Each year, more than half a million children come into contact with the foster care system in the United States. Of those, 80 percent suffer from severe emotional problems, according to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Less than 50 percent receive their high school diploma, and far fewer go into any type of post-secondary education. Those are some of the statistics, but what’s it’s like to walk in their shoes? What’s it like to face the tough challenges and choices these young men and women deal with on a daily basis?
More than four-years after Children’s Rights, a New York-based non-profit, filed a law suit on behalf of nine children in Oklahoma, a settlement has been reached that will bring changes to the state’s child welfare system. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell approved the settlement reached between Children’s Rights and Oklahoma’s Department of Human Services in January. “There just has not been the funding to hit some of these critical needs,” Sheree Powell, communications coordinator for the state’s Department of Human Services, said. “We don’t control the purse strings, but it was understood in federal court that we’ll make good-faith efforts to improve everything within our control.”
Under the agreement, “specific strategies to improve the child welfare system” as it relates to 15 performance areas will be outlined, detailed and put into practice over the next four years. “We’re confident the settlement will result in better services and protection than foster children [in Oklahoma] currently receive,” said Marcia Robinson Lowry, Founder and Executive Director of Children’s Rights.
Children’s Rights, Inc. a national advocacy group, filed a motion in federal court this month in an effort to force the State to turn over documents related to diversion, safety resources and temporary guardianships of children in Fulton and DeKalb counties. The group is concerned that DFCS is artificially suppressing the number of investigations and the number of children in foster care, leaving abused and neglected children in danger. Read more from Beth Locker’s blog at Voices for Georgia’s Children