Trust me, I work for the Government

Hollywood Needs Writers, the Theater Needs Agents What Does Foster Care Need?

Hallowell Free associate for a few moments. If I ask you to think, Agents, does the word Secret come to mind? Or perhaps, Special or Intelligence or Real Estate? Agent of Change, maybe? In a recent survey, not a single respondent said, Foster Family-based Treatment, yet these agencies contract with over a thousand Maine, independent contractors to perform one of the most challenging and valuable jobs within our state. More than fifteen million dollars becomes multiplied through our local economies each year because of these jobs. Because of this work, children are kept in school, young teens avoid pregnancy, defiant kids don’t enter the criminal justice system as addicts or sociopaths, families get a second chance at reunification, children get a second chance and are released from restrictive, institutional settings, and a generational gap is bridged baby boomers learn to appreciate Hannah Montana; teens learn where Montana is (and may get a family trip of a lifetime to our national parks.)

So, think about it. How many Secret Agents do you know working in Maine? How about the Intelligence levels? In a season when change is the mantra derigueur, why are our most important Agents of Change, those who work with our most vulnerable children, so unlikely to enter our stream of consciousness? Is it any surprise that policy makers should view Foster Family-based Treatment Agencies, if they think of them at all, as just another piece of infrastructure; and as fungible at that?

Our Child Welfare System views these private agencies as financial conduits, administrative service providers, and as recruiting agents. Bureaucrats see what they know; it is comfortable to relegate these business roles to non-governmental agents so long as they are accountable to the fiscal bottom-line. Efficiency becomes the sine qua non. Today, as in the Years of the Longley, the focus is on the number of typewriters; the particular end-products, the services delivered and the quality of outcomes are left to ride shotgun. Efficiency is in the drivers seat, not Effectiveness.

Please focus now. Trained and committed specialized foster parents are the heart and soul, the cerebrum and muscle, behind good outcomes. Can they represent themselves and the children? Can they access services through private and public practitioners? Can they find information and problem-solve? And, can they organize to advocate effectively for their needs? Or, do they need paid agents to do these things for them? Are they tinkers or tailors?

Mark Katz

January 26, 2008

January 28th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Foster Children | no comments

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