Friday, September 08, 2006

Where will the children go?

What is happening in Clark County is an atrocity, and deserves to be national news. Too often, high profile cases get attention - but not thorough attention.

The situation needs more than a superficial “quick fix.” It needs thoughtful and thorough examination, with an eye toward long-term reform.

This situation was not created overnight, but pressure is coming in from all directions to fix it "as soon as possible."

The focus on deadlines appears to be greater than the focus on effectiveness. What about fixing it as thoroughly as possible?

There seems to be a lack of overall vision. Reforms suggested are either like putting a band-aid on a gaping wound or like removing a faulty safety net without first putting another safety net in place.

Here are the questions that I have:

1.) Closing Child Haven: Okay. Where will the children go?

2.) Returning children quickly to their families: Didn't slowness to remove children from abusive situations (and eagerness to return them home as soon as possible) contribute to the high rate of child deaths in the first place?

Why didn't anyone listen three years ago?

In May 2003, a former foster parent named Glenn Campbell suggested that since Nevada's foster parent shortage had persisted for years, it might be time to accept this condition as permanent.

I think his comments ring true (even prophetic) to the situation today:
"The apparent "foster care crisis" is not what it seems. It isn’t a simple case of not having enough foster families. Organizational inefficiency may be overburdening the system. The various institutional options for placement have been neglected, while the recruiting of foster parents has been indiscriminate.

"Poorly screened and undersupervised foster families may ultimately cost more, both in monetary terms and in damage to the children, than no foster parents at all."

"If Clark County has had a shortage of foster families for years, then maybe it is time to face reality: This is how it is going to be.

"Maybe other states have an endless supply of high-quality foster care, but not us. The solutions that work for the rest of the country, like emphasizing foster care above all else, aren't necessarily our solutions.

"Although Nevada's laws and federal requirements are similar to those of other states, our culture is different. Las Vegas has a unique demographic profile of both child abuse offender and child victim.

"It has a certain community of potential volunteers — always smaller than the rest of the country’s — who are motivated by some appeals and not motivated by others. It also has a unique economy with a certain kind of philanthropic donor. DFS has been treating Las Vegas as though it was "Anytown USA," and I think that this viewpoint, in part, is why it has a foster crisis year after year.

"We have more than just files and paperwork at stake. If the child welfare system is not working as efficiently as possible with the resources it has, then children will continue to be unnecessarily abused by the system that is supposed to protect them."

No one was or is listening

Now, in September 2006, Darryl Martin, assistant county manager reports, "Right now, our greatest need is for additional foster families," said Darryl Martin, assistant county manager. "We need at least 400 to 500 new foster families. Our goal is not to have to have children at Child Haven."

The Children's Attorney Project's immediate goal is to find homes for the 55 infants and toddlers who currently reside at Child Haven, a community shelter.

I fully support that. Child Haven is unlicensed and ill-equipped to handle the teens and children in their care. There are no mental health services being provided. Due to overcrowding conditions, some children are forced to sleep on the gymnasium floor.

I wonder what will happen to the other children and teenagers who are currently housed at Child Haven?

Too bad that no one took Glenn Campbell's advice and started planning and implementing more more helpful and behaviorally-based group homes and institutions three years ago.

By what miracle is Clark County going to find foster homes for all of them? My guess is that recent news might discourage, rather than encourage foster parenting.

Take a look at some of the children in southern Nevada who need adoptive homes:

But, take heart at the power of their courage and survival:
19-year-old Jessicca Hoffmann lived in Child Haven with her brother and sister. She frequently volunteered to care for infants and toddlers in the infant room. Now, she publicly shares her experiences in Child Haven, in an effort to speak out for the children residing there now.

Blaize, Ashanti. Child Haven Faces More Legal Action. KLAS-TV News, Sep 7, 2006
Campbell, Glenn. Clark County Foster Care: Crisis and Solutions. May 31, 2005. PO Box 30303 Las Vegas, NV 89173.
Legal group to represent 58 children in Clark County care, Las Vegas Sun, September 07, 2006.

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Another thing that came to mind-
Ever since I was young and started hearing the indoctrination that I "better not get pregnant", it has become more and more apparent to me over the years that people see children in general as suuuuuuch a hindrance.
As a young person, I was told, better not have kids because you are young and kids are too big of a responsibility. As I got older, I was told, better not have kids because I was not financially stable enough and kids cost too much money. As I got financially stable, people told me, better not have kids because you're not married, and raising them is just too hard. When we got married, I still heard, better not have any kids, because well, you just better not. They are just too much of this hindrance.
Perhaps if people had a better view of children in general, there wouldn't be this problem. Think about it- if it's just such a burden to have a biological child, then why would anyone want a foster child? If biological children are something so horrible that women need to be rescued from and warned about, then how much more for foster kids?

Lisa, I have an idea-
how about researching foster care in Utah? In a place where family is actually valued and having children encouraged?
I don't believe there are many places in the United States where there isn't a shortage of foster homes.

As much as I hate to say it, I think state and local governments need to get real about the state of foster care and consider making foster parenting a profession, rather than a volunteer opportunity.

Our latest foster child has been with us for less than a week, and already we have spent close to $300 for things that she needed. She's behind academically, so we've had to buy educational materials; she came with very few clothes, so we've had to remedy that, even though the county hasn't come through with her clothing allowance; and she came with a hamster who had no food or clean bedding, so we've had to buy supplies for him, too.

We are fortunate that we can afford to absorb some of these costs. However, I think there would be much less of a shortage if counties paid foster parents what they were worth, set reimbursement rates higher, and actually paid for things that were damaged or stolen by foster kids while they are in care. Not counting $120 cell phone that was stolen by our teenage foster daughter who ran, we've spend far, far more than we've received in reimbursement payments.

I think CASA (court appointed special advocates) / guardian ad litems should be paid, too.

Or, they should grant forgiveness of student loans.

Because I am just dying to be a CASA for foster youth, but can't afford it because I have a full-time job (that doesn't allow time off at the last minute, which is what CASA often requires) and I need to pay off a lot of student loans...

I thought of you and your previous insights about student admissions counselors today.

I spent over two and a half hours distributing fliers on a university campus.

I made the mistake of visiting the Admissions office to ask for directions. The woman I spoke to took forever to find and circle the buildings I wanted to visit on the student map.

And she got them WRONG.

isn't that funny (about the counselor).
If you do ever become a CASA, please make sure first that they will even let you be one- since you are a former foster child, they might think that you can't do the job. Just a heads up about the way they are- although I think you'd make an excellent one.
Ever think of getting a job on the second shift or off hours like I did when I was a CASA in Arizona?
By the way- half price books had all the "American Girls" collection for 99 cents each. I sent them to my cousin for her 8th birthday. She loves them.

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