Wednesday, July 21, 2010

UPDATED JULY 21: Foster care in Rhode Island: The child warehousing capital of America

PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND (JULY 20): Today NCCPR released a comprehensive report on child welfare in Rhode Island. The full report, press release and other documents all are available on our website here. Among the key findings:

Rhode Island takes away children at one of the highest rates in America, a rate 80 percent above the national average and nearly double and triple the rates of states widely-recognized as doing a better job of keeping children safe.

Rhode Island is the child warehousing capital of America, trapping children in the worst form of care, group homes and institutions, at a rate more than double the national average.

Rhode Island exports an astounding proportion of its institutionalized children across the country – out of state, out of mind. Representatives of the child welfare agency, the Department of Children Youth and Families, visit them only once every three months if they're in a nearby state – and only once every six months if they've been warehoused far away. (DCYF did not explain why institutions need to be checked less often, and the Rhode Island children in them need even fewer visits if they are farther away.)

Two children are institutionalized nearly a thousand miles from Rhode Island in an institution run by a national chain that was the subject of a scathing report in December 2006, alleging substandard care. DCYF did not even know about this report until NCCPR called it to their attention.

In addition to doing enormous harm to the children, all this wastes huge amounts of taxpayer money. Rhode Island spends on child welfare at one of the highest rates in the Nation, a rate more than two-and-a-half times the national average.

Although DCYF is being sued by the group that so arrogantly calls itself "Children's Rights" the lawsuit is not likely to do much good – and might even do harm. That's because of CR's depressing track record of ignoring the problem of wrongful removal, and sometimes making it worse.

The only good news in all this: Because Rhode Island already is spending so much, and getting so little, it is possible to comprehensively reform the system without spending more money.

The Providence Journal has two excellent stories on the report, available here and here and WPRO Radio has a story here

Most interesting has been the response from DCYF. For well over a day after seeing the report they would say nothing. Then, finally, they told the Journal, in effect: Look at the bright side. We used to be even worse!