02/14/2007 - The column "Maryland's foster kids need help now" (Opinion • Commentary, Feb. 7) made a compelling case for immediate foster care reform.But no state should have to undertake this reform project alone. Instead, the nation needs to modernize the federal-state partnership established a generation ago to serve all abused or neglected children.
For instance, as the column made clear, children and families in Maryland and nationwide can benefit from programs such as family counseling, drug treatment and guardianship programs, which help keep families together or limit a child's time in foster care.
So why don't we have more such programs? The conclusion of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care was that "the current federal funding mechanisms for child welfare encourage an over-reliance on foster care at the expense of other services."
Reforming the federal financing system could let states provide more services to keep families together and prevent the need for foster care placement, or when foster care is necessary, help children exit the system more quickly to safe, permanent families through reunification, adoption or guardianship. The need to reform federal financing is urgent: 500,000 of our children are in foster care, and they spend, on average, two birthdays in care.
They have waited long enough.
Managing Director, Policy Initiatives and the Health and Human Services Program
The Pew Charitable Trusts