Judith Sandalow, executive director of Children’s Law Center, testified before the DC Council’s Committee on Human Services at a hearing to review the performance of the Child and Family Services Agency. Read a summary below or review her full testimony as submitted to the Council.
Sandalow noted that despite transitions in leadership at CFSA in the last year, many positive steps have been taken. Many of the significant reforms CLC urged at last year’s oversight hearing have been started. Acting Director Brenda Donald has “started off on the right foot” by connecting with partners in the community. Still, to have a successful child welfare system, reform is necessary at every step in the process. The District must do more to prevent abuse and neglect, prevent unnecessary removals of children from their families, and improve kinship placement, mental health services, services to older youth and educational supports. More transparency from CFSA about its policies would also benefit the youth and their advocates. Sandalow’s written testimony offers detailed suggestions in each of these area.
In her testimony in front of the committee, Sandalow highlighted existing programs in place that help prevent maltreatment and keep children from entering the foster care system – what Donald calls “narrowing the door,” ensuring children who don’t need to enter the system are provided the services they need to remain safely in their families. Sandalow highlighted the Grandparent Caregivers Program, the Rapid Housing Program and the Differential Response Pilot Program as effective programs that can help narrow the door, but emphasized they all need more funding to reach their full potential to help families. Policy changes, including paying more attention to the “imminent risk” requirement for removal and fulfilling a committment to holding pre-removal family team meetings, could also keep more children with their families.
Download and read Sandalow’s full testimony (PDF) as submitted to the Council.