Foster-care panic makes children less safe
ALEXANDRIA, Va., April 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The number of children taken from their families in Los Angeles County has soared in the wake of news coverage of high-profile tragedies, a national child advocacy organization reported today.
Data obtained by the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform through a California Public Records Act request show that from August through December 2009, the number of children thrown into foster care by the Department of Children and Family Services shot up 16 percent over the same period in 2008. In contrast, until August, entries had declined by five percent compared with the same period in 2008, and the 2008 figure was down from 2007.
"With DCFS workers terrified of landing on the front page if they leave any child home and something goes wrong, the most vulnerable children in Los Angeles County have fallen victim to a foster-care panic," said NCCPR Executive Director Richard Wexler. NCCPR released a report on the panic on its website today, available here: http://bit.ly/ccDax8.
"The foster-care panic is even more tragic because 2008 was the first year since 2003 in which DCFS did not take away more children than the year before," Wexler said. "Now that progress has been reversed. The harm is compounded by the fact that, even before the panic, Los Angeles was taking away proportionately more children than most major metropolitan areas.
"Those who falsely equate child removal with child safely may be pleased by these data; but their joy will come at the expense of the very children they say they want to protect," Wexler said. "Foster-care panics make all children less safe." Wexler noted that:
- The standard measure of safety, reabuse of children, has not improved even as entries into care have escalated.
- There is no evidence that Los Angeles children are safer than children in Chicago or Miami, which take proportionately far fewer children, and where independent monitors have found that, as foster care entries have fallen, child safety has improved.
- There has been no real change in the rate of deaths of children previously known to DCFS.
"That means the enormous suffering endured by all those additional children needlessly torn from everyone they know and love has been for nothing," Wexler said. "And they're not the only ones who have been harmed.
"Wrongful removal overloads caseworkers, making it even less likely that they will find children in real danger. That overload almost always is the real reason for the very tragedies that have made headlines – and started the panic. That's why foster-care panics make all children less safe. And that's why nationwide, the only child welfare systems that really have improved safety are those that reformed to emphasize family preservation."
SOURCE National Coalition for Child Protection Reform