North Carolina DHHS Assistant Secretary Admits Splitting Up Families Is Traumatizing

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Human Services Michael Becketts said current Child Protection Services techniques are traumatizing

  • Becketts stated that children being removed from the home is not helpful and often traumatizing

  • On February 9 2018 The Family First Prevention Services Act was signed into law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act

  • The new bill will shift the focus of funding to keeping families together

It is no secret that Child Protection Services in America is in desperate need of an overhaul. Across the country, internal issues with CPS agencies are becoming more apparent to the general public, despite a standard of operating in secrecy.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Human Services Michael Becketts has made a startling confession.

In a release on the DHHS website, Becketts stated that it has been known for a long time that children do better in a family setting. However, the current system is set up to separate children from families and force the family to work to get back together. Becketts went on to say, “We know that it is not helpful and often traumatic to children and families,” in regards to how CPS agencies currently function.

We have known for years that children live best in the context of families. However, we have a system set up to separate children from families and then create an environment where people have to work to get back together. We know that is not helpful and often traumatic to children and families.

On November 19, 1997, Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was signed into law by former President Bill Clinton. ASFA was supposed to bring change to a foster system that deterred from adopting special needs children. Before ASFA, the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act (AACWA) was signed into law on June 17, 1980, by former President Ronald Reagan.

ASFA shifted the fundamentals goals that came with the AACWA by taking the focus away from keeping families together. It was believed that many were interpreting the AACWA as a requirement for children to stay with their biological family no matter what abuse was occurring inside the home.

One of ASFA’s lead sponsors, Republican Senator John H. Chafee of Rhode Island said at the time the bill was being passed, “We will not continue the current system of always putting the needs and rights of the biological parents first… It’s time we recognize that some families simply cannot and should not be kept together.”

With ASFA came another problem though, Title IV-E funding which many blame for creating a “kids for cash” industry. Today, CPS agencies receive their federal funding for keeping children in the system, meaning, the longer they can keep a family separated and the child in foster custody the more money the agencies receive through their Title IV-E funding.

Caseloads are bogging down social workers and foster care providers are overcapacity around the country but at the same time, we are seeing a disturbing rate of these children in need of care cases end with unsubstantiated claims against the parents after they fight to get their children back. In general, it takes anywhere from a year to several years to win your children back from state custody regardless of the accusations being unfounded.

Becketts statement on separating families only highlights a heavily flawed system that appears to be doing more damage than good in order to ensure the agencies are receiving federal funding. A new act looks to change how CPS works as a whole by placing the focus of funding towards preventing children from entering foster care.

On February 9, 2018, The Family First Prevention Services Act was signed into law as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act. “This act reforms the federal child welfare financing streams, Title IV-E and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, to provide services to families who are at risk of entering the child welfare system.”

The bill allows federal reimbursement for mental health services, substance use treatment, and in-home parenting skill training. For children already in the foster system, the bill will incentivize states to reduce the number of children placed into group care. Below is a closer look at the new bill.

Part I. – Prevention Activities under Title IV-E
(Section. 50711)

  • States may use title IV-E to provide up to 12 months of mental health services, substance abuse treatment, and in-home parenting training to families at risk of entry of the child welfare system

  • Qualified candidates include children identified as safe to remain safely at home or in kinship placement with receipt of services, children in foster care who are parenting, or parents or caregivers where services are needed to prevent entry into care.

  • States must maintain a prevention plan for the child to remain safely at home or live with a kin caregiver that lists the services or programs to be provided.

  • Services must be trauma-informed and should be promising, supported, well-supported practices as modeled by the California Evidence Based Clearninghouse for child welfare

  • HHS to issue guidance on practice criteria and pre-approved services no later than October 1, 2018

Part II. – Enhanced Support Under Title IV-B:
(Sections 50721, 50722, 50723)

  • Eliminates time limit for family reunification services

  • Requires states to implement electronic interstate case processing system to expedite placement of children in foster care by FY 2027

  • Provides $5 million in grants to states to assist with implementation of processing system

  • Reauthorizes Regional Partnership Grants through FY 2021

Part III Miscellaneous
(Sections. 50731, 50732, 50733)

  • HHS to establish model licensing standards for placement in a relative foster family home by October 1, 2018

  • States to develop a statewide plan to prevent child abuse and neglect fatalities

Part IV – Ensuring the Necessity of a Placement that is not in a Foster Family Home
(Sections 50741, 50742, 50743, 50744, 50745, 50746)

  • Title IV-E reimbursement for group homes will only be available for two weeks unless the child is in a qualified residential treatment program (QRTP), a setting that specializes in prenatal or parenting support, or supervised independent living for youth over 18.

  • A QRTP must include a trauma-informed treatment model designed to meet the emotional and behavioral needs of children as identified by an assessment within 30 days of the child’s placement.

  • States may delay the congregate care provisions for up to two years while forfeiting reimbursement for prevention services.

Part V. – Continuing Support for Child and Family Services
(Sections 50751, 50752, 50753)

  • 8 million dollars to be appropriated for competitive grants to support recruitment and retention of high quality foster families

  • Reauthorizes the Stephanie Tubbs Jones child welfare services program, the Court Improvement program, and the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program

  • Expands until 23 Chaffee supports for states that elected to extend eligibility for foster care to 21, and expands use of education and training vouchers for youth until 26

Part VI. – Continuing Incentives to States to Promote Adoption and Legal Guardianship
(Section 50761)

  • Reauthorizes Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payment Program

Part VII. Technical Corrections
(Section 50771, 50772)

  • Amends state plan requirement under Title IV-B to describe ways to reduce length of time to permanency for children under the age of 5 and to address developmental needs of all vulnerable children under the age of 5 who receive IV-E or IV-B services

Part VIII. Ensuring States Reinvest Savings Resulting from Increases in Adoption Assistance.
(Section 50781, 50782)

  • Delays Fostering Connections implementation of federal assistance for adoption of special needs children

  • Children with special needs under 2 years old will be eligible for assistance if they meet existing requirements

  • Requires GAO study on state reinvestment of these savings as a result of this delay

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About Meko Haze

Meko Haze is an independent journalist by day... and an independent journalist by night.

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