A key component of the Coalition’s mission is advocate for change in our child welfare system, promote best practices and seek to remedy issues that negatively impact adoptive families, foster families and relatives raising children. Our advocacy priorities for 2017/2018 are:
Fair treatment of foster parents, adoptive parents and relative caregivers subject to allegations of abuse or neglect
Foster Parents, Adoptive Parents and relative caregivers are often caring for children who have been traumatized, are impacted by learning and developmental disabilities and/or who display atypical and challenging behaviors. As a result, these parents and caregivers are at higher risk for allegations or reports of abuse or neglect. When allegations are made, our system too often assumes guilt. While the Coalition wants all children to be safe, we seek a more balanced response to allegations that will prevent good, loving foster parents from leaving the system and that will minimize any further trauma, disruption and harm to children and families.
Provide liability insurance for foster parents and direct placement relative caregivers
Foster parents and relatives who provide temporary, direct placement care for children receive no salary for their services and are extremely vulnerable to liability claims and lawsuits. They open their doors to unknown liability each time they take a new child. While in foster care, the Administration for Children’s Services or the local department of social services retains complete legal guardianship of these children. Because of this, and recognizing the unique vulnerability of foster parents, the Coalition believes that New York should insure or indemnify all foster parents. The Coalition supports the same for non-foster relatives providing temporary care for children who are the subject of neglect or abuse proceedings (direct placement).
Set minimum statewide foster care board rate
The actual cost of care for children in foster care exceeds current boarding rates. In addition, the state sets only maximum rates for counties and foster care agencies. Without standard minimums, there is great disparity across counties. This results in foster parents needing to make up the difference (if they are financially able to do so) in violation of federal law. It also results in inequities for children in foster care. In an attempt to rectify this situation, the Coalition has taken legal action.
Access to Original Birth Certificates
Understanding one’s history and roots is a birthright. Key to this, for adoptees, is access to their original birth certificates. The Coalition is working in partnership with others to secure this basic human right for individuals adopted in New York State. Particularly important to the Coalition is that this right be extended to all adoptees, regardless of whether their adoption was subsequent to a voluntary surrender of their birthparents’ rights, a court-order termination or the result of being orphaned.
Minimize the Number of Children in Direct Placement and/or Create Equitable Support for Direct Placements
As the number of children in foster care in New York has declined, the number of children who are the subject of neglect and abuse proceedings and who are placed in “direct placement” with relatives or fictive kin has increased. These children and relatives routinely receive less support and services than children in foster care, though their trauma and challenges are often the same. In addition, relatives, unlike foster parents, often do not have the benefit of planning and preparing to become caregivers – it comes as the result of a phone call from a caseworker. Financial support for these placements is less than even our state’s inadequate and inequitable foster care stipends. Permanency outcomes for children who cannot return to their parents’ care are substandard. For all these reasons, the Coalition joins other advocacy groups in calling for the reduction in direct placements, consistent and timely communication with relative caregivers about their options and, whenever foster care is not practical or possible, equal support for direct placements.
Enhance Adoption and Foster Care Competence Among Mental Health Professionals
The Coalition has long been concerned with the difficulty of our state’s foster and adoptive families encounter finding mental health professionals who have training, experience and expertise in the unique, adoption-related issues that can affect foster and adoptive families. For more information about this, see the 2013 report, A Need to Know, by the Donaldson Adoption Institute.
These are our priorities, but we known that there are other issues important to adoptive, foster and kinship families. For a glimpse at them, go to On-going Issues.