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Helping Kids in State Foster Care Programs

As a new profile in Stateline.org details, states are struggling to provide foster care for neglected and abandoned children, increasingly turning to grandparents and other relatives to care for them. 4 million children now live with relatives other than their parents.

Making matters worse, Congress slashed funding for foster care by $580 million and passed regulations making it tougher for states to provide aid to grandparents willing to help foster their grandkids.

States have had to respond with innovative programs to provide financial assistance themselves. Last year, 18 states expanded their kinship care programs and others may soon follow. The best programs include "subsidized guardianship programs", where relatives receive the same level of financial support as when foster children are placed with strangers. Illinois is considered a model, placing thousands of children with relatives where only a tiny percentage were returned to state custody. Thirty-two other states have similar programs.

However, even as some states are encouraging greater support to encourage the fostering of neglected kids, some other states have created foster care and adoption systems so abusive as to violate the constitutional rights of the children left to rot in them.

  • Mississippi is currently facing a lawsuit on behalf of 3,000 children in a system that fails to place them in family foster care settings, repeatedly leaves them in harmful situations, and routinely leavs them without health care treatment while in state custody.
  • Similarly, Nebraska is facing a a lawsuit on behalf of 6000 abused and neglected children who have been left to languish in inadequately-funded foster care without the opportunity for a permanent home.
  • Last year, Missouri, led by Gov. Matt Blunt, ended subsidies to families willing to adopt hard-to-place abused children with disabilities, a short-sighted plan that would have cost the state more money in the long-term as families would be unable to adopt such children at all. Fortuitously, a federal judge found that the law violated federal law and the US constitution and struck it down.

Any politician that claims to be "pro-family" should be ashamed of the treatment of children in foster care systems in many states in our country. But thankfully, at least some states are investing the money to place children in long-term homes, whether with other relatives or families willing to permanently adopt them.

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