Renee’s Round-up: Child Welfare and Safety

Throughout the last year, Americans have been bombarded with minute-to-minute updates from the presidential race that continues to dominate headlines and network news. At Every Child Matters, we’ve been working hard to make sure that children’s issues are part of the story that is told about the election, so we’ve been sharing the candidates’ comments on paid family leave, early education, and health care through our Digital Dialogue.

One important topic the Digital Dialogue highlights—and one that hasn’t gotten much notice from candidates or the media—is child welfare and safety. And yet we can’t imagine an issue more worthy of our attention. For this round-up, we have collected recent research and reporting on child welfare and safety, in an effort to elevate the conversation on a topic that is too often a matter of life and death.

Every Child Matters was a founding member of a coalition of national child welfare organizations urging Congress to authorize creation of the Commission to End Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities in 2014. The presidential panel’s final report is anticipated to be publicly released soon.

In a poignant but haunting long-form piece, the New Yorker’s Jill Lepore looked into the political history of child abuse fatalities through the lens of last year’s “Baby Doe” case in Massachusetts. The author traces pendulum swings in policy—between family preservation and foster placement—that she attributes to politicians conflating their own legacies with the outcomes of high-profile cases.

Focusing on the state level, the New York Times investigated the alleged failings of Mississippi’s child welfare agency, the subject of a 2004 class action law suit on behalf of 13 foster children. Currently, 19 states face system-wide lawsuits because of high rates of abuse and neglect. Ruling on a case in Texas, a district court judge noted that children “almost uniformly leave state custody more damaged than when they entered.”

Policy Lab, a research center of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, published new research on the increasing rate at which antipsychotic drugs are prescribed to children enrolled in Medicaid, especially among the foster-care population. The study found that few states have policies on psychotropic prescribing for foster children and Medicaid recipients, and some evidence suggesting that states with pay-for-service financing systems were more likely to prescribe those types of drugs.

A report by Child Trends examined the financing mechanisms for child welfare in the US, including recommendations for improvements at federal, state and local levels to ensure safety and stability for children in state custody. And on the topic of funding, President Obama’s budget request for FY 2017 included expanded investments in child welfare initiatives, with a particular focus on family stability and permanence. The budget also included new funding to develop the child welfare workforce and to extend transitional services to children in foster care through age 23.

We’ll end on a lighter note. A top-ranking mobile game app called “Foster Jump,” designed by students at a Cincinnati public high school, seeks to raise awareness of the challenges that kids face when they “age out” of the welfare system. App users play the role of “an 18-year-old former foster care child who skateboards through the city and dodges bad influences.”

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