by Elizabeth Gibbons
The U.S. Public School System’s Failing Grades
The last seven Secretaries of Education recently convened to assess the country’s K-12 and higher education systems to determine how schools need to adapt to prepare students for a changing world. This convening was held on the 35th anniversary of the 1983 report “A Nation at Risk”, which first determined that the U.S. education system was failing children and leaving them unprepared for a global economy. These seven secretaries, though greatly divergent in their political affiliations, shared the same message: the federal government is failing the education system and thus failing our students. Attendees at the convening discussed the need to renew focus on public education and align curricula to meet the needs of the ever-changing global economy. Arne Duncan, education secretary under President Obama, argued that the nation isn’t just unmotivated, but is completely stagnant with respect to wide-reaching public education goals.
Kansas and Adoption Policy
Following Georgia and Ohio, the Kansas state senate has amended an adoption bill to allow the state government to contract with faith-based adoption agencies that apply their religious beliefs to decisions about home placement of children in foster care. The debate was polarized, with some senators believing that faith-based adoption agencies could be forced out of business without explicit legal protection of their beliefs, furthering arguing that it would relieve the stress on the state foster system by outsourcing adoptions to private companies. Opponents of the amendment denounced the language as a promotion of discrimination against same-sex couples, falling in line with opponents in Georgia and Ohio who also feared legal discrimination against the LGBTQ community. Department of Children and Families Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel is in support of the amendment, saying lack of legal protections for faith-based groups weakened the adoption network—and has personally pledged not to discriminate against LGBT or non-Christian families. This amendment has the potential to establish religious tests for adoption and to usurp the responsibility and authority of the DCF to place children in safe homes.
More Training for Minnesota Child Welfare Workers
Following the discovery and prosecution of the “house of horrors” in south Minneapolis, Minnesota legislators are pushing to reform the overwhelmed and beleaguered child protection system, including launching an effort to train hundreds of workers per year on new methods for detecting and preventing child abuse. This project would create the state’s first standardized curriculum and certification process for child protection workers and would correct the long-standing gaps in the decentralized system that ultimately harm vulnerable children.
Those who support this new program hope the enhanced training will help counties and Native American tribes who are overwhelmed by the opioid crisis’s effects on families. This training will also strengthen the immediate response to child maltreatment, which in turn can prevent further violence in a family. Child welfare workers, advocates, and county social workers have rallied around this proposed training academy as a way to improve responses and efficiency across the state. The training academy would have regional hubs and would train up to 2,000 frontline child protection workers and responders each year on how to detect and remove endangered children.
Elizabeth Gibbons is CWLA’s editorial intern. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This training is very much needed; spending money now to train workers and create a high-quality, fully prepared workforce will have long-term benefits for all children and families.