According to a report conducted at the request of the Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services, nearly a quarter of children placed in foster care could have been left with their families.
Obtained by the Arkansas Times through a Freedom of Information Act request, the unpublished, internal report was conducted by the consulting group, Hornby Zeller Associates, Inc.
“What the Hornby Zeller report said was, we are putting too many kids in foster care,” said Arkansas State Senator, Alan Clark. “One of the main reasons we are putting too many kids in foster care [deals with] placing them with relatives.”
Along with Clark’s assertions, the research carried out by the group pointed to two primary reasons for the rise in the foster care population: DCFS removing more children from homes at the beginning of an investigation as well as courts ordering removal against agency recommendations.
Some DCFS workers believe the solutions proposed by the report are not necessarily easy and that the report oversimplifies the reasons.
“We are airing on the side of safety,” said Felecia Carter, a county supervisor for Pulaski County South. “It also has to deal with the judges.”
Carter also pointed out bigger issues including a lack of workers on the ground.
“We have five [case] workers, with well over a hundred cases,” she said.
The report was conducted at a time when the state legislature has taken a more active role in DHS oversight, which has been led by Sen. Clark. Clark, who considers himself to be a child advocate, said increased control can benefit the system by giving workers an outlet to speak out.
“We are making something possible that wasn’t possible,” said Clark. “As we get this problem under control, we should have less kids in foster care.”
Taking reports into consideration, DHS has outlined steps to stabilize the crisis titled “Moving Beyond Crisis,” which was published in November 2016. The plan detailed multiple steps to improve the system, which include an assessment of the foster care population as well as placing more children with relatives and streamlining the foster care application process.
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