There are many options, and some are listed below.
None of the alternatives described below will work in every case or should be tried in every case.
Contrary to the way advocates of placement prevention often are stereotyped, the NCCPR do not believe in “family preservation at all costs” or that “every family can be saved.”
But these alternatives can keep many children now needlessly taken from their parents safely in their own homes.
Similarly, even communities that have turned their child welfare systems into national models still have serious problems, and often much progress still needs to be made.
All of the things that go wrong in the worst child welfare systems also go wrong in the best – but they go wrong less often.
Alternatives to Taking Children
from their Parents
Doing nothing. There are, in fact, cases in which the investigated family is entirely innocent and perfectly capable of taking good care of their children without any “help” from a child welfare agency. In such cases, the best thing the child protective services worker can do is apologize, shut the door, and go away.
Basic, concrete help. Sometimes it may take something as simple as emergency cash for a security deposit, a rent subsidy, or a place in a day care center (to avoid a “lack of supervision” charge) to keep a family together.
Intensive Family Preservation Services programs.The first such program, Homebuilders, in Washington State, was established in the mid-1970s. The largest replication is in Michigan, where the program is called Families First. The very term “family preservation” was invented specifically to apply to this type of program, which has a better track record for safety than foster care. The basics concerning how these programs work – and what must be included for a program to be a real “family preservation” program — are in NCCPR Issue Papers 10 and 11. Issue Paper 11 lists studies proving the programs’ effectiveness.
Susan Kelly, former director, Families First (734) 547-9164, susan.kelly @cssp.org
The Alabama “System of Care.” This is one of the most successful child welfare reforms in the country. The reforms are the result of a consent decree growing out of a lawsuit brought by the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law. The consent decree requires the state to rebuild its entire system from the bottom up, with an emphasis on keeping families together. The rate at which children are taken from their homes is among the lowest in the country, and re-abuse of children left in their own homes has been cut sharply. An independent monitor appointed by the court has found that children are safer now than before the changes.
Ira Burnim, Legal Director, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law (202) 467-5730, ext. 129. Mr. Burnim also is a member of the NCCPR Board of Directors. The Bazelon Center also has published a book about the Alabama reforms.
Paul Vincent, Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group, Montgomery, Ala. (334) 264-8300. Mr. Vincent ran the child protection system in Alabama when the lawsuit was filed. He worked closely with the plaintiffs to develop and implement the reform plan.
Family to Family. This is a multi-faceted program developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation (which also helps to fund NCCPR). One element of the program, Team Decisionmaking often is confused with the entire program, which has many more elements. The program is described at the Casey website .
A comprehensive outside evaluation of the program, found that it led to fewer placements, shorter placements, and less bouncing of children from foster home to foster home – with no compromise of safety.
Gretchen Test, Annie E. Casey Foundation (410) 547-6600.
Community/Neighborhood Partnerships for Child Protection. These partnerships, overseen by the Center for the Study of Social Policy in Washington, are similar to the Family to Family projects. They mobilize formal and informal networks of helpers to prevent maltreatment and avoid needless foster care placement. Partnerships in Florida’s Duval County, St. Louis, Mo. and Georgia have reduced placements and improved safety.
The turnaround in Pittsburgh. In the mid-1990s, the child welfare system in Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County, Pa. was typically mediocre, or worse. Foster care placements were soaring and those in charge insisted every one of those placements was necessary. New leadership changed all that. Since 1997, the foster care population has been cut dramatically. When children must be placed, nearly half of all placements are with relatives and siblings are kept together 82 percent of the time.
They’ve done it by tripling the budget for primary prevention, more than doubling the budget for family preservation, embracing innovations like Family to Family and adding elements of their own, such as housing counselors in every child welfare office so families aren’t destroyed because of housing problems. And children are safer. Reabuse of children left in their own homes has declined and there has been a significant and sustained decline in child abuse fatalities.
Karen Blumen, Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Office of Community Relations (412) 350-5707.
Reform in El Paso County, Colorado.By recognizing the crucial role of poverty in child maltreatment, El Paso County reversed steady increases in its foster care population. The number of children in foster care declined significantly – and the rate of reabuse of children left in their own homes is below the state and national averages, according to an independent evaluation by the Center for Law and Social Policy.
Barbara Drake, El Paso County Department of Human Services, (719) 444-5532.
The Bridge Builders, Bronx, New York. Combine the giving and guidance of ten foundations with the knowledge and enthusiasm of eight community-based agencies, then partner with the child protective services agency and what do you get? A significant reduction in the number of children taken from their homes, with no compromise of safety, in a neighborhood that is among those losing more children to foster care than any others in New York City. That’s the record of the Bridge Builders Initiative in the Highbridge section of The Bronx. (NCCPR has received a grant to assist the Bridge Builders with media work).
Throughout the City, the Administration for Children’s Services has made significant progress in safely keeping children in their own homes. Since 1998, even with backsliding since 2006 in the wake of highly-publicized deaths of children “known to the system,” the number of children taken from their parents over the course of a year has been cut significantly, with no compromise of safety. Though child abuse fatalities garnered extensive media attention in 2006, such fatalities have declined during the reforms, only to increase in the wake of the backsliding. Overall re-abuse of children left in their own homes declined significantly when entries into foster care were reduced.
Sharman Stein, Administration for Children’s Services 212-341-0999
The transformation in Maine. After a little girl named Logan Marr was taken needlessly from her mother only to be killed by a foster mother who formerly worked for the child welfare agency, the people of Maine refused to settle for pat answers about background checks and licensing standards. They zeroed in on the fact that Maine had one of the highest proportions of children in the country trapped in foster care. The combination of grassroots demands for change from below and new leadership at the top led to a dramatic reduction in the number of children taken away over the course of a year. And while the state still has a long way to go in using kinship care, the proportion of children placed with relatives has more than doubled. It’s all been done without compromising safety, earning the support of the state’s independent child welfare ombudsman.
Dean Crocker,Vice President for Programs,Maine Children’s Alliance, (207) 623-1868 ext. 212, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Mary Callahan, founder Maine Alliance for DHS Accountability and Reform, (207) 353-4223, email@example.com
Changing financial incentives. While not a program per se, making this change spurs private child welfare agencies to come up with all sorts of innovations. This is clear from the experience in Illinois. Until the late 1990s, Illinois reimbursed private child welfare agencies the way other states typically do: They were paid for each day they kept a child in foster care. Thus, agencies were rewarded for letting children languish in foster care and punished for achieving permanence.
Now those incentives have been reversed, in part because of pressure from the Illinois Branch of the ACLU, which won a lawsuit against the child welfare system. Today, private agencies in Illinois are rewarded both for adoptions (which often are conversions of kinship placements to subsidized guardianships) and for returning children safely to their own homes. They are penalized for prolonged stays in foster care. As soon as the incentives changed, the “intractable” became tractable, the “dysfunctional” became functional, and the foster care population plummeted. And children are safer.
Today, Illinois takes away children at one of the lowest rates in the country. Independent, court-appointed monitors have found that child safety has improved.
Due process of law. Even the best programs are no substitute for due process. That means court hearings in child welfare cases should be open. But that also means it’s urgent for accused parents to have meaningful legal representation from well-trained attorneys with low caseloads and solid support staff. It’s not a matter of getting “bad” parents off, it’s a matter of challenging case records that often are rife with error, countering cookie-cutter “service plans” that provide no services and ensuring that families get the help they need. A pilot project to provide such representation in some counties in Washington State has had such success in safely keeping families together that even the Attorney General’s office, which represents the child welfare agency in these cases, favors expanding it.
It's Almost Tuesday is a fictional story based on true events of abuse within the Texas Foster Care System. The story is written as if told by an 8 year old foster child using his exact words whenever possible.
Study: Troubled homes are STILL better than foster care
Kids who stayed with their families were
LESS likely to become juvenile delinquents or teen mothers and more likely to hold jobs as young adults than kids who were removed into foster care. 14% OF KIDS WHO STAYED WITH FAMILY
WERE arrested at least once rather than 44% of kids who went to foster care! 33 % OF KIDS WHO STAYED WITH THEIR FAMILY BECAME teen mothers: but more than half (56%) of Kids WHO WENT TO FOSTER CARE BECAME TEEN MOTHERS!
33% OF KIDS WHO STAYED WITH THEIR FAMILY held a job at least 3 months: as opposed to merely 20 % of the Kids Who Went to foster care!
Out of 500,000 children in U.S. foster care STATISTICS SHOW that foster children are more likely than other kids to drop out of school,commit crimes, abuse drugs and become teen parents!
Teens aging out of foster care have spent nearly five years there That's twice the average length of time for all kids in the system. Fewer than 3% of foster kids earn college degrees.
Teens in foster care are less likely to finish high school and more likely to go to prison or become homeless. I HAVE ONE QUESTION: WITH THESE STATISTICS - HOW CAN THE GOVERNMENT TELL US THAT CPS IS PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN?
A total of 76 people were arrested and 13 children were rescued or identified as victims during a mutually coordinated operation between eight Southeastern states, according to a press release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.More >> Church youth director, foster parent among 34 Georgians arrested in child porn sting
The state suspended a Wichita group boarding home’s license after a federal agency said it suspected the foster care children living there had been sexually and physically abused.More >> Wichita group home put foster kids at risk of ongoing harm, suspension order says
A mother and employee with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services was arrested and charged with cruelty to children against her own daughter, according to officials.Henry County Police said Merita Croll spanked her daughter to the point of causing bruising last week. The mother has since been released from jail on bond.More >> DFCS worker […]
Watchdog chiefs also slammed her for repeatedly placing vulnerable kids at an “acute risk of harm”.They booted her out the industry after finding her guilty of 25 professional failings while working for Angus Council in Forfar.More >> Social worker struck off after sending a sex beast to volunteer at the Beavers
Citing an alarmingly high rate of maltreatment, out-of-state experts overseeing Oklahoma's child welfare reforms have ordered the state to stop placing children immediately in Tulsa's Laura Dester shelter.State DHS officials have asked for more time to address the situation, saying many of the children at Laura Dester exhibit extremely violent beha […]
TEXAS FOSTER KIDS – STILL FORGOTTEN
”I saw filthy living conditions, make-shift outhouses, unsanitary food storage, in so-called outdoor camps where children must sleep in sleeping bags - no walls, no fans, no heat - for months and months and in many cases, year after year. That’s not care. That’s cruelty. That’s not educating. That’s endangering” Carol Strayhorn on Texas Foster Care System in 2004
Caseworker: We know your husband is guilty, you've got
to force him into admitting it. Mother: How do you know he's guilty? Caseworker: We know he's guilty because he says he's
innocent. Guilty people always say they're innocent. Mother: What do innocent people say? Caseworker: We're not in the business of guilty or
innocent. We're in the business of putting families
together. Mother: So why not do that with us? Caseworker: Because he won't admit his guilt. (Source:) Wounded Innocents: The Real Victims of the War on Child Abuse (Paperback) by Richard Wexler
One Heartbroken Grandma
My recent investigation into the state’s foster care system turned this One Tough Grandma into One Heartbroken Grandma.
I am calling for a massive overhaul of the foster care system in a special report, Forgotten Children, which details a widespread crisis in the Texas foster care system.
They are everybody’s children and nobody’s children. They are the forgotten children. Some of them find homes with caring foster parents, or in treatment centers with experienced and caring providers, and some do not.
Some have been sexually, physically and emotionally abused while in the system; some have run away and joined the ranks of the missing. A few have even died at the hands of those entrusted with their care.
I am appalled at the conditions too many of our foster children must endure.
I challenge any defender of the status quo to put their child or grandchild in some of the places I’ve seen for one day, much less for a lifetime.
We must raise the bar on quality, make the foster care system more accountable, ensure the health and safety of all foster care children, and provide a brighter future for foster children.
Fortunately, I did find facilities that treat children well.
In each and every instance where children were getting the best care, the caregivers are working closely and openly with the community. Each facility needs that close relationship and support from the communities they serve. Otherwise, the children suffer.
Any society can be judged by how it treats its weakest members. My investigation shows that Texas can and must be judged harshly.
I will monitor changes made–or not made–as a result of this special report, and for the sake of our forgotten children, I will report back to the people of Texas in six weeks and six months and as long as it takes to fix this broken system and save all of our children.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn
Families Rights Should Be Protected
Quotes From Foster Children
Mother meant the whole world to me and there wasn’t anything I could do to get her back. It was like I had lost everything. Lucie, Age 19
I felt so bad for my mom and I constantly felt like it was my fault because I couldn’t do anything to stop it.
PoemGirl, Age 17
I felt so disappointed and heartbroken. I hated my life.
Brittany, Age 13
How does it feel to be a Foster Child? It’s like being in a great world of your own. MARK, Age 12
I felt very sad and I knew I could not do anything about it. I had to get over it. I know how it feels to be pushed around. I have been there.Einstein, Age 11
The placements did not work because in my heart I felt alone but in my mind I felt grown….The only problem in the home was me. There I was almost thirteen and hated the world. I could not trust anyone. I didn’t want to trust anyone. How could I trust someone? I had to
protect myself from hurt. The only way I could do that was to guard my heart….I messed up four homes because of this. Flower Girl, Age 18
I think that when you become an adult it’s just like a toddler you’re a caterpillar, and when you’re a kid you’re a cocoon and finally you become an adult which would be a butterfly. Jesse, Age 9
We should all make our foster care family a possibility.
MeMe, Age 17
The best advice I have from one foster child to another is that you never give up….Never think that you are worthless. Jane, Age 10
Foster Care – Go On!
by Crystal, age 13
Have you ever said mom, dad I love you?
Have you ever hugged them goodbye?
Well have you ever sat in a room and cried?
Well I can’t everyday say I love you mom, or
dad I can’t say goodbye!
Sometimes when I visit my dad and I have to be supervised!
How would you feel to live in a different home every couple of months?
You can’t stay in one place...
You always feel like you are replaced!
People saying they don’t want you there...
People lying so they won’t hurt your feelings!
People watching your every footstep while you sit there crying.
They can’t hold you like your parents.
I have to say I’m strong when I move there.
So I can GO ON
How would you feel to lift your head and see someone everyday that is not your mom and dad?
Would you cry, would you worry?
Or would you fly or would you scurry?
Sometimes you have to let go.
Sometimes you have to turn away.
Sometimes you let the tears drop,
And let them flow anyway.
There is more hurt to this than you will ever feel!
To see your mother die on mother’s day...
I have to GO ON is all you can say