Children's Rights

year 2, week 50:  this week i'm gonna... protect children.

“What I wanted the most was a family, but instead I was shuffled from facility to facility like I was an animal,” says Elijah Sullivan about his time growing up in foster care. He entered the foster care system when he was 7 years old.

Elijah Sullivan  (photo credit: OmarStylez Photography)

Elijah Sullivan (photo credit: OmarStylez Photography)

Elijah is now a 26-year-old political science student, and recognizes that if he had been given the chance to live with a stable relative, his path to success and self-sufficiency would have been much easier. “I had an uncle that was willing to take me into his home a couple of years after I entered the system, but it ended up never happening.”

Multiple studies have examined the importance of family preservation. In a series of studies tracking thousands of children, Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor Joseph Doyle, Jr. found that children placed in foster care experienced drastically higher juvenile delinquency rates, adult arrest rates, teen motherhood rates, and unemployment rates than children who experienced similar abuse or neglect and remained with their families.

When children are removed from abusive and neglectful families, the goal is to keep them from further harm. Foster care can be a safe haven for some, but can be heartbreaking for others. Too many children live in dangerous situations, languish in institutions, are shuffled between multiple homes, or are torn from their siblings. Children’s Rights steps in to advocate for these children and make sure that the systems put in place to protect them are doing what they were intended to do.

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Children’s Rights is changing the way child welfare is practiced in the United States. The organization began as a project of the New York Civil Liberties Union and later the American Civil Liberties Union, and in 1995 became an independent nonprofit organization. Children’s Rights uses the law to hold governments accountable and defend thousands of kids when foster care systems fail, and they have secured court orders mandating top-to-bottom child welfare reform in more than a dozen states.

Children's Rights teams up with local child advocates to thoroughly investigate state, local, and regional foster care systems that are causing physical and psychological harm to the children they are mandated to protect. They build cases that expose pervasive failures, help develop solutions, and then negotiate court-enforceable plans that ultimately improve the way child welfare agencies treat kids. Once reform strategies are in place, they monitor states’ progress until children in their care are safe and supported.

As a result of their work, tens of thousands of children in more than 15 states are safer, get the education and health care they need, and have better foster homes. Best of all, children find permanent, loving families more quickly, ensuring they have the brightest possible futures. 

To learn more about Children's Rights please watch the video below:

For many like Elijah, foster care can be a whirlwind that keeps them spinning from placement to placement, without any safety nets to help them succeed. After aging out at 18, Elijah struggled to find housing and a sense of stability for almost a year. “I thought things would be easy, but I was severely mistaken,” he says. “Responsibilities hit me like a ton of bricks. I didn’t have the slightest idea how to shop for groceries, make appointments, set up my electricity. I was lucky to have a few mentors -- without them, I’m sure I would have been lost.”

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Children’s Rights has worked with stakeholders in a number of cases to help preserve family connections. After Children’s Rights and co-counsel reached a settlement in a suit brought on behalf of children placed in Connecticut foster care, substantial measures were taken to help kids maintain family connections and avoid foster care when safe to do so. The percentage of siblings placed together, for example, increased from a baseline of 57% in 2005 to over 90% in 2014. Additionally, the placement of children with relatives has increased from 17% in 2011 to over 33% today. 

"Foster care should be the final recourse and, when it is necessary, kids need to be with supportive, loving families,” states Sandy Santana, Children’s Rights executive director. Children’s Rights is proving that failing child welfare systems not only can be fixed, but can be made to run well. They consider it their moral imperative to ensure that kids in foster care are supported and protected. 


Notes for this week:

  • December 10th is International Human Rights Day!
  • Our collective givetwig donation will sponsor Children's Rights efforts to protect children in the foster care system.
  • For more information on Children's Rights, please check out their website.

this week i'm gonna donate to Children's Rights.

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