For over three decades, the Family Advocacy Unit at Community Legal Services has represented thousands of low-income parents in child welfare cases. We have a unique interdisciplinary practice model and a demonstrated commitment to holistic, high-quality parent representation. In addition to individual representation, Community Legal Services engages in systemic advocacy at the local, state and national level to foster positive outcomes for children and families in the child welfare system.
Community Legal Services was an active participant in the development of the Improving Outcomes for Children (IOC) initiative, and remains supportive of the goals of IOC, including improved, community-based services to families, a reduction in the number of children in foster care, and an increased use of kinship placement. Unfortunately, and despite the diligent efforts of current DHS leadership, since the implementation of IOC, many of its initial goals have not materialized, and on many key indicators the performance of Philadelphia’s child welfare system has deteriorated significantly.
We remain supportive of the IOC model, and believe that reversing the progress made toward a community-based model of service provision would be damaging to families and children. However, in order for IOC to succeed, DHS needs to significantly reduce the number of families it is serving to ensure that high-quality services are accessible to families that are truly in crisis. The number of children in foster care in Philadelphia has reached numbers not seen in years, and DHS, via the Community Umbrella Agencies (CUAs), is also serving an incredibly high number of children in their homes. While it is admirable that DHS is endeavoring to assist so many needy families, the current model is unsustainable and creates a very real risk that overburdened case workers will miss or be unable to attend to serious safety threats posed by families that are truly in crisis. It is imperative that DHS refocuses on safety and limits its CUA referrals to families where safety threats are clearly documented.
Read the full memo here.