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

medically-kidnapped-children[1]

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:

Secrets won’t protect children

doug-ducey-greg-mckay

(Photo: Michael Schennum / The Republic)

The public's right to know is more than some noisy neighbor's curiosity.

When it comes to child safety, the level of openness can determine whether a child protection agency gets the scrutiny it needs to improve or simply uses secrecy to hide its mistakes.

Arizona's failed former child welfare agency was stealth-prone.

The agency that replaced it last year, the Department of Child Safety, was born amid promises to be more transparent.

Lawmakers, supported by Gov. Doug Ducey, are moving in the right direction.

But there are troubling shadows of secrecy.

For example, Ducey's office is refusing to release a whistle-blower complaint made against Greg McKay, who is now the department's director. It was made by the department's general counsel, Allister Adel, when McKay led the agency's Office of Child Welfare Investigations.

INTERVIEW: Child-safety director shakes up agency

In response to a Feb. 20 public-records request from The Arizona Republic, Ducey's office claimed attorney-client privilege, saying the memo from Adel was covered under attorney-client privilege and was not subject to disclosure, according to a statement to The Republic from Ducey's spokesman, Daniel Scarpinato.

Openness would be a better approach.

There were tensions last month when Ducey fired Charles Flanagan as the department's chief and put McKay in the job. A lengthy memo from McKay criticizing Flanagan's handling of backlogged cases preceded the change. Under Flanagan, the department's internal-investigations unit had investigated McKay and other employees.

When McKay took over, he eliminated the internal-investigations unit.

Read More :

Why the explosion in child-snatching is big business

When fostering excites venture capitalists, the number of children taken into care rises

 The children's department of Norfolk council received the most damning report possible from Ofsted Photo: ALAMY


The children's department of Norfolk council received the most damning report possible from Ofsted Photo: ALAMY

A Norfolk reader sends me photographs of an advertisement placed on the back of local buses by Norfolk and Suffolk county councils. “New challenge,” it reads. “Have you thought of fostering? If so you can earn £590 a week.”

Two things are interesting about this, one general, one specific. For a start, it shows what mind-boggling sums are now available to councils whose social workers take children into care. I have quoted before advertisements offering foster carers £400 a week for each child. But £590 a week means that a foster home looking after three children taken from their parents, which is not uncommon, can now earn almost £100,000 a year. In addition are the lavish fees charged by fostering agencies to make the arrangements, almost invariably run by ex-social workers.

Most people have no idea what a big business fostering has become. When one such firm, National Fostering Agency, representing 175 local authorities after being launched by two ex-social workers in 1995, was placed on the market by Rothschilds in 2012, it was sold by its “venture capital” owners Sovereign to a “private equity” firm, Graphite Capital, for a staggering £130 million.

The more specific point, however, is that, of all the councils that feature in my files as seizing children from their parents for what seem like questionable reasons, Norfolk and Suffolk are high on the list. In one of the most controversial cases I have reported, it was Norfolk’s social workers who were eventually forced to hand back a baby to its parents, after they had twice travelled to France to take the child into foster care in England. Having been thwarted in their plans, when a judge ruled that they had no legal right to do so, they seized several more children from different members of the same family who, to justify their removal, now face many charges of criminal abuse.

Yet last year the children’s department of this same council, Norfolk, received the most damning report possible from Ofsted, failing it as “inadequate” (the lowest rating) on every one of the five counts on which social workers are judged, from “quality of provision” to “leadership and management”.

Rad More at: Why the explosion in child-snatching is big business

 

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Report: Mass. not attentive to core issues behind child welfare cases

Little Jeremiah

Little Jeremiah

STATE HOUSE -- While the Department of Children and Families mishandled the case of 5-year-old Jeremiah Oliver, a new independent review of the child welfare agency absolved the department of direct responsibility for the boy's death in a report outlining systemic staffing, policy and technology shortcomings.

The Patrick administration planned on Wednesday to release the final report from the Child Welfare League of America, which the state hired to examine the embattled child welfare agency. Gov. Deval Patrick, who is traveling in Israel on a business development trade mission, asked the organization to conduct a review of the department following well-documented lapses in case management that led, in the case of the 5-year-old Oliver, to the department losing track of the boy whose body was found on the side of a highway in Sterling last month.

"While there is significant evidence that some DCF staff did not do their jobs in the Oliver case, there is not evidence that DCF's actions and failures caused Jeremiah's death. DCF and many of the adults in Jeremiah's life failed to protect him," the report's authors wrote.

The findings of the report, a summary of which was provided to the News Service, build on preliminary recommendations offered in March by CWLA including a redistricting of DCF offices to balance social worker caseloads and the need to deploy more technology for use by social workers.

Many of those suggestions are in the process of being implemented, including hiring, though caseloads remain at an all-time high for the past 20 years fueled by increased substance abuse, mental health and domestic violence concerns and increased reporting from the community and "heightened vigilance" at DCF.

The report said Jeremiah's siblings have received "excellent supports and services" since being taken into DCF custody and are being given "everything they need to overcome the trauma of their experiences and the loss of their brother."

Patrick and the Legislature have been pouring new resources into DCF this year to facilitate hiring to lower caseloads, but CWLA suggests that recommended hiring of additional managerial staff, caseworkers, and specialists in substance abuse, mental health and domestic violence counseling will require "additional funding, beyond what has been recommended in the FY15 budget proposals."

The report also recommends increased funding for substance abuse treatment.

"To prevent the deaths of children, like Jeremiah, who come to the attention of DCF because of allegations of abuse and neglect, we must look beyond DCF itself; we must address the core issues that lead children and families to need DCF's intervention and services," the report said. "For many years, Massachusetts has not been attentive enough to these issues."

The Child Welfare League recommends that DCF continue to screen in for full investigation any report alleging abuse or neglect of a child 5-years-old or younger with young parents or parents with a history of drug abuse, domestic violence or mental health issues. The practice was put into place following the disappearance of Oliver.

 

A version of this column originally appeared in:

Today at the Arizona Legislature

1401229184000-arizona-capitolThe Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB1002 to fund the new Department of Child Safety (CPS).

The Senate Health & Human Services Committee passed SB1001, with amendments from Ed Ableser (changing the purpose of DCS) and Nancy Barto (technical issues) creating the new Department of Child Safety.

In the House the Health & Human Services Committee had been the committee to work with the CPS issue. Today, Speaker of the House Andy Tobin changed the committee to Public Safety to vote on the current bill and move it out of committee. This committee has not been the committee addressing CPS during this past session. The Public Safety Committee passed HB2001 creating the new Department of Child Safety.

The House Appropriations Committee passed HB2002 to fund the new Department of Child Safety CPS).

We gave testimony in the Senate Health & Human Services Committee today. It did raise questions among committee members. It made enough of an impact that Director Flanagan approached us after the House session in order to speak with us. He has promised to read our 53 page report and respond to it.

Legislators in the Senate Health & Human Services Committee that were receptive and seemed to understand the issue from the family’s perspective were Sen. and Chairwoman Nancy Barto, Sen. Kelli Ward and Sen. Ed Ableser. The one legislator that believes CPS “saves” children is Sen. David Bradley, a former CPS employee.

While both the appropriations bill and the bill to create the new department are expected to pass tomorrow without any problems, our work is not done.

The new department is only the foundation of the new agency. There is much work to be done to get meaningful legislation before the next session in January to fix the problems within CPS that are leading to the number of children being removed from families. Many legislators understand the problem and are reaching out to us to continue working on the problem.

Director Flanagan gave an extension presentation on the new structure of CPS, policy changes, efforts to reach out to community resources, and a commitment to work on prevention so removal may not be necessary. He expressed an understanding that removal of the child from the family is not always necessary and not always in the best interest of the child. While much of it sounded good, little of it is written in the legislation making it agency policy and procedures only. With a different direct this could mean huge problems in the future. Another concern was his definition of abuse and neglect.

A good foundation was laid out today to continue our fight to improve the CPS system.

Shawnna Bolick has been extremely supportive of our efforts. We met with her for 2 hours last week to discuss CPS. Today she helped facilitate meetings for us with legislators. Shawnna is running for the House in LD28 against Kate Brophy-McGee.

Kelli Ward made sure we knew about the session today and helped us get on the floor to speak.

We want to thank the people who called or emailed their House and Senate members. Many of the legislators today expressed the concerns brought up from these conversations. They are listening.

We want to thank everyone who helped us get our voice heard.