Tuesday, April 17, 2007

We Must Meet the Needs of Foster Children and Youth

by Joe Kroll, NACAC executive director

In March, the NACAC board approved a position statement (link) that states that the public child welfare system has primary responsibility to assess and address the cognitive, social, emotional, physical, developmental, and educational needs of children and youth who are or have been in the foster care system. To achieve this goal, NACAC seeks:

• Comprehensive assessments, conducted by a community-based, multi-disciplinary team, of a child’s or youth’s strengths and needs within 30 days of entering care, plus follow-up assessments
• Training of social workers, teachers, doctors, nurses, and others on the effects of abuse, neglect, and foster care placement
• A plan for provision of needed services, including continuing those services into adoption, guardianship, or reunification

To help achieve these goals, NACAC calls for legislation and rule changes that:

1. Require private and public medical insurance entities to cover mental health services at the same level as physical health services
2. Review Medicaid reimbursement rules and increase reimbursements and streamline the reimbursement process so that more providers accept Medicaid
3. Require HMOs to hire and retain qualified service providers, and when those providers are not available, to fully fund treatment received out of network
4. Fully support the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) program

To ensure educational continuity and success for foster children and youth, NACAC recommends (among other things):

1. Allowing foster children to remain in their school for a school year, in spite of placement moves, when it is in their best interests
2. Requiring agencies to consider school stability during placement decisions
3. Allowing a foster child to be immediately enrolled in school even if all typical requirements (records, immunizations, etc.) are not met

When a public agency takes custody of a child or youth, it must assume responsibility for providing the necessary services and support to achieve the best possible outcomes for that child or youth.

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