Twenty-two percent of the kids removed from parental custody in Arkansas were “potentially not necessary,” according to a recent report authored by Hornby Zeller Associates. That report explored the increase of the foster care population in Arkansas, covering January 2015 to March 2016.
How the Department of Human Services’ Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) handles the separation of children from their families has been criticized by some legislators over the past year.
This report released last week suggests that criticism is justified.
From the report:
The study found that 22 percent of the removals were potentially not necessary, compared to only 17 percent of those occurring in the comparison period. That translates into at least 300 additional removals which are questionable. In most of these cases, there were family supports clearly available which could have prevented the removal or the allegations were simply not sufficiently serious to warrant removal; and in rare instances, the investigative work was incomplete or there was nothing in the record to indicate any safety concern.
The report’s authors suggest removing restrictions on placing children with relatives when a removal is needed.
From the report:
Arkansas’s restrictions on placing children with relatives exacerbates its problem with finding appropriate placements for children. The obvious solution is to allow informal networks of family and friends to play the roles they have always played in supporting parents and their children in times of crisis. Not every situation needs a government response.
State Sen. Alan Clark said he thought the report did an “excellent job” of stating the problems with some of the practices of DCFS and the foster care system. Clark said the report’s most important recommendation was a “repeal or modification of the need to bring protection plans before judges for approval.”
I thought they did an excellent job. It was just exactly what we had found. It is understandable that when you put that extra step with the judges approving the protection plan that everybody is horrified that if we put these kids back (with the family) and something happens to them…nobody wants to be blamed for that so we just more and more put them with strangers. They call it erring on the side of caution but it’s really just erring on the wrong side. It’s not caution to be removing kids from their families.The report brought out that often we are removing kids when they shouldn’t be. There’s not just one magic bullet. It’s going to be a combination of legislative and policy fixes.
Clark said that he hopes to have another Joint Performance Review hearing on foster care next month.