Children's Voice Sep/Oct 2006

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Eye on CWLA

CWLA Analyzes Mississippi Child Welfare System

At the request of Mississippi's Department of Human Services (DHS), Division of Family and Children's Services (DFCS), CWLA has reviewed and produced a 40-page report the state can use in response to a suit filed by New York-based Children's Rights Inc.

The suit alleges the constitutional rights of children placed in the protective custody of DFCS were violated by virtue of the state's failure to provide them with basic care and protection. CWLA's review, conducted with the full cooperation of DFCS and in partnership with agency staff at multiple levels, found the state's child welfare system "suffers from a lack of sufficient resources to support the family-centered practice approach it is attempting to undertake."

The review also found:
DFCS is understaffed at all levels. Many caseworkers carry workloads that are at least double the average number they can manage based on the workload analysis conducted in this reviewOeThe recruitment and retention of qualified staff is adversely impacted by heavy workload, low pay, and lack of opportunity for advancement or cost of living adjustments.

Training resources are so limited that new caseworkers are often on the job for weeks or months before they are able to attend training.

Agency staff are hampered in their efforts to serve children and families by a lack of resources.
The review concludes, "DFCS has begun to lay a foundation that will enable it to better respond to the needs of children and families in Mississippi. The success of these efforts will be reliant, as it is in any child welfare system, on the provision of the resources necessary to support the building of a workforce sufficient in number and skill and an organizational structure and environment that supports them in doing this very difficult and important work."

CWLA Vice President of Corporate Communications and Development Linda Spears explained to the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, that CWLA's report outlines issues that governments must be vigilant to resolve. "It's a commitment of resources and time to protect children adequately," Spears said.

DHS Executive Director Don Taylor told the Clarion-Ledger efforts are under way to increase staffing and training. "I see a lot of good things ahead for us."

Lawmakers added 97 social workers to the state's payroll this year, and state contributions to the agency's budget grew 5.5%, to more than $93 million, according to the Clarion-Ledger.

Summit Explores Life Lessons 101

CWLA Mid-Atlantic Region Director Cassaundra Rainey points to an evaluation comment from a youth who attended CWLA's first Mid-Atlantic Region Youth Empowerment Summit as a good summary of the event's outcome:

"The summit made me realize that everybody goes through struggles and to keep going forward."

The summit, Taking Charge of the Future: My Next Steps, brought together more than 300 youth, parents, and member and nonmember agency staff last April for a day of workshops designed to highlight the importance of youth taking an active role in planning their futures, as well as their ability to access permanent support connections. The workshops, held at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, and conducted by child welfare agencies, focused on empowering youth ages 14-21 to plan and implement important life decisions about education, careers, housing, health, and interpersonal relations.

Specifically, the workshops explored
  • how youth can serve as youth advocates and peer role models,
  • how youth can become successful leaders in society and in their own lives,
  • successful aging out programs, and
  • how to overcome the odds and become caring, competent adults.
Keynote speakers included New Jersey Department of Human Services Commissioner Kevin Ryan and motivational speaker Darrell "Coach D" Andrews. The day concluded with a poetry and rap slam.

The idea for the summit came about during discussions with CWLA members. Kevin Keegan, Executive Director of New Pathways in Baltimore, was instrumental in moving the idea forward, Rainey said. Twenty CWLA members brought youth to the summit, as well as a number of non-CWLA members. The young participants included youth in foster care and others who were not in care.

"When we originally started [discussing the idea of the summit], it was to deal with kids in care who are aging out, but we recognized you can age out from your parents' home and still need the same kinds of conversations and encouragement, if not at a different level," Rainey said.

The summit was funded through financial support from Casey Family Programs, as well as through grants from the Anne E. Casey Foundation and the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

CWLA Advocacy at a Glance

Following is a sampling of CWLA's activities in recent months on the public policy and advocacy fronts:
  • CWLA has joined with SOS Children's Villages-USA and other organizations in an effort to gather 25,000 petition signatures to send to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, urging the United States government's ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

    The CRC is an international agreement that requires signing nations to protect the basic rights of their most vulnerable citizens--children. The United States and Somalia are the only countries that have not ratified the CRC. Add your signature to the petition.

  • CWLA urged Congress to reject proposed federal funding cuts to juvenile justice and delinquency prevention during a congressional briefing in May. CWLA and other organizations shared information with 30 congressional staffers about successful community-based programs funded through the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant and the Title V Community Prevention Grants program. Read more.

  • CWLA, along with 27 other national child and medical organizations, has called on congressional leaders to increase funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, which would establish a consortia on the medical aspects of child abuse and neglect--the Health Child Abuse Research, Education, and Services (CARES) Network.

    The CARES Network would serve as an infrastructure to establish communications, collaboration, and information sharing among the various health care professionals who work directly or indirectly in the field of child maltreatment. The network would link medical providers such as pediatricians, family practitioners, dentists, nurses, and allied health professions to share information, develop educational programs, disseminate and implement best practices, and ultimately prevent child maltreatment. The network would not duplicate aspects of other programs, such as child advocacy centers, but would serve as a resource to law enforcement, the judiciary, the child protection system, and others.

  • CWLA has partnered with the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, the Rebecca Project for Human Rights, and other organizations in calling for increased methamphetamine treatment supports and services for pregnant and parenting women who come in contact with the criminal justice system.

    The organizations call for appropriators in the House of Representatives to allocate $20 million to fund Section 756 of the USA Patriot Act. This provision calls for collaboration between the criminal justice, child welfare, and state substance abuse systems to carry out programs to address the abuse of meth by pregnant and parenting women offenders.

  • CWLA has joined with other organizations in launching a new version of the Youth Policy Action Center, a website that engages young people and adults in changing policies that affect young people's lives. CWLA will be posting alerts to the Action Center so members and partners can contact elected officials to make a difference when key policies are being discussed.

    Other features of the website include state pages with information on the state and local level, policy tools to learn about elected officials and media contacts, and an information portal to stay up-to-date on research and policy analysis.

  • In partnership with Youth Service Inc., a member of both CWLA and the Crittenton family of agencies, CWLA held the Philadelphia Summit for Young Ladies, attended by 75 high-school-aged girls, on May 20. The summit featured many other sponsors, including the National Florence Crittenton Mission. The summit was the second of its kind, the first being held in Washington, DC, in 2005 as part of CWLA's National Girls Initiative.

The People Behind CWLA

Would you like to get to know CWLA staff a little better? Now League members can by visiting CWLA's members-only site.

Biographies and photos of CWLA's Washington headquarters and regional staff were recently added to the site. Information about CWLA's members is also updated monthly and is viewable by state.

The members-only site is accessible with your member number and password. If you don't have that information, links on the members-only login page allow members to request that it be sent to them. You can also call Member Services at 617/769-4019, or contact your CWLA Regional Director. Regional contact information is also located on our website.

Happenings

February 26-28, 2007
CWLA National Conference
Children 2007: Rasing Our Voices for Children
Marriott Wardman Park, Washington, DC

Dates and locations subject to change. For more information on the CWLA calendar, including conference registration, hotels, programs, and contacts, visit CWLA's website, or contact CWLA's conference registrar at register@cwla.org or 202/942-0286.

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