Monday, January 01, 2001

Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Resources

Jewish Adoption and Foster Care Resources

If you know of other resources for Jewish families or Jewish survivors of sexual abuse who grew up in the foster care system, please forward the information to The Awareness Center.

The Awareness Center is also looking for a volunteer who will be in charge of maintaining this page.  If you are interested, please let us know.  

Table of Contents:

Disclaimer: Inclusion in this website does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. Individuals must decide for themselves whether the resources meet their own personal needs.

  1. Jewish Resources
    • Adoption
    • Foster Care
  2. Secular Resources
    • Adoption
    • Foster Care
    • Articles
      • In City's Care, Foster Children Suffer Abuse, Assault  (07/14/03)
      • Attorney General: Child Abuse Reports Are Public Record (07/25/01)
      • Nationwide Amber alert (08/23/02)
    • Foster Care
      • Self-Help Groups for Former Foster Children
      • Former Foster Kids Speaking Out


Jewish Resources




Self Help Groups

Former Foster Kids Speaking Out


In City's Care, Foster Children Suffer Abuse, Assault
By Sewell Chan and Scott Higham
Washington Post - Monday, July 14, 2003; Page A09

Two populations of D.C. children are sent to group homes -- juveniles charged with or convicted of crimes and foster children who have been abused or neglected. While the juvenile homes have tougher children and more runaways, the foster homes have problems of their own.

A group home counselor punched a 10-year-old boy in the face and stomach for misbehaving. Another counselor sexually molested two girls, 13 and 14. Four mentally retarded children were found last summer in a house with no air conditioning and with some of its windows sealed with plastic and duct tape.

They were among 21 cases of abuse or neglect at some of the city's 71 foster-care group homes and independent-living programs, substantiated by the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency, in a 19-month period ending in May.

Forsaken by their parents, the children ended up in group homes because they were unwanted by foster or adoptive families -- passed over for being too old, too troubled or too frail. The agency last year spent $27.6 million on the homes.

"Group homes get, on average, $40,000 per teen, per year, yet residents live in poverty, often without basic necessities," the Young Women's Project, a local advocacy organization, concluded last year.

Anne E. Schneiders, a longtime lawyer for foster children, said: "All these kids have problems that preclude them from going into foster care, so we put them into group homes. We call them therapeutic, and there's nothing for them."

William Wright, who entered the foster care system at age 10, said he and other foster teenagers were left to fend for themselves in a Southeast Washington apartment building.

"It was like living on the streets," said Wright, now 22 and serving five years for armed robbery. "You're on your own. There were no strict guidelines or rules to obey."

Olivia A. Golden, the director of Child and Family Services since June 2001, said she cut the number of foster children in group homes from 317 to 260. She issued first-ever regulations for group homes. She also hired more monitors.

"A huge amount has changed for children, but I still wake up at 4 a.m. thinking about what's left to do," Golden said.

Several of the 21 cases of abuse or neglect, which were compiled by an investigative unit that Golden created in 2001, documented staff misconduct. One incident occurred at the House of Seven Steps, in the Shaw section of Northwest Washington, 10 days before Christmas 2001. A counselor allegedly bought liquor for the boys under his watch and grabbed a female counselor, putting his hands between her legs and encouraging the boys to join in, investigators concluded.

The contractor that runs the home, Tricom Training Institute Inc., fired the counselor, and the city suspended the company's contract. Calvin L. Shingler, Tricom's deputy director, said the nonprofit group promptly reported the incident. "Once we as managers found out about it, we acted expeditiously and professionally," he said.

In several of the 21 cases, police sought arrest warrants but prosecutors concluded that there was not enough evidence for convictions. Under city law, social service workers who fail to report abuse or neglect face up to a $1,000 fine or 30 days in jail. Golden's investigators found a number of such failures, but a spokesman for the D.C. Office of the Corporation Counsel could not recall any prosecutions.

Golden said she is rewriting group home contracts to improve standards. "They are now being held accountable," she said. Since the investigative unit was launched, 12 group home workers have been fired and one contractor, Ward & Ward Mental Health Services Inc., has been put out of the foster-care business.

Last year, the unit conducted 12 investigations into Ward & Ward and substantiated two cases of physical abuse and two of neglect. One worker choked an 11-year-old boy. Another counselor put her knee in a boy's chest. Staff members missed three appointments to take a 7-month-old boy to a clinic at Children's Hospital.

In March, the city removed 11 children from Ward & Ward's homes. The company's founder, the Rev. Ruth E. Ward, a clinical psychologist and Baptist minister, said recently that she fired the employees accused of abuse. "Any time anything happened with any of the children," she said, "I immediately took action and tried to correct the problem as best I could."


Attorney General: Child Abuse Reports Are Public Record
By Mark Hollis, Tallahassee Bureau
South Flordia Sun-Sentinel, July 25, 2001

TALLAHASSEE — Drawing praise from government watchdogs, Attorney General Bob Butterworth on Tuesday told Florida's child-welfare agency that records of abuse, neglect and abandonment of children in the state's foster homes, shelters and treatment centers are a matter of public record.

The opinion from the state's chief legal adviser collides with plans by the state Department of Children & Families to keep secret "critical incident reports" detailing allegations of abuse when children are in state custody.

An attorney for the department said he would review the non-binding opinion before recommending any policy changes. The lawyer said it is likely that the DCF will follow Butterworth's advice.

"We just want to make sure we understand all of it," said John Slye, the DCF's deputy general counsel. "We don't want to be outside the boundaries of what the statutes require. That's why we requested the opinion."

In his opinion, Butterworth said the abuse reports are not confidential but information that would identify a victim of abuse, abandonment or neglect may be kept private.

In recent weeks, department officials have said they should keep confidential the entire record of abuse.

Incident reports have been a resource for people suing the department. One case was filed on behalf of 1,500 children in foster care in Broward County by the San Francisco-based Youth Law Center.

Michael Dale, a Nova Southeastern University law professor who is monitoring DCF's compliance with the settlement terms of that case, applauded Butterworth's opinion.

"The public should not be denied knowledge of governmental shortcomings by hiding documents," Dale said. "Personally identifiable information about children does not become public. Governmental shortcomings and problems become public. And for the public to understand governmental shortcoming, in the long run, is to protect children."

In the 1999-2000 budget year, about 8 percent of the 14,980 foster children in Florida were re-abused or neglected while in state care, according to a March government report.


Nationwide Amber alert
By Mona Charen
Town Hall - August 23, 2002

"Audit Finds Lapses in Maryland Child Care." So announced the Washington Post front page on Aug. 22. The headline scarcely captures the scandalous content of the story.

It seems that the agency responsible for ensuring the safety and health of abused, neglected and abandoned children has lost track of many of them for months at time, failed to ensure that they were attending school or getting medical attention and in at least one case, placed a child in foster care with a convicted child molester.

Of all the government screw-ups, waste, mismanagement and incompetence, those involving child welfare are among the worst and are -- or should be -- the least tolerable. The entire nation has been gripped by abduction stories this summer, and we've heard of the Amber Alert system to get radio stations, police, highway patrols and others involved in searching for a kidnapped child. That's all to the good. But what sort of system can we devise to wake people up to cases like these?

In Florida, a 19-year-old caseworker was discovered passed out (drunk) in her car with a 7-month-old foster care baby in the back seat. Five-year-old Rilya Wilson had been under Florida's care. But she has disappeared, and no one in the Child Welfare Department even noticed for 15 months. In Anaheim, Calif., a 1-year-old died of starvation and neglect despite several visits from police and county child welfare workers. The decomposing body of 13-year-old Rhiannon Gilmore was found in her Georgia home. She had been "in the system" for nine years.

In Maryland, the stories are very similar. According to the audit, caseworkers failed to perform basic criminal background checks on would-be foster parents in 45 percent of cases. In 68 percent of the cases, children in foster care received no dental care. "Kids come in here and their teeth are totally brown," a Legal Aid Bureau lawyer told The Washington Post. In 35 percent of the cases studied, there were no records that the children were attending school.

Identical stories can be found in most states in the union. It's an unconscionable situation. Either the child is abused and neglected by his own biological parents or he is removed from the home to be abused and neglected by others -- this time with the state's imprimatur. In Florida, the state child welfare agency was forced to admit that it had lost track of 500 children! The South Florida Sun Sentinel assigned some reporters to look for the kids, and they rapidly located nine of them by dialing directory assistance.

Maryland child welfare officials defended themselves by asserting that it was only the paperwork that was sloppy, that the majority of children were getting optimal care and case workers were merely forgetting to note it in their charts. But people who work with foster children know this to be highly unlikely.

In part, the problem is the overwhelming caseload social workers in this field carry. In the case of Rhiannon Gilmore, who died despite repeated attempts by teachers and others to attract the attention of child welfare officials, the caseworker had 44 cases. "If you assume just two children in each family, that's 88 kids you have to visit once a month, not to mention contacts with neighbors and paperwork," a caseworker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Nor do states take great care in the kind of people they hire for these sensitive positions. It's a backwater of state government because there is no constituency watching them.

Further, the confidentiality of records in child-abuse cases impedes accountability. Without public access to the files, it's almost impossible to prove that child welfare agencies screwed up. Instead, the agencies are often asked to investigate themselves. Would we ask Enron to investigate itself?

The child welfare mess in Maryland and Florida has made headlines lately, but it's just as bad as many other states around the nation. County and state governments are overwhelmed. Private voluntary organizations, philanthropies and religious groups really must pitch in. This Dickensian reality for abused children is unworthy of us.



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