I say this because the bill would open hearings where DSS seeks to end a child’s life to the public, and place clear requirements as to what steps to take into our laws for the first time.
The health insurance industry has a constituency and lots and lots of money. Part of that constituency is the health care industry [such as the competition between community and teaching hospitals], another part consists of employers who need to provide health insurance to keep skilled workers.
Foster children do not have a constituency, really. Yes, foster care is an industry, as is the prison system. Both need bodies in their systems [foster children, prisoners] so are not likely to support actions that send children home because families get help with housing and so forth, or reduce the number of prisoners because there are enough treatment beds for addicts and housing for the recovering. Sad but true.
The estimated cost for foster care this year is 12 billion. It costs $17.500 on average for all the costs of each foster child. Usually, though, there is no money for counseling or housing or other services to keep the kids home. Group home care averages $42,500 per year, about the cost of keeping a prisoner imprisoned. Imagine if even 10% of that money was available for services, instead, to families that need support in dealing with the issues of poverty and housing?
Neither foster children nor poor parents have lobbyists, or any organization to do the work that was done to make the health insurance changes Judith Meredith describes. Change takes work. It can be done, but it takes a LOT of work.
Similarly, we spend more in this state on prisons then on education. Hello! The prison industry has lobbyists; the guards have a union. The prisoners have nothing working on their behalf. The last I heard, 42% of minority men have “criminal records” now – where is the money to retrain, treat addiction or mental illness? I hate to say it, but poor ex-prisoners do not seem to be organized advocates any more than foster children can advocate for themselves.
Frankly, preventing imprisonment would cost much less than the cost of imprisonment and the rapidly expanding prison industry.
Preventing removal of children from their families by supporting and strengthening families would cost much less than foster care, and the rapidly expanding foster care, and child welfare industry.
However, changing how we in Massachusetts “do business” with regard to the poor and struggling would require honesty and cash up front.
Example: Family preservation services are ultimately less expensive than foster care but require honest services that are: 1) Culturally appropriate; 2) Fully funded; 3) Rationally related to the needs of the family, such as addiction treatment where children can live with their parents and affordable housing; 4)Actually available; 5)Geographically accessible. That is “for a start”.
Example: The “graduates” of prison need to be able to get certified as having “paid their debt” in some fashion that regains access to employment and housing, or only crime and “three squares” in the big house are left to them. Imagine: Certified Rehabilitation would be a lot better investment then bigger and bigger prisons where more is spent on warehousing human beings then on the entire public education system of this state.
But all the same – it is the legislature that did not drop the ball on preventing DSS from pulling the plug to save money when a high risk, medically fragile child is in their custody…in the dark and out of the public view.