Boston — Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, has filed legislation to improve child permanency and placement stability for youth in the Department of Children and Families foster care system. The bill holds the department accountable to search for every possible family member and/or significant adult relationship with which a child could be placed.
“Permanency is something that many people never have to think about, or even know what it means. For children and youth in state custody, finding a permanent family arrangement is a difficult and trying process that can go on for years,” stated Farley-Bouvier Tuesday at a public hearing for the bill at the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities.
Provisions of the bill include bringing each child into the conversation about their permanency plan to express their preferred custody placement. Additionally, when any child or young adult has experienced more than two placements in a single foster-care episode, a clinical team will review their physical, mental and emotional effects experienced and recommend services to mitigate those effects. Finally, this bill will increase court oversight of DCF’s performance of its obligation to make reasonable efforts to keep children in their own homes or new permanent homes.
“The current system removes children and keeps them in foster care for unnecessarily long periods of time, which traumatizes children and disrupts families. Many family situations can be addressed by earlier intervention and services,” said Susan Elsen, director of the Child Welfare Reform Project at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute. “Ensuring reasonable efforts not only prevents unnecessary state intrusion into family life, but it is also the lynchpin of any well-functioning child welfare system.”
Studies show that permanency is key to enabling children who transition out of DCF to attain successful relationships, careers, and mental and emotional health. According to the DCF quarterly report issued in July 2017, there were 9,597 youth in foster care in Massachusetts.