 2014 there were 8,712 families receiving In-Home Services. (13)

Question: Is it in the best interest of the children in Arizona to have a 53% increase in the number in foster care? Or is that in the state’s financial best interest?

Question: Is in the best interest of children to have a 53% increase in the number of children in foster care and only a 27% increase in the In-Home Services provided to families?

It would not be unreasonable for an outsider to wonder if the state philosophy to reduce families getting In-Home Services had something to do with increasing the number of children in foster care. Would that be in the “best interest of children”?

According to Children’s Action Alliance, as of January 13th, 2015, the Arizona Department of Child Safety records share:

  • 2,144 children in foster care did not receive required monthly visit from DCS in September, 2014 (14)
  • 1,213 Parents with a case plan to reunify with their children did not receive required monthly visit from DCS in September, 2014 (14)
  • 448 foster homes did not receive required quarterly visit from their licensing agency between April 2014 and September 2014. (14)

Question: Is it in the “best interest of the child” to not have received the required monthly visit from the Department of Child Safety? Is it in the “best interest of the child” to not have received the required monthly visit to Parents in the reunification process?

Question: Is it in the “best interest of the child” to not have the quarterly visit from the agency that licenses the foster home to check on accountability outcomes in that foster home

  • African American children represent 4.8% of population yet 13.9% are in out-of-home care. (15)
  • Children with an adoption case plan spend on average 25.1 months in out-of-home care. (15)
  • 23.9% children in foster care have been in out-of-home care for 13 to 24 months. (Arizona Department of Economic Security, “Child Welfare Reporting Requirements Semi-Annual Report for the Period of Apr. 1, 2014 through Sep. 30, 2014”; 2010 U.S. Census Data) (15)
  • Average number of placements was 2.3, and the range for the number of placements was 1 to 43. (15)

Question: Is it in the “best interest of the child” that is African-American to be represented three times more in foster care than in the general population?

Question: Is it in the “best interest of the child” for children to spend over two years in out-of-home care?

Conclusions:

Maybe I do not understand the true meaning of what is in the “best interest of children.”

For the life of me I cannot fathom or understand how taking children from their natural parents and natural families for the rest of their childhood is in their best interest.

Taking their identity, their heritage, their beliefs, their religion, and even their name and social security numbers away in the name of “best interest of the child” does not seem reasonably to be in their best interest.

Why?

Why does the Arizona Department of Child Safety ignore “Kinship Care”?

The Child Welfare League of America has successfully focused on this solution for more than 30 years that I am aware of and yet Arizona ignores one of the most positive, healthy, and successful methods for keeping children safe.

“Every day hundreds of thousands of grandparents, aunts and uncles, older siblings, and non-related extended family members step in to keep children safe and nurtured when their parents cannot. CWLA defines kinship care as the full-time protecting and nurturing of children by grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, older siblings, non-related extended family members, and anyone to whom children and parents ascribe a family relationship, or who ‘go for kin’. Within this definition there are two populations of kinship families: (a) informal, where children live with grandparents or other relatives and are not in child protective service custody; and (b) formal, where children are placed in the care of a relative or non-related extended family member under the auspices of a public child welfare agency. Whether informally arranged among family members or formally supported by the child welfare system, it is essential to affirm and support the considerable contributions of kinship caregivers.” (16)

 References:

  1. xix. The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport20.pdf (estimates as of Nov. 2013).
  2. National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics: 2012 (table 8), available at http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_008.asp?referrer=report (2012)
  3. Foster Care by the Numbers, Casey Family Programs, Sept. 2011, available at http://www.casey.org/media/MediaKit_FosterCareByTheNumbers.pdf
  4. xxiv. Courtney, M., Dworsky, A., Brown, A., Cary, C., Love, K., Vorhies, V. (2011). Midwest evaluation of the adult functioning of former foster youth: Outcomes at age 26. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
  5. World Bank, World Development Indicators Database, Total GDP 2011, at 1, http://databank.worldbank.org/data/views/reports/tableview.aspx (2012).
  6. Calculated by finding average of unemployed former foster youth males (60%) and females (62%) at age 19. See Hook, J. L. & Courtney, M. E. (2010). Employment of Former Foster Youth as Young Adults: Evidence from the Midwest Study. Chicago: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.
  7. Calculated by finding average of unemployed former foster youth males (54%) and females (53%) at age 24. See Hook, J. L. & Courtney, M. E., Employment of Former Foster Youth as Young Adults: Evidence from the Midwest Study. Chicago: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago (2010).
  8. Calculated from rankings in overall well-being. See UNICEF, “Child well-being in rich countries: A league table of inequality in child well-being,” Innocenti Report Card 11, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence, available at http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc11_eng.pdf (2011).
  9. UNICEF, “A league table of child maltreatment deaths in rich nations,” Innocenti Report Card 5, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Florence, available at http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/repcard5e.pdf (2003).
  10. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration of Children & Families, Administration on Children, Youth & Families, Children’s Bureau identified; “Children Entering Foster Care during FY 2013”
  11. Child Trends Data Bank, Foster Care December 2014 pg. 5 http://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=foster-care#sthash.IzaMNls5.dpuf
  12. Race and Class in the Child Welfare System by Dorothy Roberts; http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/fostercare/caseworker/roberts.html
  13. Children’s Action Alliance, January 9th, 2015, the Arizona Department of Child Safety Records http://azchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Receiving-Required-Visits-for-Children-in-Foster-Care.pdf
  14. Children’s Action Alliance, January 9th, 2015, the Arizona Department of Child Safety Records
  15. http://azchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Receiving-Required-Visits-for-Children-in-Foster-Care.pdf
  16. CASA of Arizona (Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children http://www.azcourts.gov/casa/ChildWelfare/ChildWelfareStats.aspx Arizona Department of Economic Security, “Child Welfare Reporting Requirements Semi-Annual Report for the Period of Apr. 1, 2014 through Sep. 30, 2014”; 2010 U.S. Census Data)
  17. KINSHIP CARE: TRADITIONS OF CARING AND COLLABORATING MODEL OF PRACTICE http://www.cwla.org/kinship-care/

 

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Health Policy Opportunities to Prevent Violence Against Women, Children & Families

On Wednesday, April 30, Futures Without Violence and the National Health Collaborative on Violence and Abuse (NHCVA) conducted a Capitol Hill briefing to address strategies to utilize the health care system in a way that can prevent family violence. Speakers included Richard Krugman, MD, the Office of Health Affairs, University of Colorado Denver; Deb Levine, MA, Executive Director, Youth + Tech + Health; Diana Cheng, MD, Project Connect Maryland; Howard Koh, MD, MPH, Assistant Secretary for Health, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; and Brigid McCaw, MD, MPH, Chair, National Health Collaborative on Violence and Abuse.

Dr Krugman, discussed his work on child abuse and neglect issues. He was a member of the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect when they issued their findings in 1990. He summarized what was concluded then, and continues even today, that we have hundreds of thousands of children being abused and neglected each year. Further, that the system we have designed to address these families is dysfunctional and that we end up spending billions of dollars a year to address the failure to respond. He concluded that the Commission he was on had too many recommendations (31), and because they did not offer Congress a “silver bullet” to fix the situation, the recommendations were ignored. He also noted a lack of commitment to the issue by all administrations, noting the Clinton Administration’s lack of interest in the topic at the time he was on the Commission.

Dr Krugman also talked about the need for much more research, pointing out that children respond differently to being victims of abuse but we have a limited ability to understand this result. He suggested that the March of Dimes model might be the best model for advocacy, noting their history of forming in response to the past polio epidemics of the forties and fifties that took a little over 1,000 lives per year. They mobilized around a single cause and grew from there.

Dr.Cheng focused her discussion on recent research and on-going work in Maryland. Starting in Baltimore, research determined that the number one killer of women who are pregnant or within a year of their pregnancy was homicide. Further work and research determined that in two-thirds of these homicides the perpetrator was the partner or former partner. In some instances these homicides also include the infant. They also determined through surveys of pregnant women that 7 percent were experiencing physical abuse during their pregnancies. Building on these finding Maryland is working on addressing intimate partner violence (IPV), training providers including Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and integrating IPV assessment into Title X Family Planning Programs and other health provider contacts.

Additionally, the briefing highlighted further opportunities in health care to reduce domestic and dating violence and adverse childhood experiences (ACE), and new technology (apps) that promote safe and healthy relationships. 

A version of this column originally appeared in:

STOP Florida Department Of Children And Families Circuit 20

March 6, 2013 Department of Children and Families News Letter Social Workers Help Children, Families, Vulnerable Adults in Need

There are several Social workers who really care and take their cases very personal and not just a job or paycheck. Those are few that are deserving of recognition, here in the 20th circuit.Since 2005, I have been a court watcher at the Lee County Justice Center, I have seen success stories, However, I have seen more Horror in Family and Dependency courts.In my experience with the Florida Child Protection System, I can assure you what I have seen and heard is beyond disbelief. I know every one of the Fl Status 39 and stay up to date on all revisions, which I find that the Sub-Contracting Agencies are NOT complying with at all.I and my fellow court watchers across this state , find this Extremely Disturbing.As a voice for the last 8 years, I have made my position very well known. So known, that my door was knocked on too many times with false allegations with the hope that one day, Something would stick.Having the knowledge I do, Your case workers were unable to prove or pursue.In 2010, They finally found something to suck us into the system of corruption. With NO Allegations or Association, My grand-daughters estranged mother, who had abandoned her in 2004 and lost her rights to 1 child in New Jersey (2010) , Gave birth while having a drug addiction, which was passed to another new innocent child. Now, we have a legitimate case with this mother..Because my son and her were never married and there was NO legal court order of custody, We became victims to the system. My son had to jumped threw hoops of fire for 2 1/2 years before his portion of the case was closed.The mother and other father, did not attend court hearings and were non-compliant with their case plansThe one thing I have found to be a benefit from being a victim and a court watcher, Is I know all the players. I have done my research, I have watched them closely, I listen to them intensely and I can see the money trail that hold families hostage.The system is Black and White, There should be No shades of Grey for either the Court or the case management. The Status are defined as such to be followed, Not to be interpreted by anyone differently.Here in the 20th , I can say honestly that only 1 Supervisor and her staff at DCF , Follow the laws, Genuinely, in the best interest of the children and help to the fullest degree, Above and Beyond, To help the children or families reunite.The Courts, Family Court does not reaffirm Standing orders from Dependency Court, Dependency Court holds NO weight in Family court at all. The entire Family Court system is for profit. Regardless of any standing order, You must BUY your child to have legal custody. The entire Family court system is not in the best interest of the family or the children…In closing, I have some very strong advice. The 20th Should be investigated and NOW.. Rumors are that several seasoned DCF employees are leaving . Those in charge, have Never done their job to know their job. You are about to see the this circuit implode. Working lunches at the bar are not meant to be.. Lucifer Services supervisors and case managers should not be entertained by DCF Operations.The click of drunks, Should NOT be openly seen and heard during court recess.Professionalism is Non-existent, when the public can hear them cursing and bad mouthing fellow workers. One of which was referred too as a fucking cunt for knowing how to do her own job and the job of that OPA . Making sexual remarks about male staff members is very inappropriate to say the least and offensive..(Not to jeopardize the job of the seasoned well known person, she was speaking of, I will keep that to myself unless needed in the future.)I will be watching and listening in the coming weeks, The interest of what will be happening is too hard to resist and I sincerely Hope, You take my advise. Remember the Black Eye the media will have in store, as they feed off failure. And, The BEST INTEREST of the families..Marian B. Scirrotto
Founder : And Justice 4 all
“Committed to Change”
“If you can read this, thank a teacher-and, since it’s in English, thank a soldier !!”

And they did NOT take my advise,However,They
DID go back for my grand-daughter !
https://sites.google.com/site/stopflcircuit20dcf/

A version of this column originally appeared in fightingforfamiliessupportgroup.blogspot.com.

After fourth child dies despite DCF’s watch, judge concludes: ‘the system is not working’

Despite claims of Secretary David Wilkins and Gov. Rick Scott that the state is doing a good job managing the troubled child welfare system, critics of the Department of Children & Families told the Miami Herald on Wednesday that the recent “cluster” of child deaths suggests the agency is in deep trouble.

cohen[1]Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jeri Beth Cohen, who chairs the county’s foster care oversight board called the Community-Based Care Alliance, said she could not recall any time in recent history in which so many young children had been killed after the state had been given meaningful opportunities to save them. Two of the four recent deaths involved small children from Miami-Dade.

“We have a very severe systemic problem,” Cohen said. “The system is not working, and it’s scary.”

“Every single one of these deaths could have been avoided,” said Cohen who was a veteran child welfare judge before transferring to Miami’s drug court, where she often still deals with parents whose addictions undermine their parenting. “You can’t explain away this many child deaths in this short a period of time where the state’s child protective investigation system is implicated. It’s urgent and it’s serious and it’s unconscionable..'

Wilkins, who was appointed to head the agency by Scott after a career as a corporate executive, has traveled the state in the past few months proclaiming that the host of changes made following a 2011 child death scandal have made Florida children safer. ” Story here. 

A version of this column originally appeared in feedproxy.google.com.

Former DCF investigator gets probation in clean-drug-test-for-sex case

Andrew Thomas, 32, was offered a plea agreement and sentenced on June 5, 2013. The sentencing for the former Florida Department of Children & Families investigator came after accusations he offered a woman his drug-free urine in exchange for sex.

Andrew Thomas, 32, was offered a plea agreement and sentenced on June 5, 2013. The sentencing for the former Florida Department of Children & Families investigator came after accusations he offered a woman his drug-free urine in exchange for sex.

DAYTONA BEACH-- A previous Florida Department of Children & Households detective was sentenced on Wednesday to 3 years' probation as part of a plea stemming from complaints he provided a lady his drug-free urine in exchange for sex.

In an uncommon step, Andrew Thomas, 32, was offered the plea contract over the woman's objections that the punishment was not severe enough. The female was not in court however knew the plea hearing, district attorney Chris Miller stated.

Miller said it was unusual to provide a plea opposed by the victim. "It's extremely unusual," Miller stated. "But it's not unusual.".

Thomas pleaded no contest to official misconduct, a third-degree felony culpable by approximately 5 years in prison.

Circuit Judge R. Michael Hutcheson withheld adjudication of shame, indicating Thomas will have the ability to state he is not a founded guilty felon and won't lose rights such as the right to vote or own firearms.

Hutcheson punished Thomas to the 3 years' probation, in addition to 50 hours of community service and got him to continue undertaking mental health therapy.

In exchange for the plea, Miller agreed to drop 2 service charges: bribery by a public servant, a second-degree felony, and falsifying records, a third-degree felony.

In agreeing to the plea, Miller stated he needed to take into consideration other aspects beyond the sufferer's objections.

Miller said he was concerned about the reliability of his witness and his ability to prove the case beyond a practical question at trial. He also added that Thomas did not have a criminal record.

Thomas did not comment as he walked out of the courtroom. He put his dark ball cap on his shaved head and walked into the rain.

His defense lawyer Allison Thero had actually informed the judge that Thomas would be back on a plane and from state on Wednesday after the hearing.

Miller said he also took into consideration that Thomas had actually left the state and would not be living near the woman.

The fees stemmed from a browse through Thomas made on May 8, 2012, as a DCF detective to among his cases, a woman near New Smyrna Beach. Thomas was implicated of trying to obtain the 22-year-old woman to have sex with him by telling her that her urine test had tested favorable for drugs.

Thomas told her that he wanted he might help her by taking the test for her, authorities said. Thomas then said that he would help her if she demonstrated he can credible her by making love with him, police stated.

The woman did not make love with Thomas however satisfied him by eliminating her clothes, police said. Thomas utilized his drug-free urine sample and accepted files stating she passed her drug test, authorities said.

The female's guy later called Thomas to confront him about exactly what occurred. Thomas claimed he felt forced to assist her which he was trying to close all her DCF cases.

Thomas resigned the day after being informed of the problem.