Monday, Feb 6, 2017
You don't have to look far to find the challenges facing our children and the child welfare system-it seems almost daily another article appears and 2017 has just begun. One highlighting DCF falling behind federal standards in 11 of 14 measures, DCF budget cuts totaling $280 million, a child being dropped off at the wrong home, or the story of the 14 year old foster girl who committed suicide live on Facebook. Discharges are not keeping pace with removals and out of home care numbers statewide (23,229) are the highest they have been since May 2008. Achievement of permanency within 12 months continues to decline which means we need to be prepared to support children’s needs longer. Children entering care in FY 2015-16 averaged 4.03 moves per 1,000 days in care (better than the national average of 4.12 moves); yet this is still a significant number of moves for children and can likely impact their school outcomes. Every move children typically lose 6 months of educational gains. Sadly, due to a lack of available beds in foster and/or group homes across the state of Florida, 36.7% of children are currently placed outside of their removal county, 19.7% are placed outside their removal circuit. The numbers may look bleak, but I refuse to be discouraged because the children need us now more than ever. What's that saying? "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
The beginning of a new year is always such an exciting time-symbolizing a fresh start, new opportunities, and endless possibilities. I recently saw an image like the one shown here saying "New Year-Another Chance for Us to Make it Right" and thought about the children we serve and the opportunity before us to make their lives just a little bit better during a tulmutous time. I wondered what our children's new year's wishes were and how we could help make those wishes come true.
No doubt many are likely wishing to return home to Mom or Dad, some may be wishing to return to their old schools and the friends they left behind so suddenly, while others biggest hope is for no more broken promises from the adults in their lives. Guardian ad Litem volunteers can't control every variable in the dependency system-but they can help make it right by serving as that one consistent adult in a child's life that always shows up. The children we serve deserve for us to all work to help make it right (or at least the best it can be during a difficult time).
I'm committed in 2017 to doing more than ever before to make it right for children in care. More support for our volunteers, more normalcy events for our children, more advocacy to hold the system accountable for the children under their watch, more fundraising to support their individual needs. In January alone, we've had almost 50 new adovcates join our team to help make it right for our kids in care. The Foundation is launching a new strategic plan and new committees to help us deliver on the promise of our mission. Will you join me in the fight to change a child's life today? You can volunteer on short term opportunities to help the Foundation, advocate for a child, or donate to help us meet children's needs.
What will you do in 2017 to "make it right" for abused or neglected children who have been removed from their homes by no fault of their own?