Alabama's children

The New York Times (NYT) ran a story Saturday on Alabama's "sweeping transformations of the handling of neglected and abused children." Forced by a legal settlement in 1991 under court supervision, Alabama's child welfare system once considered one of the worst in the country, sending too many children to "foster-care oblivion while ignoring others in danger" has made enough progress to be considered a national model. Other states as well as cities and the federal government have adopted elements of Alabama child welfare practices. The system has become more pro-family, focusing on keeping children safely with their parents, and providing the needed resources to accomplish that. The paper states:
Typical caseloads for social workers have been trimmed to 18 from 50, allowing far more intensive monitoring of families and help. Where reports of neglect or abuse sometimes lay unchecked for months, investigators are now usually on the scene within a day when danger is imminent, and within five days more than 90 percent of the time, officials report.

Child-welfare spending that totaled $71 million in 1990, including $47 million in federal money, rose to $285 million in 2004, $179 million of it from the federal government. Some of that came from Medicaid money the state had not previously tapped.
According to NYT, Hawaii's 2003 rate of children requiring foster care placement (between 7 and 8.5 per thousand population) was twice the national average.

Related resources:
Recent Changes in Alabama Welfare and Work, Child Care, and Child Welfare Systems
(available in PDF, 112K, by The Urban Institute)
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

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