Foster Care and Child Welfare

To the Editor:

Re “To Protect Kids, We Need More Foster Care, Not Less,” by Naomi Schaefer Riley (Opinion guest essay, May 13):

Pieces like this express concern about the well-being of children while ignoring the daily harms caused by family separation. The trauma of being ripped away from their parents and placed in the foster system with strangers often results in children developing a host of challenges, including poor mental and physical health, low educational achievement, high rates of homelessness and early pregnancy, and involvement in criminal activities.

The overreliance on family separation for children who aren’t in any immediate danger destroys families who could have remained together with the right support. The parents we work with every day love their children, but they often lack access to vital resources like secure housing, child care, nutritious food, mental health care and transportation.

In New York, allegations of neglect — many times because of a lack of resources — account for the vast majority of complaints against parents. We know that Black and brown families are especially vulnerable to being separated during invasive and coercive investigations.

Rather than overfunding punitive systems that do more harm than good, we must invest in the health and stability of vulnerable families.

Tehra Coles
New York
The writer is executive director of the Center for Family Representation.

To the Editor:

This essay cogently highlights the well-intentioned but often dangerous trend of keeping children in risky settings. Unfortunately, it’s not only keeping children out of foster care; it’s also how many child welfare officials now approach adoption — seeking to have children be with their birth family, even when it is unsafe or when reunification efforts have failed for years.

In 1997 Congress sought to solve the problem of children lingering in foster care by passing the Adoption and Safe Families Act to limit how long children spent in the child welfare system before initiating the adoption process. Shortly after the bipartisan law was passed, timelines for children in foster care significantly decreased. Now, this law is largely ignored.

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