President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to bring change to the nation’s foster care system. The order aims to strengthen the system in three main ways with specific goals in mind.
“Every child deserves a family,” states the order. “Our States and communities have both a legal obligation, and the privilege, to care for our Nation’s most vulnerable children. The best foster care system is one that is not needed in the first place.”
While the number of children in the foster care system declined this year, and for the third year in a row the number of children entering foster care also declined, there is still much work to be done, according to the order. There are about 400,000 children in foster care and about 124,000 of them are awaiting adoption. In order to help children stay with their biological parents whenever possible and lower the number of children aging out of the foster care system without a family, the Trump Administration hopes to improve partnerships, resources, and oversight.
The order encourages “robust partnerships between state agencies and public, private, faith-based, and community organizations.” This will include reports on patterns of entry into foster care, counts of children in foster care, and counts of those waiting to be adopted. Data will also be collected in order to preserve sibling connections with the goal of keeping siblings together. A target number of foster homes will also be established in hopes of expanding the number of available homes for children.
The order seeks to better “equip caregivers and those in care to meet their unique challenges.” This will be accomplished through an expansion of educational options, an increase in the availability of trauma-informed training, and more support for kinship care as well as for the children exiting foster care.
The order also aims to improve the processes involved in the foster care system so that no child is needlessly taken from their parent and so that each child has a safe and secure home. This includes providing “guidance to the State regarding flexibility in the use of Federal funds to support and encourage high-quality legal representation for parents and children….”
In addition, the order states that practices shall be reviewed and changed in order to assess risk and safety to prevent child abuse, domestic violence, and substance abuse.
The Associated Press reported that family court proceedings have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, visits with biological parents have been denied, and there has been an increased difficulty in recruiting new foster families.
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