“Whether as a friend, a role model, or a guardian, any of us can be a supportive adult for a child in need. As we honor the countless Americans who are answering that call to action, let us mark this month by showing children and youth in foster care the best our country has to offer.”
With these and more inspiring statements, President Obama has proclaimed May as National Foster Care Month. For his administration’s part, the Children’s Bureau has unveiled a website full of resources to raise awareness during the month. Furthermore, the President’s budget includes some promising legislative proposals, including a teen pregnancy prevention program, a child support payment clarification, a domestic sex trafficking program, all targeted to help youth in care. Champions in the House of Representatives are also taking action and raising awareness through blue ribbon events, forums, and shadow days. In addition to our ongoing advocacy work, CWLA is participating in the month by posting daily resources and stories on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
This morning, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing to examine America’s child welfare system ahead of the expiration of two federal programs—the Adoption Incentive and Family Connection Grants—at the end of the fiscal year. Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) opened the hearing talking about the importance of strong homes and families for children. He explained that the hearing would look at Antwone Fisher’s story as a case study of child welfare. Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) echoed the importance of improving outcomes for youth in care and both spoke of continuing bipartisan work towards this end.
Leading off the panel of witnesses was Antwone Fisher who grew up in foster care without ever being placed in a permanent home. Mr. Fisher overcame ongoing maltreatment to become a successful Navy soldier and eventually playwright, screenwriter, director and producer. Fisher’s story has not only captivated audiences in a major motion picture, but also the Finance Committee, as the members responded with admiration and expressions of inspiration. In his testimony, Fisher highlighted the need to prevent children from languishing in foster care through adoption, the need to better prepare and serve older youth who age out of foster care, and the promise of family finding. Poignantly, Fisher described how found out as an adult that he had grown up in the same school as his cousins, and that his family would have taken him in if they had only known he needed a home.
Additional witnesses included Gary Stangler, Executive Director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative; Eric Fenner, Managing Director with Casey Family Programs; and Kevin Campbell, Founder of the Center for Family Finding and Youth Connectedness. Stangler spoke about the need to update federal supports for older youth in care—including the Chaffee Foster Care Independence and Education and Training Voucher programs—particularly in light of new neuroscience and identified best practices. Fenner spoke of his past experiences in direct practice to highlight the need for flexible financing that enables individual assessments to ensure permanent relationships for children. He pointed to the benefits of Title IV-E waivers and called for further child welfare finance reform. Campbell spoke about family finding as key way to ensure meaningful lifelong connections for children. He explained that he found sixty-two of Fisher’s relatives in ten minutes with fifteen dollars and called for better enforcement of federal family notification requirements.
CWLA strongly supports reauthorization of the Adoption Incentive Program and Family Connection Grants. Furthermore, our 2013 Legislative Agenda specifically outlines ways to improve these and the Chaffee programs in-line with our National Blueprint vision that all children grow up safe, in loving families and supportive communities with everything they need to flourish.
VIRTUAL ADVOCACY DAY: As a part of the CWLA Annual Conference, on Tuesday, April 16th hundreds of child welfare professionals are heading to Capitol Hill to advocate for policies that raise the bar for children and their families. Will you join them?
Guided by the CWLA 2013 Legislative Agenda and Priorities for Congress, conference participants will talk with federal legislative offices from their experiences working with vulnerable children and families. They are telling Congress to raise the bar for children and families by, 1. protecting funding for programs serving vulnerable children and families 2. increasing access to mental health services, and 3. investing in a continuum of early care and education resources.
Add your voice by calling your U.S. Senators and Representative and tell them you support CWLA’s Priorities for Congress. Click here to pledge your participation and get details for calling.
INDIAN CHILD WELFARE ACT PICTURE CAMPAIGN: Also on April 16th, the Supreme Court will be hearing the case, Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl, involving the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). For 35 years, ICWA has promoted best child welfare practice by requiring proper notice and active efforts to preserve family and community ties before placement. In this way, the law represents a CWLA Child Welfare Standard of Excellence, and CWLA supports upholding ICWA in an amicus brief for the upcoming hearing.
To raise awareness about preserving this best practice, CWLA is launching a picture campaign to show that culture matters for kids to flourish. The pictures are intended to remind us of the importance of cultural connections, despite the need to intervene on behalf of a child’s safety.
Four communities were honored on Capitol Hill yesterday for their efforts to value, engage, and support people of all ages. Generations United (GU) and MetLife Foundation, created the award to recognize approaches to overcoming age segregated communities. GU Executive Director, Donna Butts, explained that their goal is not to learn about why these communities are building intergenerational solidarity, but to encourage others to take similar actions to efficiently foster strong, supportive communities, reduce isolation, increase achievement and improve well-being.
Communities of all sizes, including Montgomery County, MD; Itta Bena, MS; Westchester County, NY; and Dunedin, Fl, were recognized for establishing intergenerational policy and program communities, health and wellness activities, and socialization programs. Community leaders were in attendance to receive the awards, talk about their initiatives and discuss the impact of intergenerational communities on a panel discussion. The event was moderated by Matthew Melmed, Executive Director of Zero to Three, and Juan Williams, Fox News Correspondent and Journalist, both of whom serve on GU’s Board. Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) also joined the event to congratulate their respective communities for being recognized for their great work.