Soapbox

Bill would undermine California foster care reforms

Angie Schwartz
Angie Schwartz

The Alliance for Children’s Rights has worked on behalf of youths in foster care for nearly 25 years to accomplish critical reforms to the child welfare system. So we share the laudable goals of the Family First Prevention Services Act (“Foster youths deserve good health care, wherever they are,” Viewpoints, July 20).

Nonetheless, we strongly oppose the passage of H.R. 5456 in its current flawed form. It is being rushed through Congress without the opportunity for child advocates to weigh in with concerns and seek reasonable amendments. Among the victims of such a process are tens of thousands of children in foster care living in California.

The bill has the declared intention of providing prevention services to families at risk of having a child placed in foster care, and ensuring that children who do enter foster care grow up in families, not group homes. However, the legislation does not invest any money to expand family placements or to increase support for these families. Without those investments, the youths that the bill would move out of group homes would have no place to go.

California is not afraid of reform. In fact, the state has spent the last four years advancing an effort that has a primary goal of moving children out of group homes and into families. The Continuum of Care Reform program ensures that families receive the right training, services and support to meet the needs of children.

If passed, the Family First Act would undermine the far-reaching and thoughtful improvements to California’s foster care system underway.

We join with other advocates for abused and neglected children in emphasizing the need to slow down and allow time for discussion and revision to the current legislation, so that we can move forward together in caring for the most vulnerable children among us.

Angie Schwartz is policy program director of the Alliance for Children’s Rights, an advocacy group in Los Angeles. She can be contacted at a.schwartz@kids-alliance.org.

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