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Seventeen Foster-Care/Adoption/Child-Welfare Things That Caught My Eye Today

1. USA Today: ‘We did a bad job’: Florida child welfare chief vows reforms after USA TODAY investigation

USA TODAY’s two-part investigation, published in October and December, revealed that after Florida lawmakers rewrote the state’s child welfare rules in 2014 to make it easier to seize children from their parents, thousands of kids flooded the foster care system. Faced with a shortage of foster parents, DCF sent some children to live in unsafe homes where they were physically and sexually abused.

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To prevent future missteps, DCF will expand its Crisis Incident Rapid Response Team, originally established to investigate child deaths, to evaluate the agency’s work in cases that involve accusations of sexual abuse against foster parents, Poppell said. Experts will review those cases, offer corrective feedback and provide a recommendation on whether a child should be returned to a home where abuse was alleged.

2. Tampa Bay Times: Florida must do better at stopping sexual abuse in foster care, top official says

Too often, [Chad Poppell, secretary of Florida’s Department of Children and Families] said, abusers are allowed to continually abuse children with little or no consequences from the state. He said his department could look to change that, too, if the Florida Legislature passes a bill in the upcoming legislative session, which begins in March.

“You may have a better chance of spending a night in jail if you get in a bar fight than beating up your child,” Poppell said. “And that’s not right. If we can fix that, I think it’s something we should take a look at.”

3. Child Welfare Monitor: The Detroit Prevention Project: Preventing child maltreatment by supporting at-risk families

The new program, called the Detroit Prevention Project, pairs families at risk for child maltreatment with two workers, each performing a different function. Peer mentors, also known as “parent partners,” are community members who have experience in navigating the child welfare system in Detroit. They receive training in mental health peer support and how to work within MDHHS systems. Benefits navigators connect families to community resources such as food, housing assistance, education, and employment. The use of peer mentors or counselors is a newer approach in child welfare that has been shown to produce positive effects on outcomes associated with reduced child maltreatment. While many other programs use either peer mentors or benefits navigators, combining the two is an innovative approach.

Participation in the Detroit Prevention Program is strictly voluntary, which means that some of the most troubled families will refuse to participate. Research indicates that it is difficult to engage the highest-risk families in voluntary services. We hope that the program will collect and report on the number of families refusing to participate and track their future maltreatment reports, in order to assess the extent of this problem. If it is extensive, leaders may need to consider using a family’s refusal to participate as the trigger to initiate an investigation.

4. John O. McGinnis: Chicago Teachers, Checked Out

[The Chicago Teachers Union’s] stonewalling has been continuous, comprehensive, and aggressive. It has opposed the city plan to open schools even for children in kindergarten and early grades, where online education is at best of limited value. It opposes the plan for opening schools, as a new term begins in January, despite substantial evidence that, at least in their early years, children face little risk of infection and create little risk of transmission. The union has claimed that Chicago has a legal duty to enter collective bargaining over opening, even threatening to strike. About half of its member teachers failed to show up in person for the week to prepare for the new term. Three out of ten were still absent on the first day of classes.

The CTU justifies its stance with the current tropes of the left, tweeting that the “push to reopen schools is rooted in sexism, racism and misogyny.” This tweet, later taken down, provides a window into the ideology of the CTU, which pretends to act as a tribune of the people so as to mask its real objectives—advancing the interests of its members in having the least burdensome job for the highest possible pay and lowest risk of being held accountable for poor performance.

5. Child sexual abuse victim dies at Kochi child protection home, protest against CWC

The child who was autistic, was a survivor of child sexual abuse and had been living in a private children’s home in Kochi, under the CWC’s protection, for two years. On Monday, she allegedly collapsed and died at the children’s home.

The protestors who gathered in front of the CWC office on Wednesday alleged that CWC officials had not allowed family members to meet the child in the past, despite multiple attempts. A member of Youth Congress also alleged that assault marks were discovered on the child’s body, but the proof for such an allegation is unclear

6. Sarah Hudson Pierce: Love and hugs are essential to human development

One of my favorite authors is the  Italian-born psychologist Dr. Leo Buscaglia, author of “Living and Loving,” had much to say about the necessity of hugging and touching. He reports that “hugging increases hemoglobin in the blood.”

Children need love to thrive.

It is easy for me to say that there are few people who have the ability, the need, to love children for a paycheck.

7. How Physical Abuse May Affect Children Once They’re Adults

The Children’s Bureau acknowledges that the overall brain size and function of areas like the amygdala, hippocampus, orbitofrontal cortex, cerebellum, and corpus callosum can be impacted by physical abuse. These are responsible for regulating emotions, memory, decision making, coordination, and higher cognitive abilities. In short, physical abuse literally changes your child’s brain in a physical way that can affect their entire life.

8. With low wages, Utah child welfare caseworkers have side jobs, live on government assistance

A memo put out by the governor’s transition team on Utah’s Department of Human Services was scathing in how it found employees working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Some, it found, were on welfare.

“Some caseworkers work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet and even need government assistance. A state job should provide a living wage,” the report put it bluntly.

. . .

It’s a problem that has been building for years, said DCFS director Diane Moore. Especially considering what the state requires of caseworkers who respond to families in crisis and investigate reports of child abuse.

“It really is not a living wage in the state of Utah,” Moore said. “Even though people come to us with a college degree and work one of the most difficult and challenging jobs around.”

9. Coming home: Michigan Fosters creates a sense of home for foster families

Journey Home is set to open next month in the former Holland Heights Christian Reformed Church parsonage at 832 E. Eighth St. The space will provide a safe and comfortable space for children to wait for their foster care placements as well as a place for families who foster and those whose children are in foster care to meet.

“Families need the sense of home,” Kraker says. “Families who have children in foster care don’t feel like they have a team. Everything is set up to show them what they’ve done wrong, what they need to fix to get their children back. They don’t have those cheerleaders.”

10. Advocates give Nevada a ‘D’ for kids’ well-being, call for expanding Medicaid, investing in Pre-K and foster care

Nevada ranks 47th in the nation for preschool enrollment, with 37.5 percent of 3- to 4-year-olds enrolled. Although a 2012 study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that the initial gains from Head Start, a national early education program, did not go beyond third grade. 

“The majority of brain development occurs in the first five years of life,” Annette Dawson Owens, the organization’s school readiness policy director, said at the virtual summit on Monday, adding that the investment in students and the return is “cheaper” than the alternative of remediation after years of underperforming. “All students should emerge prepared for whatever opportunities in life they desire, with a skill set that allows them to succeed, support themselves and be productive citizens.”

11. The Imprint: National Freeze on Aging Out of Foster Care Will Make ‘Profound Difference’, New York Advocates Say

The Supporting Foster Youth & Families through the Pandemic Act — part of the more than 5,000-page federal stimulus bill signed into law on Dec. 27 — provided $400 million in new funding for states to use for housing, education, transportation and financial assistance for older youth, including those in extended foster care as well as young adults up to age 27 who have aged out of the system. The law requires that states allow youth to remain in foster care past the standard age cut-off for extended foster care, which is 21 in most states, and also suspends any requirements that youth attend school or work in order to receive the benefits. 

. . .

Some national advocates hope that the pandemic-driven pause on aging out of foster care will open the door to permanently broadened eligibility. 

“I really hope many provisions stay in place, and/or lead to broader reform so that we have better services for older youth and can provide support for a longer period of time,” said Jenny Pokempner, a senior attorney at the Juvenile Law Center who has tracked state-level efforts to pause aging out. “Young people are making the transition to adulthood throughout their early to mid-20s, so it makes sense to have support available in different ways and intensities at least through age 26.”

12. Food banks sound alarm on child hunger as Covid crisis drags on

13. Hiawatha World: Governor renews effort to consolidate Kansas social welfare programs

Gov. Laura Kelly announced plans Monday to renew an effort toward forming a single agency that would absorb social welfare programs from two state agencies.

. . .

“Creating the Department of Human Services ensures Kansas families and individuals have easier access to critical services and improves engagement between our service centers, clients and local stakeholders by creating a single point of entry for those accessing a variety [of] needs,” Kelly said.

14. 8-year-old’s art raises money for homlessness

15. Toby’s House is working to prevent child abuse in Great Falls

16. Local mom who collected donations for foster kids thanks community for making it a success

Idaho Falls couple Nicole and Scott Klingler have been foster parents for a little over five years and have seen how it can be a scary experience for some foster children when they arrive at a stranger’s home to live. That’s why Nicole decided to put together “transition bags” and fill them with comfort items such as a fleece blanket, socks, boxed or instant food, toiletries, books and a small stuffed animal.

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“It got so big my whole basement was covered in all the donations. It was amazing,” Nicole told EastIdahoNews.com. “It turned into almost a full-time job trying to monitor everything that was coming in.”

Nicole’s original goal was to put together 10 bags for foster kids, but after posting about the project on Facebook, it took off. With the help of others, she assembled a total of 175 bags.

17. Foster children receive free birthday cakes thanks to new local initiative

Organizers with Mo’s Place said this is especially important because foster children might not have the opportunity to celebrate with something of their own.

“As licensed foster parents we realize celebrating our children is super important, even on small things but especially birthdays and holidays are very very big to them,” said Stephanie, a co-founder of the nonprofit. “It’s a day about them and it’s super exciting and super special.”