As the climate surrounding illegal immigration remains heated and unresolved, more and more immigrants are detained at the border or have their undocumented status discovered, resulting in arrest and possible deportation. In cases where these adults are parents, US born and non-native children are scattered, sometimes miles away from their families, sometimes in completely unfamiliar homes.
Such was the case for six-year-old Wilder Maldonado and his father when they turned themselves in after crossing the border, not realizing how strict border security had become. Wilder spent 7 months in a United States foster home until being reunited with his family in eastern El Salvador , according to a ProPublica article. But this reunification, like many others, was not an easy transition for the boy who had experienced certain physical comforts like his favorite – long, warm showers – that he may never have again.
A recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found the number of children in kinship care rose by 18 percent in the last decade across the country. However, only five percent of that number are living with licensed kinship families.
Currently, there are 2.5 million children in kinship care – both informally and formally (licensed by the state). This is five times the number of children in foster care. Continue reading
A groundbreaking piece of legislation has passed through Congress and is seeing the beginning stages of implementation across the country. The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), originally designed as its own bill, has been passed into law attached to a government spending bill. The FFPSA has implications for all child welfare providers in the United States but finally brings the federal government in line with what child welfare studies have been saying for years: kinship care is the most effective form of foster care. The provisions of the FFPSA pave the way to move foster care away from a system that relies on people who are, effectively, strangers to the children being placed with them and bolsters states’ ability to support and grow kinship care communities. To do this, the bill will divest from congregate (group home) care and shift funds into what could be called the “Foster Care New Deal.” This legislation has two primary approaches – it will create prevention services and family supports to address the causes that lead to foster care placement while developing the infrastructure relative caregivers need to allow them to care for the children for whom prevention services were insufficient.
What Does the FFPSA Do?
The first approach, prevention services, has the goal of reducing the need for child welfare systems entirely. Through the establishment of mental health services, substance abuse treatment and prevention programs and in-home parenting skill programs, the FFPSA will help states work with biological parents to ensure that not only do their children get to experience bright futures but also that those children get to do so in their own home, with their biological family.
Kinship care is more widespread now than ever, but the challenges facing kinship families are just as varied as they always were. With the rise in the number of extended family members caring for their relatives and close friends comes an increase in the amount of services needed to help these families succeed. It’s never easy helping a child overcome a history of abuse or neglect, but thanks to the new national focus on kinship care, no kinship family has to do it alone.
The focus on kinship care is the result of the Fostering Connections Act of 2011, which stressed the importance of maintaining family connections for children who’d endured abuse or neglect. Since its passage, thousands of American families who’d never asked to be involved in relative care found themselves on the receiving end of phone calls from Child Protective Services. Continue reading