IN CHILDREN’S RIGHTS Winter 2007 Hitting the MARC: Report on Foster Care Rates Sparks National Dialogue Children’s Rights made national headlines in early October with the release of a comprehensive report on foster care reimburse- ment rates that found many states falling far short of their respon- sibility to cover the costs of sup- porting children in foster care. Titled “Hitting the MARC: Establishing Foster Care Minimum Adequate Rates for Children,” the report repre- sents the first-ever nationwide, state-by-state calculation of the real expenses of providing for the basic needs of children in foster care—including hous- All states are required by federal law to cover the basic needs of children in ing, food, clothing, and school foster care, including clothing, food, and housing. supplies—and proposes a new standard rate, called the “Foster to reach them, and five states said Julie Farber, director of Care MARC,” for each state. must more than double their policy for Children’s Rights. “At rates to comply. a time when increasing numbers According to the report’s find- of abused and neglected children ings, states across the nation Children’s Rights collaborated are housed in institutions and must raise their foster care rates on the report with the Universi- the number of foster parents is by an average of 36 percent to ty of Maryland School of Social in steady decline in many places, cover the actual costs of sup- Work and the National Foster this constitutes a crisis.” porting a child in foster care. Parent Association. On any given day, there are more than 500,000 children in foster StateS acroSS care in the U.S. Seventy-five percent of them are placed by the nation muSt the government with foster par- ents, and nearly 20 percent are raise their rates placed in group homes and in- by an average of stitutions. “Hitting the MARC” cites evidence that inadequate thirty-six percent. foster care rates negatively af- fect foster parent recruitment Children’s Rights Continues on page 3 330 Seventh Avenue Only Arizona and the District of “There is a growing body of New York, NY 10001 Columbia are currently meet- evidence that the inadequacy of 212.683.2210 ing or exceeding the proposed current reimbursement rates is On the Web: www.childrensrights.org/ standards; 23 states must raise taking a heavy toll on foster par- hittingthemarc www.childrensrights.org their rates by 50 to 100 percent ent recruitment and retention,” When I called the director of Michigan’s child welfare agency in the summer of 2006 to tell her that Children’s Rights would be filing suit on behalf of the 19,000 abused and neglected children in state custody, she was surprised. As far as she knew, her system was moving along exactly as it should. A number of facts pointed in the other direction. Michigan has made legal orphans of an extraordinarily high number of children in its care—more than 6,000—terminating their parents’ rights without making necessary efforts to find them new, permanent families. Seven thousand children live in unlicensed foster homes with relatives who receive neither reim- BoARD oF DIRECToRS bursement from the state for the cost of the children’s clothing, food, and other basic needs, nor many of the support services necessary to help them begin to recover from the abuse and neglect Stuart H. Coleman they have endured. Robin L. Dahlberg Lynn M. Edens Worst of all, a continuing series of deaths among children in the system has made it clear that in its Richard D. Emery responsibility to protect Michigan’s abused and neglected children, the system was—and is—failing Lawrence J. Fox miserably. Dan Galpern In recent testimony, the director of the child welfare agency said that at the time she took over, she Jeffrey Gracer had other priorities and was focused on other things. We hear this too often from the people who Marcia Robinson Lowry run the systems we set out to reform. When we undertake our reform campaigns, however, they Howard Maisel tend to get focused very fast. Alan C. Myers Alice Rosenwald Children’s Rights negotiated a proposed settlement with the state of Michigan over a period of Melissa Salten six months, during which the director received a crash course in all that was going wrong. That settlement was abandoned last May, apparently a casualty of the severe budget crisis that has beset Carol Wilson Spigner the state, and the director resigned shortly thereafter. But before she left, she helped to develop a Anne Strickland Squadron reform plan that includes many elements of the settlement we had proposed. Now, despite the fiscal crunch, the state legislature has made a down payment on that plan in the Children’s Rights is a form of an increase of over $20 million in its child welfare budget. Children’s Rights is still headed national watchdog for trial in Michigan, scheduled for June 2008, because we believe that the system has been both organization advocating underfunded and badly managed for so long that even this initial infusion of money will not solve on behalf of abused and the underlying problems that have put so many of Michigan’s abused and neglected children in neglected children in grave danger. But there can be no question that this sudden increase in funding—and the reform the U.S. Since 1995, the plan it is intended to support—is a direct result of our work. organization has used legal action and policy Reforming broken child welfare systems is a long and extremely complicated process. Conditions initiatives to create lasting on the ground can change very quickly, setbacks can become depressingly routine, and progress improvements in child often comes at an agonizingly slow pace. But every step of the way, one way or another, we are protection, foster care forcing those systems to face up to their responsibility to the abused and neglected children in and adoption. their care—and to begin the vital process of making tangible improvements in their lives. www.childrensrights.org 330 Seventh Avenue New York, NY 10001 Marcia Robinson Lowry p. 212.683.2210 Executive Director f. 212.683.4015 “Hitting the MARC,” continued from page 1 The Foster Care MARC was calculated by congressional briefing on October 3. and retention, potentially increasing the analyzing consumer expenditure data re- National coverage of the story included a likelihood that children will be placed in flecting the costs of caring for a child, iden- prominent feature on “Hitting the MARC” institutions or shuttled from one foster tifying and accounting for costs particular in USA Today and an Associated Press story placement to another—and decreasing to children in foster care, and applying a that was picked up by news media across their chances of finding permanent homes. geographic cost-of-living adjustment. The the country. In all, more than 150 print, new proposed minimums include sufficient broadcast, and electronic news outlets Although state and local child welfare funds to meet a child’s basic physical needs have covered the story to date. systems are required by federal law to reim- burse foster parents for the cost of provid- ing for the basic needs of children in foster care, there is no standard federal minimum “at a time when foster reimbursement rate. States and localities parent recruitment is in are free to set their own rates on what- ever basis they choose, and many states steady decline in many places, report using no particular methodology in establishing their standards. The resulting the inadequacy of current disparities are stark. Current monthly rates range from $226 in Nebraska to $869 in rates is a crisis,” Said Julie the District of Columbia—a greater spread than can be accounted for by differences in Farber, director oF policy. the cost of living. and cover the cost of “normalizing” child- Further advocacy efforts by Children’s “The bottom line is that when these rates hood activities such as after-school sports Rights, the NFPA, and other national don’t reflect the real expenses that foster and arts programs—particularly important and local organizations are ongoing, and parents face, it’s the children who suffer,” for children who have been traumatized or one group representing foster parents in said Karen Jorgenson, executive director of isolated by abuse, neglect, and the experi- California has filed a lawsuit against the the NFPA. “‘Hitting the MARC’ provides ence of being placed in foster care. state seeking increased foster care rates. desperately needed guidelines for rates that would ensure that the basic needs of The authors of the report began a nation- The full report can be found at the Chil- children in foster care are met no matter wide advocacy campaign for the adoption dren’s Rights website: www.childrensrights. where they happen to live.” of the proposed standard rates with a org/hittingthemarc. Children’s Rights Teams with American Bar Association to Ensure Quality Representation for Children in Family Court The right to legal counsel is guaranteed committee that focuses on the underrep- in state custody has an effective ally on his to every American by the Sixth Amend- resentation of children in the legal system, or her side in family court.” ment to the Constitution. But in many in 2006. In early 2007, a national survey states across the country, children in abuse revealed the alarming lack of effective legal The first phase of the Right to Repre- and neglect cases do not receive any legal representation for children in family court, sentation project is nearing completion. counsel at all—and even when they do, it is including many states in which children Attorneys from the ABA’s Section of often not the zealous representation they simply do not have the right to counsel. Litigation, Children’s Rights, private law need to protect their interests. Children’s Rights responded by taking a firms, and public institutions across the leading role in the Right to Representation country conducted research over the The Right to Representation project, a project. summer to determine, state by state, the bold initiative of the American Bar As- best recourse—whether lobbying the state sociation in which Children’s Rights has “As the most vulnerable citizens in the legal legislature or filing a class action lawsuit in played a key role, aims to change that—and system, abused and neglected children ur- state or federal court. Once the national ensure that every abused and neglected gently need lawyers to guide them and pro- research is completed, the CRLC and child in the U.S. is represented by a compe- tect their interests,” said Lawrence J. Fox, Children’s Rights will evaluate how best tent attorney in the courtroom. former chairman of the ABA Litigation to proceed in securing the legal rights of Section and a member of the Children’s abused and neglected children throughout Children’s Rights joined the Children’s Rights Board of Directors. “This project is the country. Rights Litigation Committee, an ABA one step toward ensuring that every child 3 www.childrensrights.org Second Annual Benefit Raises $800,000+ for Children’s Rights The Second Annual Children’s Rights Benefit began with the On the Web: premiere of a new film about the organization and ended with a www.childrensrights.org/events spirited live auction that raised nearly $150,000 to support its work. A crowd of more than 300 packed Gotham Hall for the event, emceed by Deborah Roberts of ABC News, listening intently to the stories behind Children’s Rights’ campaigns to reform America’s broken child welfare systems. “Children’s Rights fought for me,” said Manny, 17, a named plaintiff in Children’s Rights’ landmark class action in New Jersey. “It was the first time I felt like I could make a difference.” (See the back cover of this newsletter to read more about Manny.) Ben Williams, a foster parent, recounted his uphill battle to adopt two brothers out of the child welfare system in Michigan, where Children’s Rights has just begun a major reform campaign. “These children have no one else to speak up for them, to stand up for them, and to fight for them,” he said. 4 www.childrensrights.org Margaret C. Ayers (right), president and CEO of the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, accepted the Children’s Rights Champion Award, for her longtime support of Children’s Rights’ work in New York City. Hugh Hildesley (below), Sotheby’s executive vice president, solicited pledges of support for Children’s Rights reform campaigns in Michigan, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and an unnamed state currently under investigation. Alan Myers and Alice Rosenwald, co-chairs of the Children’s Rights Board of Directors, ended the evening with their thanks for guests’ enthusiastic participation. Rosenwald matched gifts from new donors and donors who exceeded their prior-year gifts during the auction, adding $53,000 to the total raised. See more photos from the Second Annual Children’s Rights Benefit: www.childrensrights.org/events 5 www.childrensrights.org New Jersey On Track to Com- 50 percent since the settlement of the case The events were the first in a new and plete First Phase of Reforms in 2001, and 90 percent of the children ongoing series of breakfast briefings whose cases were reviewed for the report presented by Children’s Rights to give Although significant challenges remain, were living with foster families. DCS has supporters and others interested in the New Jersey’s Department of Children and also made progress in reducing caseloads organization’s work a look inside its legal Families (DCF) has mostly completed the among its child welfare workers and in and policy efforts—and the results they first phase of the massive reform effort re- keeping brothers and sisters together in bring about. The programs are intimate quired under the settlement of Children’s foster care. and the discussions are lively, giving at- Rights’ landmark class action against the tendees an opportunity to participate state, according to a new report by the Still, the state must address serious directly in the conversation and get their court-appointed independent monitor in problems to meet the requirements of questions answered. the case. the court-enforceable settlement agree- ment by June 2008, the target date for full Additional briefings are being scheduled The report cites impressive progress in key compliance, the report says. DCS is still for the months ahead. For more informa- areas—including significant increases in moving children too frequently between tion, contact Jethro Miller, director of adoptions and in the number of licensed foster care placements, failing to provide development, at 212.683.2210 or jmiller@ foster and adoptive parents, decreased important services for older children, childrensrights.org, or visit the Children’s caseloads and better training for DCF and making inadequate progress toward Rights website at www.childrensrights. caseworkers, and major improvements to placing children in permanent homes, org/briefings. the department’s infrastructure. But it also according to the report. notes many challenges to further reform, Supporting Abused and and says the state is still failing to provide “This settlement has produced significant Neglected Children Through timely basic services to the children in improvements for Tennessee children, Your AmEx Card—and IRA its custody. and DCS has a strong leadership team in place,” said Ira Lustbader, associate This holiday season, American Express is “New Jersey is now where it is supposed director of Children’s Rights. “But the offering cardholders twice the incentive to to be under Phase I of this massive reform remaining problems are very serious, and give a gift to a worthy cause. Donations to effort,” said Susan Lambiase, associate we will remain in place as a watchdog to Children’s Rights and other charities made director of Children’s Rights. “Unfortu- hold the agency accountable and ensure online through the American Express nately, too many children have yet to feel that DCS makes the sustained commit- GivingExpress program will earn double those improvements in their daily lives, so ment that will be necessary to solve them.” Membership Rewards points through the it is critical that DCF remain focused on end of 2007. For more information, visit the long-term goals of the settlement—and Children’s Rights Breakfast www.americanexpress.com/give. step up its efforts to implement Phase II Briefings Offer Detailed Views of the reforms.” of Legal and Policy Work And once again this year, for a limited time, seniors can make a donation to New Report Shows Results of On the morning of September 6, hosted Children’s Rights directly from an IRA Reform in Tennessee by Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and receive a great tax advantage at the in Manhattan, Children’s Rights Executive same time. Individuals 70 Q or older can Six years after the settlement of Children’s Director Marcia Robinson Lowry and donate up to $100,000 this year directly Rights’ class action against Tennessee’s Director of Policy Julie Farber presented from an IRA without first being taxed on Department of Children’s Services (DCS), “At the Crossroads,” the organization’s the distributions. the state has made significant progress major report examining the progress of toward implementing major reforms, the New York City child welfare system For more information about making a according to a new monitoring report over the past decade. On November 8, at gift to Children’s Rights from your IRA, released in September. the offices of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, please contact Jethro Miller, director of Associate Director Ira Lustbader present- development, at 212.683.2210 or jmiller@ The agency has reduced the number ed a detailed account of the reforms now childrensrights.org. of children placed in group homes and taking place in Tennessee as a result orphanage-style institutions by more than of Children’s Rights’ campaign there. 6 www.childrensrights.org Kim France with Lucky special projects director Allyson France is a founding editor of Lucky, and Waterman. France featured Children’s has been with the Condé Nast publication Rights in Lucky’s “Shop While You Con- since December 2000. Over the past tribute” feature shortly thereafter, offering seven years, she has led the magazine to readers a chance to support the group’s a host of industry awards, including advocacy campaigns through a portion of Adweek’s “Start-up of the Year” in 2002 the proceeds from their purchases, and and Advertising Age’s “Magazine of the led off that issue with an editor’s letter Year” in 2003. In 2004, The New York Post highlighting Children’s Rights’ work. named France one of New York City’s “Most Powerful Women,” and Crain’s Since then, the magazine has sponsored a New York Business featured her as one of cocktail party designed to help Children’s its “40 under 40,” which singles out rising Rights cultivate new donors and purchased stars in the New York City business com- tables at the annual Children’s Rights munity. Most recently, France and the team benefit gala in 2006 and 2007. Last summer, at Lucky received the award for Journalism France found another opportunity to sup- Excellence from the Fashion Footwear port Children’s Rights when Lucky teamed Association of New York. An alumna of with Flirt! cosmetics to launch a new signa- Oberlin College, France contributed to ture line of products for television personal- more than a dozen publications before ity Vanessa Minnillo. A portion of sales from launching Lucky, serving also as editor- the kickoff event, held at New York’s Big at-large for Spin magazine and as deputy Drop boutique, benefited Children’s Rights, editor for New York magazine. and guests were sent home with gift bags It may seem an unlikely partnership at first, that included detailed information about “Children’s Rights is extremely fortunate a glossy shopping and style magazine and Children’s Rights’ work on behalf of abused to have the support of Kim France and a child welfare advocacy group. But since and neglected children. Lucky, who have brought the plight of 2004, Lucky magazine editor-in-chief Kim abused and neglected children to the France has been helping Children’s Rights “I am so consistently amazed by the spirit attention of an audience far broader spread the word about its child welfare and tenacity of Marcia Lowry and the than we could ever hope to reach on reform campaigns—and supporting the entire Children’s Rights organization,” our own,” says Children’s Rights founder organization through generous corporate says France. “I became involved after and Executive Director Marcia Robinson and personal gifts. reading about Faheem Williams and other Lowry. “They never cease to come up well-publicized New Jersey cases of foster with new and innovative ways to promote After learning about the organization child abuse and neglect. Children’s Rights our advocacy campaigns, and they have from her sister-in-law, staff attorney Shirim was already working in New Jersey, of matched their creativity with extraordi- Nothenberg, France made her first dona- course, and it wasn’t long before Marcia nary generosity.” tion to Children’s Rights in the winter of and her team were able to ensure that real 2003. Two years later, seeking additional and meaningful reforms happened there. ways to support abused and neglected Children’s Rights are heroes. They’re children, she approached the organization saving children’s lives.” Board Co-Chair Alice the Week” column, which highlighted her “We are deeply grateful to Alice not only Rosenwald Matches New and recent gift of $2.5 million to establish a re- for her personal generosity, but also for her Increased Gifts to Annual serve fund for Children’s Rights and support leadership in building the sustainability Fund—and Makes Headlines in the development of a new strategic plan. of Children’s Rights and broadening our Wall Street Journal outreach,” said Executive Director Marcia This winter, she is offering a dollar-for-dollar Robinson Lowry. “She is a true asset to this In September, Children’s Rights Board of challenge to match the first $100,000 from organization in a great many ways.” Directors Co-Chair Alice Rosenwald was new donors and donors who exceed their all featured in The W Street Journal’s “Gift of gifts from last year. 7 www.childrensrights.org Manny Manny was just three years old when he Manny and his brother were named have been reduced. In the first half of this and his brother were first taken away from plaintiffs in the class action that Children’s year, the state more than tripled its num- their home and placed in foster care after Rights brought against the state of New ber of licensed foster and adoptive families multiple confirmed reports of abuse as compared to fiscal year 2006. and neglect. In the years that fol- lowed, they would be bounced around Manny and his brother were finally to more than 10 different homes and moved into a loving and caring subjected to one ordeal after another. home, where Manny remains to this day. Manny’s brother lived in At times, the two brothers were sepa- the same home until he reached rated from one another. Manny was adulthood and remains close to placed in the wrong grade at school. the family. After being moved into one home in Florida where authorities later dis- Manny is now in his junior year covered more than 20 other children of high school in New Jersey. He living under intolerable conditions, plays lacrosse and basketball on Manny was sent to another home in his school’s varsity teams and New Jersey where he was reunited with his Jersey in 1999. Since the landmark settle- also enjoys football. He is already looking brother—in a home where their foster par- ment of the case in 2003, great progress forward to attending college, possibly in ents kept them locked in the basement, in has been made. A cabinet-level children’s Boston, and plans to study either histo- the dark, feeding them bowls of table scraps. agency has been created, and a child ry—his favorite subject in high school—or The foster parents spoke mostly Spanish. advocate has been appointed as its com- sports management. He is thriving in his Although Manny is of Latino descent, he missioner. Adoptions are up and caseloads permanent home. speaks only English. among the state’s child welfare workers new briefing series, and more. in New Jersey and Tennessee, a News in Brief: Major progress Lucky magazine editor-in-chief www.childrensrights.org Donor Profile: Kim France, 212.683.2210 big money for reform campaigns New York, NY 10001 Second annual benefit gala raises 330 Seventh Avenue national headlines New York, NY reimbursement rates makes permit No. 8048 Major report on foster care PA I D U.S. poStage IN THIS ISSUE: NoN-profit org.
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