D. Heimpel

Daniel Heimpel's life as a journalist

Well-Being as Law

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Well-Being as Law

Fostering Connections to Success paves the way to well-being as the goal for child welfare agencies – now it is a matter of implementation.

As the longest, most involved story I have yet written on foster care came out I found myself deeper into the movement to change the system then ever before.

The story I wrote chronicles the life of John Kyzer, a young man who I have come to know very well over the past three years. Unfortunately the toll of the system weighed so heavy on him that despite being a good person with the same potential for greatness that anyone else has he is now drifting. I hope that drifting will stop and I hope that he will find the happiness that he deserves. To that end I will continue to be a part of his life and offer my help whenever he wants it.

The story was published exactly at the same time that I was in Washington D.C. talking to the industrious and varied national advocacy groups who fight for kids like John and the 500,000 others in the system.

Right now all are ramping up efforts to implement the greatest reform to come to the system in the last decade, and by some experts’ estimates: the past 30 years. That reform if the Fostering Connections to Success and Increased Adoptions act of 2008, which was signed into law by President Bush in the twilight of his presidency. The law is an amazing amalgamation of very divergent but important pieces to the puzzle of changing outcomes for young people in the system and marks a fundamental shift in the ideology of the department.

In a nutshell Fostering Connections provides optional matched federal monies to states and counties, which extend care past 18 and increase placements with family members over unknown foster parents. But it also has placed requirements on the public Child Welfare departments across the country to notify kin if a child is taken into state custody, increase efforts to keep siblings together, enhance health care standards and keep kids from bouncing from school to school even if they are bouncing from group home to foster home and back again.

As Rob Geen of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, who has emerged as one of the leaders in the movement to implement Fostering Connections, says: the focus has moved from safety to well-being. In more explicit terms this means that this law is intended not only to make sure that kids are taken out of harm’s way, but also to make sure that they live lives that are safe and joyous.

Fostering Connections gives foster children the chance to be children. And when children are given the opportunity to be kids they tend to grow into much better adjusted adults. I have met many foster children who have grown into wild successes as adults, but they often did this despite the system. Fostering Connections moves us closer to a world where foster care alumni can say their success is at least partially because of the system.

The problem is Fostering Connections requires states to write implementation legislation. Here in California Assembly President Karen Bass spearheaded such legislation. But the current state budget crisis has pushed the start date for such programs until 2011. Thus far across the nation even the mandatory changes are far from being enacted – and with everyday that passes, we miss a chance for a child’s smile today and a better future tomorrow.

To learn more about Fostering Connections and how you can help speed implementation the following organizations are great resources:

The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute: www.ccainstitute.org

Generations United: www.gu.org

The American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law: www.abanet.org/child

The Annie E. Casey Foundation: www.aecf.org

Casey Family Programs: http://www.casey.org

The Child Welfare League of America: http://www.cwla.org

First Focus: www.firstfocus.net

Child Trends: www.childtrends.org

Voice for Adoption: http://www.voice-for-adoption.org

The Center for the Study of Social Policy: www.cssp.org

The Children’s Defense Fund: www.childrensdefense.org

Foster Club: www.fosterclub.com

The National Foster Care Coalition: www.nationalfostercare.org

Foster Care Alumni of America: http://www.fostercarealumni.org

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Written by dheimpel

September 12, 2009 at 5:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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