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Major new legislation continues a winning streak for abused and neglected children

It’s been a great week for children across the country who depend on public child welfare systems for protection and care.

On Monday, officials in the District of Columbia agreed to an emergency plan negotiated by Children’s Rights to stop the downward slide of the child welfare system there and make rapid improvements for the city’s abused and neglected children. On Tuesday, a federal judge in Michigan approved the settlement of our class action on behalf of more than 19,000 children dependent on the child welfare system there, mandating the system’s top-to-bottom reform.

And the landmark child welfare legislation we mentioned in an earlier post — which some are calling the most significant in a decade — has been signed into law by President George W. Bush.

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 will promote permanent families for children in foster care through relative guardianship and adoption and keep them connected with their siblings. It will help older youth in care stay engaged in education, training, and work opportunities. It will improve educational stability and health outcomes for children in foster care, and it will increase services and protections for American Indian children.

It also includes a provision that reflects policy recommendations developed by Children’s Rights, in partnership with the Children’s Defense Fund, as part of a broader advocacy effort on child welfare workforce issues.

The legislation significantly increases federal resources available to train the staff of private child welfare agencies and the courts, and attorneys and others representing children who come to the attention of the child welfare system. Previously, federal resources were available only to staff working in public agencies, even though many systems contract out significant child welfare functions to private organizations. Expanding this funding in this way was one of the key recommendations of Children’s Rights’ and the Children’s Defense Fund’s workforce project, funded by Cornerstones for Kids.

For more details on the legislation, check out our earlier blog post — or read the full text of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 here.