State lawmakers say too many children in the child welfare system are disappearing for weeks at a time without anyone looking for them. They also say most of the children rescued from sex trafficking are in the foster system.
Right now lawmakers say there are 57 children missing from Colorado’s child welfare system. Nobody knows where they are and too often there is little effort to find them, according to lawmakers. They say Colorado’s most vulnerable children deserve better.
A child sex trafficking sting during the National Western Stock Show last week was just the latest example of what state lawmakers call a disturbing trend — a foster care to prostitution pipeline.
Sixty percent of children rescued from sex trafficking have at one time have been in the custody of a welfare agency or foster home, according to lawmakers.
Millions of federal dollars that Oklahoma had been spending on foster care for abused and neglected children will be shifted to pay for in-home services designed to keep troubled families together under a program set to begin in July.
“This is the most dramatic change that we will have made in child welfare in decades,” said Sheree Powell, spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services.
Over the next four years, Oklahoma has obtained a federal waiver that will give the state flexibility in how it spends more than $381 million to improve child welfare.
Some of the money will continue to be needed to help pay for foster care services for children who must be removed from dangerous homes.
But DHS officials are proposing to use much of that money to provide families with intensive in-home services to treat problems like drug addiction, mental illness and poor parenting skills, while allowing the children to remain home, Powell said.
The program will be introduced in Oklahoma County in July, with plans to expand it to other counties in future years, she said.
We know that children in the foster care system have, by definition, experienced trauma – often multiple forms of abuse and neglect over extended periods of time. The trauma experienced by many of these children is complex, can cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and if left untreated, impact their health and wellbeing for years to come. Furthermore, the separation from their families, friends and communities that follows removal is often re-traumatizing and can further add to the pain, loss and uncertainty they have experienced.
The road to recovery can be long and difficult and there is rarely a clear path to success. However, as adults, it is our responsibility to ensure that children in foster care receive the treatments, services, and supports they need to heal from early trauma and give them the tools they need to thrive.
Lexie Gruber spent time in the foster care system and found herself homeless as a teenager. But today, she is a senior, majoring in policy science and women’s studies at Quinnipiac University and one of her goals is to help children in foster care. She is doing so in a number of ways, including serving on the advisory board for the State Policy Advocacy & Reform Center (SPARC) at First Focus.
“I’ll always be a foster kid,” she said in an article in the Quinnipiac Chronicle. “Do I want to be a professional foster kid? No, but I want to help them. If you go through something and have the ability to change it, you have a responsibility to and that’s what I’m doing.”