A lengthy article in the April 13 edition of The Arizona Republic profiles David Berns, the newly appointed director of the Department of Economic Security, Arizona’s largest public agency.
Berns came from the human services department of El Paso County, Colorado, where he was credited with greatly reducing dependency cases and the number of children being placed in foster care or residential treatment centers. If he can do the same thing in Arizona, he’ll be the only person in America to ever do it twice, according to one observer.
What qualifications does Mr. Berns bring to his challenging job? The article notes the following:
- Walking the talk. Example: Serving as a phone counselor for a suicide-prevention hotline
- Investing money up front. Example: Finding $5,000 to give to a woman who could no longer afford to care for 7 nieces and nephews
- Empowering employees. Example: Encouraging employees to design programs, establish protocols, and make decisions.
- Modeling trust and hope. Example: Mr. Berns says, “If we have no hope and don’t believe we can be successful and accomplish great things, how can we convince our clients to be successful and believe they can accomplish great things?”
Mr. Berns sounds like he would be a great boss. He’s making a big difference in the child welfare system.
Maybe you have a boss or colleague who is a lot like David Berns. If so, we’d like to hear about it.
Send a one-page (maximum) description of your “David Berns” to the National Family Preservation Network. Please include the person’s name, title, and agency along with examples of how this person is making a difference in the child welfare system.
NFPN will appoint a panel to review all entries and to select a winner and runner-up. The top entries will be posted on our Web site and prizes will be given for first and second place contestants. Don’t delay—here’s your opportunity to provide recognition for some deserving person who can inspire others.
The deadline for entries is Friday, May 28, 2004. Please send entries by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since their inception in the 1970s, Intensive Family Preservation Services have been among the most studied and evaluated programs in the child welfare system. Evaluations generally focus on placement prevention rates. Five states and two counties recently provided data on placement prevention for IFPS programs operating in their jurisdiction:
||Percent. of children still at home
||No. of months post-IFPS at which success is measured
|Marion Co., Indiana
|Wayne Co., Michigan
While the models used in these jurisdictions may vary, the data show that at least three-quarters of families consistently remain together following an IFPS intervention. What happens to the children who don’t remain with their families but go into an out-of-home placement?
New studies conclude that the outcome for children growing up in foster care is grim. The Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago has just released a study of 17-year-old foster youth in three states (Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin). The study found that foster youth have mental health and substance abuse problems at three times the rate of a comparable national sample. Nearly two-thirds of the males and half of the females had been arrested, convicted of a crime, or sent to a correctional facility. Over half of the foster youth were not yet reading at the seventh-grade level.
Another study by the School of Social Work at the University of Illinois found that the risk of delinquency is approximately doubled for children entering substitute care placement. The researchers tested whether the tendency toward increased delinquency occurs prior to or after placement in the foster care system. For males, the difference in delinquency rates between males at home and males in foster care does not increase substantially until the third placement, indicating that placement instability is the largest contributing factor to male delinquency. However, for females the risk of delinquency doubled with the first out-of-home placement, indicating that placement itself increases the risk.
These studies are discouraging in that they represent real children whose lives will be forever changed, most likely not for the better, if they grow up in foster care. On the other hand, for anyone who provides or advocates for intensive family preservation services, these studies should encourage all of us to continue the effort and do even more! What we do has a tremendous, life-long impact on children and families.