Foster Care and Child Welfare Week in Review – October 23, 2020
Here are some news items from this week related to foster care, adoption, and child welfare that caught my eye:
In the nearly decade-long fight to reform Texas’ broken foster care system, it’s easy to understand the ire of U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack, the jurist overseeing the effort. More than most judges, Jack has been vocal in her frustration — her disgust — with how the state has failed to act.
More than 400,000 children make up the foster care system in the United States. Experts say COVID-related family issues are likely to increase that number. But there is good news as more families show an interest in providing homes for kids in need.
Jacob and Leah Simmons had been hoping to get the call. It had been several months since their last foster child left their care and they were ready for another. When the foster agency’s caller ID showed up on Leah’s cell phone, they couldn’t contain their excitement.
When she hung up, a few nerves set in, because the baby they agreed to take in had COVID-19. “We were OK with us getting COVID more so than him not being loved,” said foster dad Jacob Simmons.
As of mid-October, there were 11 active COVID-19 cases among all children in the state’s care. Since the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services began counting in March, there have been 769 positive cases total among the more than 30,000 children in foster care.
Most children enter the system due to neglect, which is preventable. Their parents are good people that lack safe options. They are dealing with tough issues like poverty, addiction, illness, homelessness, and unemployment. They suffer alone without a support system, and struggle to get help and care for children at the same time. They don’t need foster care — they need a support system of caring neighbors.
Texas Appleseed and Disability Rights Texas filed the complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, alleging conditions at the five Texas Juvenile Justice Department lockups “violate federal constitutional standards as well jeopardize the health, safety and rehabilitation of young people.”
The complaint cites the inability to ensure safety of young people as a result of staff turnover and excessive restraints; sexual abuse and inappropriate use of force; inadequate mental health care; and a lack of programming for youth in segregation.
A federal grant of nearly $5 million will help to strengthen relationships between children and their fathers in Kansas, Nebraska and Texas.
“The Fatherhood FIRE initiative builds on a fatherhood program that was ongoing at Saint Francis for five years in Kansas,” said The Very Rev. Robert N. Smith, dean, president and CEO. “This grant allows expansion of that successful program to Nebraska and Texas, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to impact generational patterns in families and support fathers who want to be better and do better for their children.”
Texas lawmakers have taken steps over the past five years to expand access to resources and support services for foster care alumni on college campuses, but without state funding or oversight, those services are offered unequally across the state.
Though Texas has offered free college tuition to former foster youth for nearly three decades, studies show that few ever earn a degree.
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