DCF unveils ‘Don’t Miss the Signs’ of abuse campaign

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Who should report the suspected abuse of a child in Florida?

Everyone.

The Department of Children and Families has teamed up with sexual-abuse survivor Lauren Book to get that message out to the public through a new multimedia awareness campaign called “Don’t Miss the Signs.”

“We not only have a moral obligation to report child abuse, we have a legal obligation to report child abuse,” DCF Secretary David Wilkins said at a kick-off media event Monday.

In the past, only so-called “professional reporters,” such as doctors and teachers were required to report suspected abuse to the state’s child abuse hotline. But since a sweeping new reporting law went into effect last October, all Florida residents are obligated to make the call if they suspect a child is being abused — including abuse by a parent or primary caregiver as well as a coach, teacher or neighbor.

DCF Tallahassee

The first month the law was enacted, calls to the hotline increased 16 percent. While DCF receives about 300,000 hotline calls each year, Wilkins said thousands of cases still go unreported.

So far, no one has been charged under the new law with a first-degree misdemeanor for knowingly failing to make a report, but he and Book stressed the importance of community members to step up.

“At the end of the day, it’s a call to protect children,” said Book, who, as a teen, was sexually abused for years by her nanny. She plans a second 1,500-mile walk around the state this spring to raise awareness of the problem. “All you are doing is calling someone to come out to investigate. You are saving a life. Kids don’t have to suffer as long as I did.”

The $500,000 multimedia awareness campaign, funded through a $1.5 million appropriation to DCF last year for reporting system improvements, will feature television and radio public service announcements, billboards, posters and brochures describing the signs of abuse as well as a website, DontMissTheSigns.org that includes an online petition pledging to report abuse.

Book, who created the foundation Lauren’s Kids, and developed a kindergarten curriculum intended to prevent childhood sexual abuse, urged state residents to sign the petition and do their part.

“All Floridians need to know the signs and know what to look out for,” Book said. “We need all Floridians to commit their eyes and voices to protect our kids.”

To report abuse call the hotline at 800-962-2873 or file a report at DontMissTheSigns.org

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A Bill would ease foster placements

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Jill Johnson of Omaha agreed last fall to take a state ward into her home — a 12-year-old boy she had known since he was a preschooler.

Nebraska Families Collaborative in Omaha sought her out, knowing she had worked with him professionally in the past to resolve his behavioral issues.

When he had to leave his previous foster home because of behavioral issues — it wasn’t safe for him or the family he lived with — Johnson and her husband said the boy could come and live with them.

It was then that the Johnsons found out they had to go through a rigorous licensing process that would delay bringing him into their home by months.

By the time they are approved, at least five months will have gone by, Johnson said.

A state law that went into effect in July has been causing concern among agencies that find foster homes for kids. It has slowed the process for placements of children with families in which at least one adult knows them.

In the 2012 session, senators passed a bill that required licensing of all foster parents who were not related to a child by blood, marriage or adoption.

 

This year, Lincoln Sen. Colby Coash has introduced a bill (LB265) that would allow foster children to access kinship and relative foster care more easily.

The hearing on that bill is scheduled for Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in front of the Health and Human Services Committee.

It exempts kinship and relative homes from the requirement to be licensed, or from certain other requirements. It defines kinship homes as those in which the caretaker has lived with the child or has had significant contact with the child.

“It would really allow us more flexibility with placing kids with people that they know,” said Jewel Schifferns, kinship care services manager with Nebraska Families Collaborative.

At a time when there is a shortage of foster homes in the state, the agency has seen a significant decline in kinship placements since July.

On July 1, the agency had 115 foster homes with kids who knew the caretaker before placement, she said. Since then, 26 of the homes have been licensed, 17 are ineligible and 14 still are working on licensing.

The remaining are no longer caring for foster children.

As a result, Nebraska Families Collaborative has been placing more kids with foster parents the children don’t know, she said.

Dave Newell, president and CEO of Nebraska Families Collaborative, said licensing takes a lot of time.

When children are removed from their parents, it is the least traumatic if they can go stay with someone they know.

“That’s far less scary for them than going to somebody that they don’t know,” Newell said. “And we really lost that flexibility when the law changed.”

The intent of the law, to raise the quality of foster homes, was good, Newell said, and Nebraska Families Collaborative supports licensing homes.

But there have been some problems with it.

With licensing, there is somewhat of a built-in bias against low-income families who must have a certain amount of square footage per person in the home, for example.

There also have been cases in which four siblings, for example, two of whom have one father and two have another, cannot all be placed with a paternal relative. That forces the agency to place all four together in “stranger care” or split up the siblings, Schifferns said.

The rules could be more flexible on things that don’t affect the safety of the child, Newell said.

With Coash’s LB265, homes still would have to be approved by HHS, with a background check and a home study.

The homes could pursue licensing and would have the assistance of HHS to do so.

For relative homes pursuing licensure, requirements that don’t affect the safety of the child may be waived.

America’s Most Unwanted, a film about foster youth. Free DVDs for foster homes

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A Testimony from the Producer of America’s Most Unwanted Shani Heckman This page is so amazing b/c I was adopted in Philly and emancipated from foster care in Delaware! wish you were around then. such amazing work you are doing! I wanted to bring your attention to my film about girls in foster care that deals with homophobia, homelessness and incarceration issues but is VERY HOPEFUL! the youth who have seen it have been really inspired..and it was my MASTERS Degree film!! we’re in our final 6 days to raise funds to get the finished DVD to the youth for free and are reaching out to ask folks to chip-in/spread the news! thanks for all you DO! Foster Care Kids Need Love Too! Make sure you click this link in support the film cause for foster care kids. “Drawing Success” for the youth of our nation. Watch the video in support @ http://www.indiegogo.com/project/share/299939

America’s Most Unwanted Project! Please support!

The Pizza Hut 10 Dollar Card Fundraiser!

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Pizza Hut fund 1

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$10 Pizza Hut Fundraiser Cards
Good for 12 FREE medium pizzas     Click this link to purchase your card today! http://www.webstore.com/10-Pizza-Hut-Fundraiser-Cards,name,24965967,auction_id,auction_details
(Up to 3 Different Toppings With any $15 + purchase.) Exp 12/31/2013 Not valid with any other offer. Which comes with 12 free mediums pizzas like this.
Coupon must be presented at the time of purchase. Pizza Hut proudly supports Foster Care Kids Need Love Too in it’s local community.
Foster Care Kids Need Love Too is a proud fundraiser sponsor by Pizza Hut. All proceeds will go to our organization for living expenses, shelter and food for foster care youth in the system. “Drawing Success.” for foster care youth of the future. If you have any additional questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to respond to us.

We Want To Say Thank You!

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We want to thank all the new fans, supporters, and sponsors of Foster Care Kids Need Love Too. Without you guys none of this would be possible. As we look back to where we came from a couple years back, we definitely achieve a lot of success. We are definitely on the rise to something major. With all the efforts and support we will continue to make progress. We love you guys. Keep supporting, also keep showing the love in care. “Drawing Success”  for foster care youth of our nation.

New Law Aims to Help Students in Foster Care

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COLUMBUS — A law signed last week by President Obama is expected to help clear some educational roadblocks for foster children, whose school records often remained closed to child-welfare workers.

The Uninterrupted Scholars Act gives the agencies access to the records by making an exception for child-welfare workers in the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, known as FERPA.

That means child-welfare workers won’t necessarily have to obtain parental consent or wait for court orders to act on school matters. Parents don’t automatically lose their educational rights when an agency has temporary custody of their child.

Local advocates say the change in FERPA should reduce or eliminate some of the snags, delays, and missed days that occur when children come into custody or change schools.

“It was a well-intentioned law, but it had some unintended consequences for foster children who are moving around from school district to school district and often fall behind,” said Scott Britton, assistant director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio.

Missed school days are a problem for foster parents too, he said, because many can’t miss work while transfers are pending.

“It’s become a real deterrent for foster families in some cases,” he said. “Days would turn into weeks.”

In some cases, Mr. Britton said, Ohio foster children’s school records and report cards were “held hostage” by the former school district if certain fees had not been paid. Waiting for court action and county-issued checks took more time.

Many child-welfare agencies have developed educational-stability programs for foster children.

According to studies of adults in the Midwest who had been in foster care, more than one-third changed schools at least five times as children, and most read at a seventh-grade level after completing 10th or 11th grade.

Among Ohio foster children in the ninth grade, one-fourth passed the math and science proficiency tests and half passed the reading test. Foster children drop out of school at higher rates and are about half as likely to graduate from high school, advocates said.

A Child Transitioning Out The Supervision of The State

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Good morning Foster Care Kids Need Love Too Family! I have a very special message from a foster child that transition out of the supervision of the state. She wanted to share your passage in and be a advocate for foster care children in need. Her name is Katlynn in i will share her story. It took bravery for her to share her story so this is for us as a family to understand that we have a voice of opinion here at Foster Care Kids Need Love Too. This is her story: My name is katlynn. I’m 15 & this is my story , My mom had me at a really young age and i went into foster care and I was called names for it. Or they would say no body wants you not even your mom. And that Hurt so bad, and the people around me thought I would turn out to be a foster kid that has nothing good and I started to believe it and gave up, but one day a guy told me show them your better then what they say you are. After that I got everything back together and now I’m adopted and loved by my family and have people who support me and don’t make jokes about being a foster care kid or an adopted kid. It’s not easy to be in the system.Thank god that I had the foster parents I did. And I thank god for giving me a family.

From Foster Care to the Inauguration 2013

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WASHINGTON, JAN. 21, 2013 — /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Foster care alumni from Fedcap Washingtonians for Children (http://www.fedcap.org/) and other DC, Virginia and Maryland programs witnessed history – and their own potential futures – as attendees at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

The 30 young people, all college students or recent graduates, overcame enormous barriers – and odds – to reach higher education. While 70 percent of foster youth say they want to go to college, fewer than 10 percent enroll and only 3 percent of those students graduate. Almost half of foster care alumni are unemployed at age 21, and rates of teen-age pregnancy, homelessness and incarceration are high.

Here’s what they had to say about today’s ceremony:

  • “This inauguration defined opportunity.”
  • “Seeing the President and his family in person was so inspiring and made it all seem so much more real.”
  • “The fact that it was the second term of an African-American President and that it landed on Martin Luther King’s birthday brought tears to my eyes.”
  • “Nobody, absolutely nobody, can stop us from achieving what we want.”

“These young people represent the future leaders President Obama referenced in his speech, the people who will carry on the fight for ‘a more perfect union,’ and especially the fight to change the story for their brothers and sisters in foster care in America,” said Roque Gerald, Director of Fedcap Washingtonians for Children, which partners with the DC Child and Family Services Agency to ensure that youth transitioning from foster care enter college and graduate.

“This President is an inspiring illustration of breaking through barriers to achieve greatness,” he said. “We are so proud to have shared this day with the amazing youth we serve, and to be helping them to reach their own full potential.”

Gerald partnered with Anne Holton of Great Expectations in Virginia (http://greatexpectations.vccs.edu/) to arrange tickets to the inauguration, after which the group was hosted at a lunch by Casey Family Programs.

“I am thrilled to be enjoying Inauguration Day with these formidable youth and Great Expectations staff,” Holton, wife of Virginia Senator (and former Virginia Governor) Tim Kaine, told the group.

About Fedcap Washingtonians for Children Fedcap Washingtonians for Children is committed to helping youth in foster care develop pathways to college and self-sufficiency. Partnering with the child welfare system and other proven programs serving at-risk youth, and with foster families, schools and trained mentors, we build the networks that provide youth in foster care with the support and encouragement they need to succeed.

About Fedcap Fedcap helps people break through barriers to achieve long-term economic independence. Our programs and operations bring education and the power of work to youth in transition, adults with conviction histories, veterans, individuals with disabilities and many others facing barriers to employment. We place people in jobs across a wide variety of sectors and employ more than 1,800 in our own businesses. Fedcap is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. For more information or to make a donation, call 212-727-4200 or visit www.fedcap.org. Follow Fedcap on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/fedcap) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/Fedcap).

Foster Care Kids Need Love Too, are proud supporters of Fedcap. “Drawing Success”

The Journey of Three Foster Youths attend the inauguration!

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Three former foster children will be in Washington on Monday to witness President Barack Obama’s ceremonial inauguration for a second term.

They were invited by California Congresswoman Karen Bass, co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and an ardent advocate for the more than 400,000 kids in foster care. She said witnessing the historic occasion will inspire them to reach their own goals.

‘‘What I hope they walk away with is, ‘Wow, maybe I can do something great in my lifetime,’’’ Bass said. ‘‘I like for young people not to see a limitation on what they can do with their lives.

She’ll also introduce the youths to fellow lawmakers, hoping that meeting them in person and hearing their stories will encourage her colleagues to join. The caucus, which formed in 2011 and has focused on improving education outcomes and reducing the disproportionate amount of psychotropic medications prescribed to foster kids, has been slowly growing in strength.

Representatives Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.; Tom Marino, R-Pa.; and Jim McDermott , D-Wash., also co-chair the group of nearly 75 members. Obama recently signed into law The Uninterrupted Scholars Act, which the caucus pushed through to improve education outcomes by giving social workers access to education records.

Social workers had been required to get a court order to access a foster child’s school, so children often didn’t have a way to bring those documents to new schools because foster parents may not be legal guardians entitled to access those records. Some students end up taking the same classes over because credits are lost or don’t transfer.

Bass traveled the country on a listening tour last year, meeting with child welfare officials to draft policy with help from foster kids, caseworkers and others on the front lines. In June, she brought several foster youths to Washington to shadow lawmakers.

‘‘Too often the issues and policies addressed by the caucus are considered local until tragedy brings them to national attention. The Caucus has the ability to bring together local stakeholders on a national level to share in a dialogue,’’ said Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings, a member of the group who co-sponsored the bill.

Sixto Cancel entered Connecticut’s foster system before his first birthday and moved through dozens of foster homes over the years along with his ten brothers and sisters.

The 20-year-old, now a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University, said attending the inauguration and meeting lawmakers is bigger than just his personal experience.

‘‘It’s important for all our foster brothers and sisters that we feel like we’re at the table now, that our voices are being heard,’’ Cancel said.

He started the pilot program Stellar Works to prepare foster kids for post-secondary education.

That’s been one of the main focuses of the caucus. While pushing its most recent bill, Bass noted that 50 percent of the nation’s more than 400,000 foster kids won’t graduate from high school. Nearly 94 percent of those who do make it through high school do not finish college, according to a 2010 study from Chapin Hall, the University of Chicago’s research arm.

‘‘A lot of people in Congress aren’t used to seeing foster youth be able to stand up and represent themselves in an articulate manner,’’ said 19-year-old Daniesha Tobey-Richards, who will also attend the inauguration.

She spent five years in foster care in Massachusetts and is now majoring in psychology at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

‘‘When I was first in foster care, I didn’t know there was an entire outside world of foster youth being represented in any shape or form,’’ she said.end of story marker