Pepe Le Pew? The Commission’s Report on Children in Foster Care
In late May the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care released its final report. The Commission “was charged to develop a practical set of policy recommendations to reform federal child welfare financing and strengthen court oversight of child welfare cases.”
I must admit that I was and continue to be a bit skeptical about the Commission and its underlying premise. Who exactly charged the Commission with this mission? Who identified “child welfare financing” and “court oversight” as the critical issues facing child welfare and foster care?
The Commission was premised on the notion that “current federal funding mechanisms for child welfare encourage an over-reliance on foster care at the expense of other services to keep families safely together and to move children swiftly and safely from foster care to permanent families, whether their birth families or a new adoptive family or legal guardian.”
The Commission also surmised that “longstanding structural issues in the judicial system limit the ability of the courts to fulfill their shared obligation to protect children from harm and move children safely and appropriately through the system to safe, permanent homes.”
The Executive Summary concludes “reform in these two areas is a critical first step to solving many other problems that plague the child welfare system.”
Well . . . what do you think? Is federal child welfare financing and court oversight the two lead issues in your town, county or state? Read on for the key components of the Commission’s recommendations. And stay tuned because next week I will tackle the Commission’s recommendations on courts and child representation.
The key components of the Commission’s financing recommendations are:
• Preserving federal foster care maintenance and adoption assistance as an entitlement and expanding it to all children, regardless of their birth families’ income and including Indian children and children in the U.S. territories;
• Providing federal guardianship assistance to all children who leave foster care to live with a permanent legal guardian when a court has explicitly determined that neither reunification nor adoption are feasible permanence options;
• Helping states build a range of services from prevention, to treatment, to postpermanence by (1) creating a flexible, indexed Safe Children, Strong Families Grant from what is currently included in Title IV-B and the administration and training components of Title IV-E; and (2) allowing states to “reinvest” federal and state foster care dollars into other child welfare services if they safely reduce their use of foster care;
• Encouraging innovation by expanding and simplifying the waiver process and providing incentives to states that (1) make and maintain improvements in their child welfare workforce and (2) increase all forms of safe permanence; and
• Strengthening the current Child and Family Services Review process to increase states’ accountability for improving outcomes for children.
The Commission’s court recommendations call for:
• Adoption of court performance measures by every dependency court to ensure that they can track and analyze their caseloads, increase accountability for improved outcomes for children, and inform decisions about the allocation of court resources;
• Incentives and requirements for effective collaboration between courts and child welfare agencies on behalf of children in foster care;
• A strong voice for children and parents in court and effective representation by better trained attorneys and volunteer advocates;
• Leadership from Chief Justices and other state court leaders in organizing their court systems to better serve children, provide training for judges, and promote more effective standards for dependency courts, judges, and attorneys.