Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Los Angeles Children’s Court Should Support Foster Care Policies

As the executive director of Hillsides, I have seen far too many children in the “system” who should never have been there. Fortunately, the Department of Children and Family Services has halved their out-of-home placements in the last seven years. The Department’s two major goals are to transition children back to their homes more efficiently and to reduce its reliance on out-of-home care.

Several strategies have been effective in reaching these two goals. Structured Decision Making helps an investigative worker assess a child’s risk of further abuse in the home. If the child is not in immediate danger but his family is in crisis, the worker can refer them to a community provider that can help them and so keep the family together while eliminating the risk of further abuse.

Point of Engagement has also contributed to reducing removals, providing much-needed help to these families, and reducing the risk of abuse. This strategy recognizes that families want what is best for their children and are willing to make changes. It brings the social service agencies and family together at the “point of engagement” with the Department so that the service agency immediately begins working with the family.

Team Decision Making (TDM) incorporates all available people involved with the child or family to discuss a plan to move the child into permanency. This particularly important strategy helps a child return to his family or relatives because the assembled group not only determines the steps but also what individuals and agencies will be involved in the plan’s success.

Although these strategies are in place, staff do not always support the Department’s policy, and in the case of one child at Hillsides, neither did a judge. The Department must ensure that these critical strategies, all of which are in the best interest of the clients they serve, are incorporated by the line staff and supported by the courts.

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Friday, June 1, 2007

The people who take care of foster children and the agencies who work to get them adopted so they can have some permanency in their lives have not received a cost of living increase in the past five years. Without these cost of living increases, many who do this valuable work can no longer afford to do it and they are dropping out of helping these vulnerable children find permanency in their lives.

Help me keep the promise to California’s foster youth by writing a letter to the Senators and Assembly members fax the letter to them today. These members of the Senate and Assembly are meeting this week and next to produce a budget for the Governor to sign. They need to be urged to enact this important legislation. The letter to these Senators and Assembly members can be used as an example for your own letter. Please share with me what you did in this regard.