Arizona foster care measure advances

Arizona

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PHOENIX – The Arizona House of Representatives has advanced a crucial piece of legislation that will alleviate the backlog in the placement of the more than 14,000 children in our state awaiting transition to foster homes. SB1108 (foster home licensure; immunizations) will provide Arizona with the flexibility to place the state’s foster children with qualified foster families.

 

The need for the legislation, co-sponsored by District 1 Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Peoria), arose when Ms. Lesko learned of the dilemma of a constituent couple. They had decided to not immunize their children after their oldest suffered a severe medical reaction to a vaccination series. They later inquired about becoming foster parents and were told to not bother if they were not going to fully vaccinate their biological children.

The bill will provide the Arizona Department of Economic Security (DES) with the authority to grant parents who have chosen to not vaccinate their own children with state foster home licensure. It will allow DES to decide, on a case by case basis, where a foster child can be placed based on the best interests of the child.

“This is another prime example of how a constituent’s issue can be efficiently solved by the collaboration between my House and Senate Colleagues. I’m very pleased to help accelerate the transition of children out of crisis ridden foster care and into loving homes.” stated Rep. Lesko.

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“Save Lives Foster Care Youth Counts Contest”

Foster Care Kids Need Love Too
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“Save Lives Foster Care Youth Counts” Foster Care Kids Need Love Too is doing a contest for Unity and Support. We are giving away 100 dollar Best Buy gift card, 100 dollar Walmart Card, 50 dollar Amazon card, 5 Starbucks 5 dollar gift cards. and one 5 dollar Amazon gift card. Entries starts today, entries ends May 3, 2013 Good Luck! in thank you for support Foster Care Kids Need Love Too! You can vote every hour. A minimum donation of $1.00 is required  to vote.

Obamacare And Medicaid: Foster Kids May End Up With The Short End Of The Stick

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Foster Care Kids Need Love Too

The Affordable Care Act extends Medicaid coverage to children in foster care until age 26 — but with strict limitations.

Former foster children who have aged out of the foster care system at age 18 will be afforded mandatory extended Medicaid coverage up to age 26 under a provision of the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as “Obamacare”) effective in January 2014.This provision is probably what most child advocates would call a strong leap in the right direction thanks to the Obama Administration’s efforts. The issue? In order to receive the extended coverage, these young people must continue residing in the state where they were in foster care.

As it stands now, most young adults are able to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26. When the provision takes effect, former foster children will receive healthcare coverage from the state until age 26 as well, a stark contrast from the system that is in place now which allows youth who age out of foster care to lose Medicaid coverage at age 18.

According to CNN, child advocates recognize that the provision shows tremendous progress in shaping policies that consider the many perils that former foster children face, but they also know that limiting the extension of the Medicaid age based on relocation could be adverse to the provision’s effectiveness.

A large number of young adults in America relocate at age 18 for college, jobs, or even just a change of scenery after graduating from high school. While youth who are fortunate enough to have parents with insurance will be able to remain on their parents’ insurance if they move to another state, former foster children may lose their coverage if they do the same.

The new portion of the Affordable Care Act does not make it mandatory for states to continue covering former foster care children when they move to another state. However, it also does not prevent states from covering young adults who move outside of the state upon turning 18 if the states so choose.

Child advocates are currently circulating a letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the Department of Health and Human Services in the hopes of revising the provision to implement mandatory health coverage for all former foster youths regardless of whether they relocate to another state.

 

 

 

 

 

Program aims to help teens, young adults moving from foster care to independent living

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A new partnership between the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and Big Brothers Big Sisters is bringing together caseworkers, employment counselors and mentors to help teens and young adults moving from foster care to independent living.

The journey is rough for many: Nationwide, about 81 percent of males previously in foster care are arrested by age 24; 48 percent of the females become pregnant by 19; and 22 percent have experienced homelessness.

“The statistics for children who leave foster care without being adopted are dire, and that’s putting it mildly,” said Benjamin Johnson, Job and Family Services spokesman. “We know we can do better.”

The initiative, which is to start immediately, will use federal welfare money to serve about 300 young people in eight Ohio counties.

A total of $1.8 million is available this year; about $2.6 million could be spent in 2014 and $2.5 million in 2015. As many as 1,300 young people in Ohio age out of foster care each year.

The effort is a pilot project that first will operate in Cuyahoga, Lake, Summit and Hamilton counties, and as a collaborative effort in Montgomery, Preble, Clinton and Green counties. Although Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio will oversee the mentoring, Franklin is not among the pilot counties.

“We’re certainly hoping that we’ll get some really positive results, and we’ll see it expand throughout the state,” said Mary Palkowski, spokeswoman for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Ohio.

The program — “Connecting the Dots from Foster Care to Employment and Independent Living” — aims to connect vital services that, too often, remain fragmented and out of reach for many current and former foster youth.

For those still in care, the initiative is to offer mentoring, educational supports and work readiness training. Older teens and young adults are to receive improved independent living and employment services so that they can make the transition to work, vocational training, college and independent living.

Portions of the grants will be used by local Workforce Investment Boards to handle the employment component.

The funding is in addition to the $5.9 million per year in federal money that Ohio currently budgets for independent-living services for foster youth.

“For too long, children leaving foster care have had few places to turn and few people to lean on, but that is about to change,” said Michael Colbert, director of the Department of Job and Family Services.

Experts estimate that providing better support to the 24,000 young people nationally who age out of foster care could save more than $5.7 billion over their lifetimes.

Foster children get a voice in Silicon Valley

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In a small office, Karen Scussel holds a pile of paper in each of her hands, carefully reading her notes on top of each stack. On the pile in her right hand the words ‘adopted or legal children’ is written in big black letters. In the other hand, three words are stamped that have made her lose countless hours of sleep: ‘wait listed children.’

Scussel has been advocating in court for children of the foster care system for more than a decade. Her mission is to change the way the court system takes on foster care cases so that judges and attorneys can be more understanding of the child’s background and needs. She is currently on two committees advocating reform within Santa Clara County’s foster care system: an independent living skills program for foster youth ages 16-25, and a committee looking at reforms in education within the county that would help foster care children integrate into the school system better.

In October of 2012, Scussel was appointed to the position of Executive Director of Child Advocates of Silicon Valley— an agency dedicated to helping foster-care children within the legal system. The agency, representing Santa Clara County, was formed in 1987 under the national court-appointed special advocate organization. Scussel first got involved with the program in 2000 as a volunteer—for that she underwent extensive training to help children of the foster care system.

The training entails 30 hours, spanning more than five weeks, of classes, lectures, and case studies. Child Advocates of Silicon Valley trainers include: a Santa Clara County judge who gives hours of training on the court system, attorneys who represent children and parents in the foster care system, specialists on child development and the effects of abuse, professionals dealing with domestic violence and substance abuse and employees/supervisors already working for the program who talk about “cultural competence” and understanding the difficulties of poverty. On top of this, volunteers are taught how to work with care givers, write court reports, mentor children and receive a three-hour lecture on California education law.

It is hard for a judge to preside over a foster-care case. Often times children in the system cannot articulate their needs, progress, or lifestyle to the court. This is where Child Advocates of Silicon Valley comes in. The organization sends a trained volunteer—called a Court Appointed Special Advocate— to speak on the child’s behalf in dependency-court hearings.

How does the volunteer know what is best for the child? By spending time with him or her, becoming a good friend, mentor and role model, the volunteers say The Court Appointed Special Advocate can then talk to social workers, foster parents, lawyers and others to paint a complete picture of the child’s needs and requirements. The child then has a better chance of being placed in a stable environment. Child Advocates of Silicon Valley’s mission is to provide a strong voice for those in the foster care system who do not have their own.

Scussel fondly recalls one of her favorite cases. She took on a sixteen-year-old African American boy in Gilroy who loved to skateboard. Scussel met him at the end of his freshman year of high school after he had failed all of his classes. The first time she approached him, she told him she’d heard he was smart but was having a tough time in school. She smiled warmly and said she was there to help. Every week, Scussel met with the boy and tried to bond with him through activities like going to the beach, shopping, and trips to San Francisco. She also taught him life skills including how to balance his bank account. By the end of his senior year, not only did he graduate on time, he also received the Most Outstanding Student of the Year award.

“I know he would not have done that had I not been involved,” Scussel said.

Through her weekly interactions with the boy, Scussel said she was able to determine what his personal needs were. Every six months she would make recommendations to the court on his behalf. She recommended to a judge that he have a psychological evaluation because she suspected he was mildly depressed. He was, and was put on medication that he said helped. She also recommended to the court that he get braces.

Child Advocates of Silicon Valley strives to cater to as many abused and neglected foster children as possible within the County. However, t 120 children are still  on the wait list for a trained advocate. For these children it could take two weeks to years before an advocate is assigned.

Unfortunately for many children, geography plays one of the most important roles in who is assigned as an advocate. Most Child Advocate volunteers live in Palo Alto, while most foster-care children who need an advocate live in South and East San Jose. A child in Los Altos has a better chance of getting off the wait list then one who lives in San Jose because volunteers do not have to drive as far. Age also plays a role in who gets an advocate. Unexplainably, in highest demand are girls ages six to ten. These children are usually only on the wait list for two weeks, while a sixteen-year-old boy is most likely going to spend a lot longer on the wait list.

The more time a child spends in the already-broken foster care system, the more chance he or she has of becoming a statistic. About 40,000 infants are put into foster care in the United States each year with 126,000 children currently available for adoption. Sadly, thirty percent of the nation’s  homeless population was once in foster care. A staggering twenty-five percent of those in U.S. prisons were once in foster care. On average, a child will stay in the foster-care system for almost three years before being adopted. It is not uncommon for a child to have been in twenty to thirty different homes before an adoption takes place.

Scussel and others are working to show the court system that every single foster care child has a name, history, and special desires for his or her own life. Scussel hopes to carry on as an advocate for children through Child Advocates of the Silicon Valley as long as she possibly can. So far, she has already helped fifteen children have their needs heard in court.

Scussel looks down again at the paper pile in her hand of ‘adopted or legal children’ and smiles as she says, “It’s just amazing to have a child say thank you.”