by Elizabeth Gibbons
A bill in the Georgia State Legislature, which would enable foster and adoption agencies to refuse potential foster and adoptive parents on the basis of religious beliefs, is drawing national controversy over its religious and discriminatory language. The Human Rights Campaign and other groups have raised concerns that this bill will be used to blatantly discriminate against the LGBTQ community and that it is a step backward from progressive legislation that protects minorities. Georgia State Senator William Ligon, who wrote the bill, insists that it does not prevent anyone from adopting, but gives agencies the assurance that adoptees will be able to practice their faith. Some of the most vocal protesters have been media companies who film in Georgia, threatening to pull their multi-million dollar business out of the state. Many other states have experienced economic backlash due to discriminatory laws, often prompting those states to address such discrimination.
A new program in California is working to place youth who are on probation in Los Angeles County into foster homes, not group homes. Los Angeles County is one of many California counties working to take better care of youth who are on probation; the initiative is supported in part by the Continuum of Care Reform, begun in 2015 to reform the state foster care system. Part of this reform include an increased budget to recruit more foster families and train families to specifically work with youth on probation.
In October 2017, there were 2,700 youth in foster care who were overseen by probation departments in California—77% of whom were living in group homes. There has been a growing consensus on the harmful effects of living in a group home, which has supported this push to foster homes. The goal of this initiative is to keep youth who are on probation in more stable, loving family homes instead of stressful, often ineffective group homes. It is hoped that this family atmosphere, and the more individual attention received, will increase the youth’s chances of success and decrease chances of repeat criminal offenses. Foster families that are trained and approved to take in these youth are rare; there is an unfortunate stigma attached to youth on probation, who are typically teenagers, which can prevent certified foster families from providing them with the individual care and support many need. This initiative aims, in part, to break those stereotypes and create more opportunities for youth who are on probation.
West Virginia has designated 2018 as the “Year of the Child,” dedicated to studying and understanding the effects of the opioid epidemic on children. Child welfare workers across West Virginia have united in their efforts to better serve youth and families effected by opioids, aiming to bridge gaps in knowledge and address such a complex problem from multiple directions. The two primary issues affecting child welfare in West Virginia, and the two main focuses of the Year of the Child are babies born addicted and children who come from homes facing addiction. Child welfare workers have reached out to school districts in order to better equip educators with the tools needed to recognize and navigate trauma in children—often misdiagnosed as ADHD. This heightened focus on the opioid epidemic is promising, and CWLA will continue checking in with West Virginia on their progress.
Elizabeth Gibbons is CWLA’s editorial intern. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.