Change gonna come? UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Friday, October 3, 2008

Change gonna come? UPDATE

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2008 at 2:30 PM

UPDATE: Big news today, as I predicted this morning, in state policy on foster parenting. But I'm going to take you to the jump so that those who might care about kids can read it all from the beginning without making the eyes of others glaze over.

Based on my own reporting, I wrote this morning that the Democrat-Gazette's Charlie Frago was dropping a broad hint in an article this morning that the Beebe administration might NOT adopt the rule banning placement of foster children in homes with couples who have sex occasionally (cohabitating is the 25-cent word). Another, similar rule of a state board still dominated by Huckabee appointees has a restrictive regulation somewhat in conflict should the rule go away, but that board's rule was so poorly written that it should not control state decisions on foster homes. And Beebe has already begun rooting out the worst members of that so-called child welfare board -- i.e., Ted Suhl of the infamous Lord's Ranch  -- as he has had opportunities to make changes.

What does this mean if I happen to be right?

It means that foster child placement will be decided -- as it should be -- on a case-by-case basis with the best interests of the child at heart, as determined by professionals and judges. For example:A needy child might be placed with a caring aunt who happens to have been living for years in a stable relationship outside matrimony with a man who is functionally but not legally her husband. Much better than with a stranger.

It would be a powerful statement if the weight of a popular administration would come down in favor of this child-friendly approach. It would serve as a powerful recommendation, too, to VOTE NO ON INITIATED ACT 1. That initiative would throw up new barriers to adoption and foster parenting in state law.

I think the possibility of this wonderful change of heart by the state, which is currently enforcing the no-cohabitants rule ad hoc, is illustrated by Frago's discussion toward the end of his story. He writes about what would happen if the  rule -- subject of a mostly critical public hearing yesterday -- is not formally approved. I hope I can say someday that you heard a prediction of the news here first.

UPDATE: Beebe has now confirmed to another reporter what I understood was in the works. (When I asked about this yesterday, Beebe people wouldn't tell me about it. I guess that's what you get for speaking ill of St. Mike II.) The state appears ready to back away from the rule on unmarried couples as foster parents.

An unreserved thumbs-up for the governor if this occurs. The governor has every bit of the political capital necessary to take this action, which is nothing more than common sense and humane. The noisy "Christians" who see this issue solely through the lens of homophobia -- not the simple child welfare issue that it is -- spook many politicians. Beebe, forever, has been nothing but a cautious politician, so I don't mean to say it was wholly easy for him to join the entire medical and social services community in support of this change.

Like I said this morning, you heard about this change here first, not from the AP.

But, no, I'm not ready to confer sainthood on the governor just yet. Child services is a much larger issue than this one rule.

I'd still like to hear from the governor (thanks, no more mush from the stonewallers and deceivers among his enablers):  1) What he found wrong at DHS that has required a top-to-bottom reivew and changes of personnel there; 2) a comprehensive list of personnel changes as a result of that review; 3) actions, if any, taken against people who failed to carry out their duties; 4) the causes of deaths of four foster children who died AFTER the reorganization began and the state's culpability, if any, and actions taken as a result; 5) an explanation of the handling by DHS of the case of a two-year-old found by Little Rock police nearly beaten to death not long after a complaint was made to a DHS worker and after the child went home to a household in which a DHS worker lived; 6) a statement from the governor on how he feels about a private  foster parent recruitment agency the state promotes that makes sure to bar from its services gay people, unmarried couples and people who won't sign an oath about their sexual practices; 7) a demonstration, through statistics, that there's an aggressive, active and competent foster parent recruitment program by the state itself; 8) and, if 7) is so, an explanation of why the state never responded to a woman denied a place in foster parenting by the private agency because she refused to sign their sexual loyalty oath; 9) an explanation why, if so many things were wrong, so many Huckabee-era people remain in the same highly paid positions at DHS.

That's a start of a list for the governor, who has so far refused to address them for me despite weeks of requests. Since, I don't expect any more response from Beebe on these questions than he has provided previously, that ought to do for the time being.

Nonetheless, governor, thanks for something.


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