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Testimony: Confirmation Hearing for Child and Family Services Agency Director Brenda Donald 2012

Children’s Law Center policy director Sharra Greer testified before the DC Council Committee on Human Services at a public roundtable discussion of a resolution to confirm Brenda Donald as director of DC’s Child and Family Services Agency. We don’t formally take positions on mayoral appointments, but testified in order to inform the Council about the challenges and opportunities facing CFSA as it strives to serve DC’s vulnerable children and families. Read a summary below or review her full testimony as submitted to the Council.

Greer reinforced many of the messages our executive director Judith Sandalow shared at CFSA’s oversight hearing in February. More work needs to be done to prevent child abuse and neglect, and keeping children safe in their families when possible. Although many children could benefit from kinship foster placements with adults who already care about them, there are still barriers to kinship placement in DC. Because of their experiences foster children also have higher risk of mental health concerns, but many of their needs go unmet in the District. Older youth need better transition planning as they prepare to “age out” of the foster care system and risk a host of negative outcomes.

While CFSA’s leadership has been in transition in recent years, with an interim director from May 2011 through January 2012, the agency has been able to make some progress in a few important areas. Positive steps include: an ongoing differential response pilot program, a policy clarifying and easing the kinship licensing process, and a move towards greater transparency about rules and policies. As acting director, Brenda Donald has continued and expanded this progress, reaching out to the child advocate community.