MA Lawmakers get earful on problems with foster care system

MA Lawmakers get earful on problems with foster care system

How stressed is America’s foster care system?

by Kathy Curran of WCVB

BOSTON —Massachusetts has a foster care system that’s stressed and overloaded, and today there were calls on Beacon Hill for reform to protect some of the state’s our most vulnerable children.

State lawmakers got an earful at a hearing held by the Joint Committee on Children and Families as they listened to heartbreaking testimony from foster families, former foster kids and child advocates all calling for change.

Here’s a big systematic problem that needs review. Currently there are so many children in the Massachusetts foster care system that we have run out of appropriate placement for them.Susan Elsen, child welfare advocate

The hearing came just weeks after 5 Investigates exposed the severity of the state’s shortage of foster homes, which has resulted in children, like Roz McAtee’s granddaughter, being shuttled from one emergency foster home to another and even being kept in DCF offices during the day.

Now, there are only 3,855 licensed foster homes. Data obtained by 5 Investigates shows the number of waivers approved by DCF allowing some of those foster homes to exceed their capacity have more than doubled in the last three years, from 130 in 2014 to 295 in 2016.

McAtee’s granddaughter was taken from her mother’s home by DCF. “Every night she would have to pack up her bags and not know where she would be sleeping that night,” McAtee told 5 Investigates.

How stressed is America’s foster care system?

At the hearing, lawmakers, child advocates and foster families called for reform and for more support for the foster families that are so crucial to keeping kids like this safe

“I don’t think we can recruit any new foster families until we hold the foster families that we have with the regard and respect they deserve,” Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield) testified.

Some of the most heartbreaking testimony came from longtime foster parent Elaine Cleaves. She said DCF placed a violent foster child in her home without telling her about his background. She said the child sexually assaulted another child in her home.

Please give foster families the support we need. We have been scapegoats long enough. Give foster kids a fighting chance as they navigate their journey to adulthood.Elaine Cleaves, longtime foster parent

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