Child Foster Care Reform: National Call to Action on Children in Foster Care State Plans To Improve Nation’s Foster Care Programs and Child Protection System Unveiled

Williamsburg, VA (PRWEB) May 2, 2006

Representatives from the nations state courts and child welfare agencies have developed specific recommendations to improve child foster care systems and foster care programs throughout the country as part of a National Call to Action on children in foster care released by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). State Supreme Court justices partnered with other state leaders to develop the National Call to Action to help reduce the length of time children spend in foster care. Their recommendations provide states with a clear road map of action plans and needed resources to improve outcomes for our nation’s children living in foster care.

Today more than 500,000 children live in foster care. Half of the children will spend at least two years in the Nations foster care system and one in five children will be in the system for five years or more. Although child foster care is often an essential step in helping abused and neglected children, state and local court delays can often extend the time between when children enter the foster care system and when they are placed in safe, permanent homes. While in this ‘limbo,’ many children and families do not receive the assistance they need to allow children to return home safely or prepare them to join another family.

“Implementation of these plans will go a long way to make substantial progress toward reducing the amount of time children spend in the foster care system,” said Chief Justice of Indiana Randall T. Shepard, President of the Conference of Chief Justices. “It will bring these children one step closer to the safe and permanent families they need and deserve.”

The National Call to Action is the result of the landmark National Judicial Leadership Summit for the Protection of Children: Changing Lives by Changing Systems (the Summit), which was held in Minnesota in September 2005. Leaders of 49 state court systems (Louisiana was unable to participate due to Hurricane Katrina), the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories participated in the Summit. As part of the Summit, each state developed an action plan to improve its child protection system procedures and programs. The NCSC, which coordinated the Summit, compiled the team plans into the National Call to Action.

“When a court case sits on the docket, a child sits in foster care,” said former Chief Justice of Minnesota Kathleen Blatz, who co-chaired the Summit.

“While foster care is supposed to be their lifeboat, for many children it’s become the Titanic. The delay in finding a permanent caring home can have a profound affect on a child,” said NCSC President Mary Campbell McQueen.

While all state action plans for child foster care system reform address specific local needs and challenges, there was considerable consensus across major areas needing improvement and the steps required to achieve these changes. Drawing on recommendations from the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, state teams identified the following strategies underpinning their action plans: