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Politics & Policy

Twenty Foster-Care/Adoption/Child-Welfare Things that Caught My Eye (Dec. 8, 2020)

Adoptive mother Theresa Alden talks with her sons Gavin (center), 6, and Graem, 4, at their residence in Lancaster , Pennsylvania, June 10, 2008. (Tim Shaffer/Reuters)

These have been accumulating for a few days… though not the first, urgent one.

1.

2. Tatum Hunter in America: As a teen, I chose adoption. Why are stories like mine missing from the abortion debate?

3. Washington Post: Another D.C. child is dead. The systems that should have protected him failed.

In October, six months before Gabriel died, a teacher at the day-care center he attended contacted the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency because of concerns about bruises on his face, triggering child welfare and police investigations. Police said they couldn’t corroborate any abuse and closed the case, and it appears that child services reached the same conclusion. How vigorous were those investigations?

Given the horrifying picture of previous abuse painted by the court documents — including the 11-year-old needing stitches after allegedly being thrown through a glass door by a previous boyfriend and Gabriel rushed to the hospital in January with a severe laceration and concussion — it is right to ask whether signs were missed. It’s also right to wonder why the day-care center didn’t contact child services earlier when there were four other instances of noticeable marks or bruises on the boy.

4. The Philadelphia Inquirer: 3 people, 200 square feet: Managing homelessness, remote school, and life in a pandemic

Shelter staff have tried to solve for the pandemic as much as possible, adjusting mealtimes to match school schedules and converting community rooms into student work spaces. Donations have provided for supplies, headphones, and furniture. But the challenges are undeniable, especially now that a second wave of COVID-19 cases has meant tighter restrictions.

Experiencing homelessness is traumatic for any child, said David Chiles, the organization’s executive director, “and now they’re living through the trauma of a pandemic and being out of school for a long time.”

Shannon Healey, the organization’s shelter director, was struck by something a resident said when Healey explained the new COVID-19 surge rules to her.

“She just took a beat and said, ‘Everything comes down on us,’” Healey said.

5.

6. Adoption Agony For Disabled Kids

Data provided by the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) show that 137 disabled children within its purview currently live in western Jamaica. Each year, they are overlooked by scores of prospective parents seeking a child to adopt. Last year, for example, no child with disability was adopted while two were fostered by relatives in the west.

“It is more difficult for a child with disability to be fostered because of the individualised care that would be required. Most of our foster applicants do not have at their disposal the amount of time, financial resources, familial support, and commitment needed to properly care for children with disabilities,” Rochelle Dixon, public relations and communications manager at the CPFSA, told The Gleaner.

“Most foster parents want so-called normal children. If the disability is mild, then the prospects are better for family-based placements,” Dixon said.

7.

8. The Washington Post: As their special needs children fall behind, these parents are desperate for schools to re-open

“It’s impossible, this whole situation is impossible,” says Christina Hartman, whose four-year-old daughter Charlotte has autism. “And I can’t speak for every child but I know for my kid, she needs to go back to school.”

9. The Guardian: After a childhood in foster care, I finally felt my life was on track. Then the pandemic hit

I can’t really explain what it feels like to finally know that you are on track to succeeding at life. My life from the moment I was born was complicated; my mother and father suffered mental health issues and drug problems. It resulted in a really neglectful, dysfunctional environment which on numerous occasions meant from when I was three years of age we’d be on the streets. I remember sleeping on those bus benches, wanting desperately to be warm. It was no wonder DHHS were called. At seven years old, I was placed in long-term foster care. From there I bounced around from family to family, never truly belonging to any. A regular person reaches important milestones at the right age, for example, when a person turns 15 or 16 they would get their first job. I couldn’t because I’d always wonder what happened if I had to move to a new house that week.

10. Eric Smith: Funding to prevent child abuse still lags

DCF Secretary Chad Poppell declared to legislators last session that DCF would “reduce the number of children in care by 25 percent” by using prevention services and repeated his commitment during a recent webinar to his staff statewide by stressing that DCF investigators must think prevention first moving forward and move away from removing children from their home after the situation has deteriorated and there is no longer an alternative. So, it disturbs me, and all prevention advocates, when there is a continuing plea for additional foster care funding while intensive prevention services continue to fall short to meet the needs.

Every piece of child welfare research over the past few decades has shown repeatedly that if a child can remain safely at home in a loving and nurturing environment, and you reach out to parents who need help when the need is first identified, it would undoubtedly help divert the flow of children going into foster care.

 

11. Veronica Chenik: The Complicated Process of Saying Goodbye

A few days before Thanksgiving, Lee Ann passed away, just three days before her 40th birthday.

The reactions from the kids were mostly relief. There were tears and disbelief but no one was shocked or surprised. After the tears, there was also some sarcasm, and anger. They were forever changed and pulled together in grief, in another similar loss they shared together. If only a paralyzing temporary break from their college finals. Now their story “fit in” with what most curious people think about adoption: “did your parents die?” Now they could say yes.

12. Gabriel J.X. Dance and Adam Satariano: E.U. Privacy Rule Would Rein In the Hunt for Online Child Sexual Abuse

Facebook, the most prolific reporter of child sexual abuse imagery worldwide, said it would stop proactive scanning entirely in the E.U. if the regulation took effect. In an email, Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, said the company was “concerned that the new rules as written today would limit our ability to prevent, detect and respond to harm,” but said it was “committed to complying with the updated privacy laws.”

There are also concerns among child protection groups that there could be a domino effect — that Facebook and other companies may cease scanning worldwide, because they do not currently have a legal obligation to do so.

The New York Times reported in 2019 that online child sexual abuse imagery had grown exponentially in recent years and was rampant across the internet, infesting nearly all major platforms. Perpetrators often leverage multiple services, including cloud storage, messaging apps and social media networks. Online video games are another frequent target, with some abusers grooming hundreds and even thousands of victims while they play.

13. Law requires kids’ names be kept private in abuse and neglect cases. But dozens of exceptions are a Google search away

One adoptive mother said she was shocked to see her child’s name appear while doing Google searches for the birth mother’s name. She shared her finding with friend and attorney Veda Collmer, who raised the issue with DCS in October, asking the agency to take down the report or black out the child’s name.

“Anyone who knows the child could identify him from the report,” said Collmer. The report uses the child’s first name only, but, Collmer said, it is an unusual name. In addition, the report contains details that could easily trace back to the child and his family.

14. Daniel Heimpel: A mother’s fragile recovery reminds us that the opioid crisis is still here

Of the 423,000 children in foster care in America, more than one third of those who entered care last year are there because of drug use, according to the most recent federal data available.

In one of our many conversations, Clancy told me she was still using the day she went into labor. She was drug-tested after giving birth, which triggered an investigation by child protective services. This easily could have led to an all-too-common tragedy: The permanent separation of mother from child.

But something unique happened. Montgomery County’s child welfare system, along with a clutch of non-profit agencies, formed a continuum of care for the baby and her mother. …

Montgomery County’s strategy to keep families together, built on trust and support, could very well serve as a national model in the fight against the wreckage brought by addiction and substance misuse. The question is whether the recovery offered there can endure the devastation of Covid-19.

15. The City: State Moves to Ban Face-Down Restraining Hold at Foster Care Facilities 

The use of “prone restraints” has been shown to be dangerous, leading to serious injury and even the death of minors in New York and across the country, experts say.

The restraint changes were part of a set of proposals issued Nov. 18 by the state Office of Child and Family Services that would also bar the use of isolation rooms — where a child can be placed alone as punishment.

Instead of isolation rooms, the state will now allow so-called de-escalation rooms, meant to be “calming” rather than disciplinary, and the children must consent to entering the room.

16. Fox Business: Over a hundred ‘Santas’ on jet skis aim to bring foster children presents

17. When COVID-19 slowed adoptions, this agency found a new way to help children

The Heart Gallery of Sarasota launched its program, Family Finder, which uses ads targeted to prospective adoptive families to match them with children in the child welfare system. People who respond to ads receive a response within 24 hours and then the agency gives them loads of information, videos and photos of children awaiting adoption.

“We knew there was a huge audience out there of people, families that wanted to adopt and help these kids,” he explained. “But how do we get to them … We can go out (to them) rather than wait for these folks to come to us.”

18. Miami Herald: She aged out of foster care, but her siblings haven’t. She’s trying to get custody.

LaShonda Cross, Carter’s case worker from SOS, nominated her for Wish Book.

Carter’s wishes, said Cross, are all based on her desires to reunite with her family and pursue her education. The items she’s seeking include gift cards for clothes, food, bed sheets, Uber cards and a printer so she can print out her college assignments. The total value is about $1,000.

“She’s a very caring person, she definitely puts others over herself,” said Cross. “We had to try and guide her to ask for things more for herself. Objects for herself, things to fill her household and supplies for school.”

19.

20. Kevin Nolan: A Tale of Two Families

PLUS: In case you missed them, some of NRI’s Free to Foster Friday conversations from National Adoption Month in November:

Adoptive Mother Melissa Buck makes a stirring plea to keep siblings together — that’s how she and her husband have been operating in the foster-care system

Becket Fund’s Lori Windham on the Philadelphia Foster Care case she argued virtually to the Supreme Court the morning after Election Day:

 

Naomi Schaefer Riley on that case and on the policy lay of the land more generally:

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