Friday, December 22, 2006

I know Jackie Hammers-Crowell

Hammers-Crowell, Jackie and Maura Corrigan, Lexington Herald-Leader, April 4, 2006, pg. A9.

Our nation's foster care system is far from perfect, and its casualties are vulnerable children. As a young woman who spent more than half of her life in foster care, and a judge who oversees the cases of foster youth, we have witnessed its impact firsthand.

On average, children remain in foster care for three years and move three times. They are separated from friends, siblings and family for long, uncertain periods of time, and can age out of foster care without becoming part of a loving, permanent family. Only half of foster children will graduate from high school; just 1 percent will graduate from college.

Of those who age out of the system, more than 25 percent will be incarcerated within two years of leaving foster care, and significant numbers will become unemployed, homeless or experience other problems.

There is hope. Recent efforts aimed at reforming foster care hold promise to improve the lives of our nation's 500,000 foster children.

The bipartisan Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care has completed a comprehensive study of foster care, focusing on two areas of reform: federal financing and court oversight of foster care and issued recommendations for change.

On the first issue, the commission's recommendations provide states with a flexible, reliable source of federal funding, new incentives and increased accountability for the children in their care. Current federal financing guidelines restrict the flow of funds -- they can largely be used only to pay for foster care, rather than providing preventive services that may reduce the need for children to enter care.

The other issue is court reform. Courts determine whether a child will enter foster care, when they can leave and where they go when they leave. Yet despite these responsibilities, the commission found that the courts lack adequate resources and are overburdened and in need of training, tools and information.

The commission recommended providing these courts with the resources, information and training they need so that judges can track their cases, child welfare agencies and courts can collaborate and children can have a voice in the process.

The commission's recommendations have led to real action. Sixteen states have formed or announced the formation of commissions on children in foster care to assess and tackle their specific needs.

Teams of judges and child welfare administrators from all 50 states attended the groundbreaking National Judicial Summit, where they crafted plans to improve their child welfare systems. State legislators have held hearings to assess their foster care systems and propose reforms. And Congress has passed several of the Pew Commission's recommendations into law.

All of these issues were discussed recently on Capitol Hill. Members of Congress joined child welfare experts and children and families from across the country whose lives have been affected by the foster care system.

Adoptive parents, former foster children, a birth mother and a grandmother raising her grandson shared their stories and illustrated the real impact that reform can have on the lives of foster children.

We must work together to ensure that children in foster care receive the safe, permanent homes they need and deserve. We must fix foster care now -- our nation's 500,000 foster children deserve nothing less.

Maura Corrigan is a justice of the Michigan Supreme Court and a member of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care. Jackie Hammers-Crowell aged out of foster care and lives in Iowa.


Blogger Foster Child Advocate said...

That is so great that you posted this. It was such an honor to get to share a byline with a justice and it is wonderful to know that someone thinks I am worth knowing. :)

12:53 PM  

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