One on One

Article excerpt

Questions and Answers with CWLA Staff

Linda Spears, Vice President, Policy & Public Affairs

May was National Foster Care Month. What have you been doing lately in relation to foster youth?

I recently participated in a panel sponsored by the Senate's Foster Care Coalition where several former foster youth spoke. It was heartbreaking. They talked about not being able to grow up like other kids; about not going to the prom or staying over at friends' houses because of agency safety policies. The three main points I heard were that they wanted to feel normal, they wanted relationships, and they didn't want their relationships to only include people who were paid to be in their lives. To me, hearing this was devastating. I think it's so important to listen very closely to the concerns of foster youth, and to look at how our services affect them with a new lens.

While we have to focus on large-scale policy changes and put better regulations in place, it is also important to think about the little decisions taking place on a daily basis in foster homes and group care facilities. While there has to be order and rules, they may not be worth preventing a child from going to the prom. We get into large-scale debates around transitioning to adulthood versus finding permanent families. But above everything should be this one constant of kids having healthy relationships in their lives at every level.

Child welfare finance reform has been a hot topic lately. Can you explain what is going on with this on Capitol Hill?

It looks like members of Congress want to look seriously at child welfare finance reform. They're looking at the basics of how to fix the de-link and what kinds of flexibility is needed to promote a full array of programs for abused and neglected children. It's the core question of whether Title IV-E just supports foster care or whether states should be able to use it toward other needed services.

Right now, CWLA and other organizations are working on recommendations for what finance reform should look like. We are discussing how to prioritize what the most important things are, while being sure that we don't sell kids short in developing our approach to finance reform. CWLA's public policy advisory committee is working on guiding principles that will help us respond to all of the many proposals out there and guide our own strategy on Capitol Hill.

You've been involved with the campaign to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Can you tell us more about that?

CWLA has been an ongoing supporter and advocate for ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) since its original passage more than 20 years ago. …