by Christina Zschomler
Last week, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam ceremonially signed eight bills to prompt Virginians to prioritize foster care and child welfare. The signing of these bills additionally celebrated the start of Virginia Fosters, a new statewide campaign aiming to bring awareness of the needs of children in foster care to Virginians. These bills outlined efforts to clarify state authorities and oversight of the Virginia foster care system, provide prevention services, and more. As nearly 2,700 children and youth enter into Virginia’s foster care system each year, Northam hopes that Virginia Fosters can decrease this number and assist in providing the best services possible.
A settlement recently was announced stating that Michigan would defund financial support to adoption and foster care agencies that will not work with members of the LGBTQ+ community on the basis of religious beliefs. Additionally, the settlement requires that nondiscrimination is instilled within foster care agency contracts by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. This opposes a 2015 law cultivated by the Republican-led state legislature that allowed agencies to refuse this partnership with this community. The 2015 law was soon fought against after from two couples were denied service by St. Vincent Catholic Charities and Bethany Christian Services. The couples settled to dismiss their claims and pay their own attorney fees in exchange for the policy, according to USA Today. However, the new settlement is facing opposition, as well, according to religious freedom case attorney Lori Windham, who argues that this will keep thousands of children out of homes as it will prompt the state to stop working with religious adoption agencies altogether. The ACLU disagrees, stating that agencies who utilize taxpayer dollars to provide foster care services need to prioritize children before their personal beliefs. According to Leslie Cooper, deputy director of ACLU LGBT, this settlement would allow for faith-based agencies to contribute much more significantly to finding homes for children in care.
Tennessee has taken note of statistics that find a common theme among foster children who run away or are reassigned: A vast amount of these children largely suffer from emotional difficulty within families who are not trained or knowledgeable about facilitating treatment for youth in foster care. The state is now partnering with Youth Villages’ Intercept, which aims to keep families together by working through behavioral struggles with children in foster care and their families. In-home care from the organization costs roughly $7,800 for three visits over six months. These numbers, compared with the cost of treatment at a psychiatric facility, are significantly less. Tennessee has extended this approach recently to Oregon, which is facing a surge of youth entering foster care.
Ever since the publication of an alarming report citing that a quarter of St. Louis County children in foster care suffer from severe mental health issues, the city of Duluth, Minnesota, has bolstered efforts to treat these issues. Cambia Hills’ outpatient facility has created a program facilitating two-hour-long sessions three times a week. In addition to meeting with the children; the program also meets with their foster families and faculty members of their school environment. The program additionally aims to focus on overcoming the challenge of determining the cause of symptoms for the child. Specifying these symptoms allows the program to recommend the best treatment, therapists, and practices for children and their families. A county caseworker can refer a child to the program to process through trauma, depression, anxiety, and many other forms of mental illness.
Christina Zschomler is CWLA’s editorial intern. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.