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Government of the District of Columbia

Child and Family Services Agency

Testimony of
Loren Ganoe
Chief of Staff

PUBLIC HEARING

BILL 18-579,
PREVENTION OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT
AMENDMENT ACT OF 2009

Committee on Human Services


Tommy Wells, Chair
Council of the District of Columbia

October 6, 2010

John A. Wilson Building


Room 412
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004
10 a.m.
Good morning, Chairman Wells and members of the Human Services Committee. I am Loren

Ganoe, chief of staff for the District of Columbia’s Child and Family Services Agency. I am

pleased to testify today on Bill 18-579, the "Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Amendment

Act of 2009.”

Congress enacted the “Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008”

to promote permanence and improve outcomes for children in the child welfare system. All child

welfare agencies across the nation must comply with provisions of this legislation. But long

before passage of “Fostering Connections”, the District already had some child welfare supports

that the legislation now seeks to nationalize. Among those are: serving children until age 21,

having subsidized legal guardianship as a pathway to permanence, and paying relatives the same

subsidies foster parents receive to take children into their homes. Thus, District practice was

already ahead of many of the provisions of “Fostering Connections”—or we were able to come

into compliance by simply amending existing policies and procedures. However, local legislative

action is necessary in order for District child welfare to implement mandatory provisions of

“Fostering Connections” related to (1) educational stability and (2) determining the

appropriateness of the permanency goal of guardianship. Proposed Bill 18-579 covers these

matters, which I will comment on today.

Educational Stability

“Fostering Connections” requires child welfare agencies to spell out in case plans the steps

undertaken to ensure educational stability for children in foster care. In making placement

decisions, child welfare agencies must consider the proximity of the child’s current school and

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appropriateness of that school to meet the child’s needs. Whenever possible, child welfare

agencies must take steps to ensure foster children stay in their current school—or the agency

must quickly re-enroll them in a new school. Bill 18-579 ensures reflection of these federal

requirements in local legislation.

Local compliance will not be an issue because CFSA is already taking steps to ensure

educational stability for children and youth in foster care. Here are the highlights.

 We have developed and distributed an Administrative Issuance that provides guidance to

CFSA and private-provider staff about determining whether children and youth should

remain in their school of origin when entering foster care or changing placements.

 CFSA is poised to issue a comprehensive education policy that includes a School

Placement Decision Guide to assist social workers in determining the best educational

interests of the child. It includes factors such as personal safety of the student, continuity

of instruction, social and emotional well-being, and distance of the commute.

 School of origin and the subsequent decision about where the child should attend school

are routine topics at the Family Team Meetings. Parents, extended family members,

guardians ad litem, social workers, and other family supporters and professionals are all

present and provide input.

We also continue to work closely with the DC Public Schools and Office of the State

Superintendent for Education to improve data sharing about and supports for children and youth

in school and in foster care.

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Determining Appropriateness of Relative Guardianship

For children whose permanency goal is guardianship with a relative, “Fostering Connections”

requires child welfare agencies to address the appropriateness of the guardianship arrangement.

The child’s case plan must state reasons why the child welfare agency could not achieve the

permanency goals of reunification or adoption and why a kinship guardian arrangement is in the

child’s best interest. Child welfare agencies must also document the reasons for any separation of

siblings during the placement. CFSA has promulgated an Administrative Issuance that provides

guidance to staff on these new requirements and made the necessary changes to our automated

case management system known as FACES to capture documentation of reasons.

Conclusion

In addition to reflecting requirements of the federal “Fostering Connections Act”, local

legislation proposed in Bill 18-579 will codify a series of requirements that District child welfare

already strives to meet in practice. It will not only ensure that the District is in compliance with

mandatory provisions of the federal “Fostering Connections” legislation but will also improve

outcomes for the city’s most vulnerable children and youth. It will help children in foster care

continue their education with as little disruption as possible and ensure that a kinship

guardianship arrangement is in the best interest of the child. I respectfully urge the Council to

enact this important and necessary legislation. Thank you.