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Nevada Week S1 Ep30 Web Extra 1 | Child Welfare

Nevada Week S1 Ep30 Web Extra 1 | Child Welfare


♪♪♪ (Kipp Ortenburger)
We’re continuing
our conversation on Nevada Week around
children’s policy and the
Briefing Book. Patricia, I want
to talk to you a little about
child welfare. What are some of
the gaps you’ve seen in our child welfare
system in general? (Patricia Farley)
I have an interesting
perspective both being from the
legislative and serving in our state
legislature and also being a
licensed foster parent. So previously
as a legislator, you could have
a lot of compassion for this issue. Living it
is a completely different story,
so what I’ve noticed both as a foster parent
and a legislator is that it is an
area of the budget that we
continue to cut. We cut funding,
we cut services, we cut technological
advances. We provide our
child welfare folks with archaic systems,
overloaded caseloads, solutions that don’t
necessarily meet each child’s
needs in the home. Then when we go
to try to fix it, because every
legislature, if you’ve watched,
particularly the last couple years it’s
gone down 20% and we– I say we–
together we get hit 20% or so, around that,
every single legislature; that’s where they
take the money from. So what happens is
you get these agencies that are overwhelmed
and people that are overloaded
with archaic tools and who are afraid
to ask for more money because you just don’t
even bring it up because you know
if you scream too loud, they may take
more from you. What the end result is
we have vulnerable children who have seen
the worst of life, most of the time
before they’re nine, without services,
without intervention, without appropriate
outcomes, and those kids
are going to grow up and become the
next wave of adults who either join
our criminal justice– become prisoners,
correct, or they’re on the
welfare rolls again because we’re not doing
enough to help this group. -Why are we seeing
such a decrease in legislative funding
year to year, Denise? Is there some reason
why we’re seeing this? (Denise Tanata)
I think a lot of it
is just around, you know, who cries
the loudest sometimes or the squeaky wheel. Child welfare
is something that, you know, when kids are
identified as needing to have an intervention,
needing to be engaged, there’s not really
a choice to do that. I mean, the agency
has to do that, and there’s a lot
of federal funding. Most of it is federal
funding that supports child welfare,
so I think there’s a heavy reliance
by our state on those
federal resources. So I think it’s a lack
of state investment that we see in some
of the other states that are doing
a better job. I mean, it will be
interesting to see. There’s new federal
legislation, the Families First Act,
that’s coming down and we’re in the process
of implementing, along with
every other state, which is really going
to put an emphasis on how do we
preserve families, how do we wrap those
supports around the family so we’re
not having to remove those children
from their homes. So definitely a heavy
emphasis there. But I think we’re also
starting to look– Patricia
just mentioned we don’t have the
infrastructure in place. We’re using
a 20-year-old, DOS-based data system, and when you don’t
have good data or a way to capture
those reports, It’s really hard
to identify what the needs are. But I think also too
building up a stronger advocacy
community around what the needs are
in child welfare so, you know,
when we’re competing with some of those
business lobbyists and others that we
have a louder voice and we’re making
an impact. -Yes, let’s talk about
that competition up in Carson City. When you have lobbyists,
what’s the ratio for a lobbyist
that’s advocating for child welfare
versus transportation or energy?
-Well, hello. (laughter) -We have good people,
mostly a lot of state agency folks coming up
and advocating mostly on their
budget issues, but there’s not a lot
of folks out there talking about
child welfare from the perspective of
the family or the child. Most of the people,
to be honest, that are up there
serving, they’re not living
a life either as a foster parent
or as one of those families that are
impacted by the cuts. We really need
to up the advocacy and give Michelle
a couple more– I’m sorry, Denise–
a couple more folks to be meeting
with lobbyists and to be creating
the advocacy and the media attention
that needs to come to this issue because
it’s not sexy. It’s not going
to make anybody money. Normally it’s something
that we kind of hang our heads
in shame about when we see
this report card. These are our children;
these are the people that can’t
protect themselves, and most of the time
we don’t want to look at this
because it’s not good. So for me, my
last session I did try to cry really loud
about some of the really critical things
that were going wrong, in particular one thing
that hopefully Denise gets pushed through
is this audit of the child welfare
system in our state which has
never been done. So we don’t know
particularly where all
the money goes, how successful
the projects are, are we getting
the federal match, and then giving some
of this information back to people who
are making the decisions so we can say okay,
well, that doesn’t work, what we’re doing here
doesn’t work, it doesn’t serve
our end goal, but we don’t
have that data. And to be quite honest, the system is so
antiquated that when I first started
on this journey, a lot of the
providers told me if I was a boys’ home,
every month I would have girls disrupt
out of my home which means girls
left that home. We can’t have girls
in a boys’ home. On average these providers
a couple years ago– now they have done some
stuff to fix this– but on average
it was 50-50 if anybody
particularly knew where that child was
on that day. I’m a licensed
foster parent. I get other children’s
healthcare information that aren’t mine
in my home, you know. But that’s not
the people’s fault who’s working
those jobs every day, that’s the state
not funding the system so these people can
do their jobs every day. So it’s really
like you said. It’s coming back and
making the hard choices about we need money,
and this is one of those areas where
these kids can’t vote, they cannot go up
and lobby on their own. Most of the
foster parents or the parents that get
catapulted into foster parent roles because
there’s a lot of kinship, grandparents,
67-year-olds that are taking
their grandchildren in, they don’t know
I can go to Carson City or Grant Sawyer and
talk to the legislature. They don’t know
how to do this. It’s really one
of those situations where the people
who do know ought to morally
do something. -I want to come back
to the antiquated data. This was peppered
through the Briefing Book as a recommendation
throughout that we need to
have more cohesive data sharing and
also better systems. We typically think
of policy change and legislation
as being bill drafts going through and funding
related to the budget, but this is obviously
a critical issue too. Amelia, I wanted
to ask you, with all the research
that you’re doing, how do you find
our data systems when you’re looking
at early education or child
welfare issues? Is that a real
barrier to you getting down
to the data? (Amelia Harvey)
Well, I can’t speak
too much about the child welfare,
but it’s surprising that we haven’t had
an audit yet. That’s kind of
remarkable. But at CCSD,
it’s also operating on an old data
collection system. The State Department
of Education most recently in
the past year or so updated their
academic school portal where you can view
star ratings. So we’re kind of
turning that corner, but I did find
or I had found when I moved out here
that access to data, usually I’m one
of the only people asking for
specific data, usually it takes
a while to dig it up. I usually give myself
a month or so if I’m asking for a
large request of numbers. That’s
definitely an area where we could see
improvement. I think what makes me
the most uneasy is the fact that
I’m usually one of the few people
that are asking. That kind of signals
there might not be many other people
who are interested in these topics. -I’m wondering
also if there’s a significant barrier
to where people start accessing the system
because it has been so antiquated
for so long. (Tara Phebus)
I think that’s
part of it, but I also think another
issue is kind of the intersection
of data systems that should be
connected that aren’t. So when you look
at populations like those young people
that are involved in the child welfare
system as well as those young people
that are involved in the juvenile
justice system, we know there is
an overlap anecdotally from folks that work
in those fields. We know there’s
an overlap, that there
are similar kids, but those systems
that each one of those agencies
and entities have, they don’t communicate
well with each other. So it ends up being
an arduous process of being able
to match cases so you know how many
kids you actually have that overlap
those two systems without relying
on anecdoteal data from case workers
from each side of that. I think that’s
another issue too in terms of
integrating data. I know there was
significant effort around integrating
the education data system within the child
welfare system so folks that are
working in child welfare would really have
good information on individual
students’ activity, but what we don’t see
is that in aggregate so we can know
at the population level what are our issues,
you know, what are we looking at
so we can identify and pinpoint those
places where we really want to focus
on intervention. -I think honestly
it goes beyond just the data
systems themselves but also
the collaboration between the agencies,
and there are so many. I mean, Tara brought up
the education and the child
welfare system. Well, this is an
ongoing issue, right, between data sharing
between agencies that are all working
with these same kids because there’s so many
federal requirements and state requirements,
just recognizing too that the policy
at one agency conflicts with policy
at another agency regarding what data
can be shared and how that
can be shared. So I think really
working on those interagency
collaborations, avoiding some of those
potential conflicts and recognizing that
while you’re having this discussion about
policy and privacy and who’s in charge and who’s in
control of what, our kids are
getting further and further behind. So I think
it’s going back to that lobbying question,
that advocacy question. That’s really our role,
to keep on reminding our policymakers,
our agency leaders, of every decision
that you make is impacting
the life of a child and our kids don’t
have 10 years to wait for you to
make these decisions or for you to make these
investments because then we’ve lost an entire
generation of kids. -What I think is
important there too is when we’re talking
about lobbyists, their role is not only
at the state level and impacting legislation,
it’s also advocating for policy changes
at the community level, the agency level too. -Yes. I mean,
I would honestly say that I spend probably
less than 10% of my time actually engaging
in lobbying activities. The majority of
the work that we do is really
around advocacy. It’s identifying
those issues, being involved
with the community, doing things. You know, a lot of the
improvements we make, it’s not because
we changed a law. It’s because
we were working within these agencies,
building collaborations between the nonprofits
and the public agencies to just change practice, change how they’re
working together. I think we need to do
more to Patricia’s point of having more
advocates engaged. We don’t have the
lobbying dollars of the big for-profit
corporations, so the ratios
are alarming. I mean, I can probably
count on my fingers the number
of individuals who are up in Carson
City during session that are really focused
on some of these issues while you could have
hundreds or thousands literally of those
who are there to represent
the interests of our business
community. ♪♪♪

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