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Recognizing National Foster Care Month


Division of Children T he and Family Services will try to recruit more foster families among health-care professionals, educators and businesses.

Officials of the division were joined by the governor at an announcement to mark the first day of National Foster Care Month. The division director said that its focus would be to find homes for older children and homes that can take in large groups of siblings.

Every Child Arkansas is a network of state and local agencies, advocates and faithbased organizations whose goal is to recruit, train and support foster families.

At the time of the announcement, there were 3,634 Arkansas children in the foster care system and 1,388 foster families caring for children.

In an executive order last yea.r the governor streamlined the process of placing children with relatives, either as foster parents or as adoptive parents.

Other reforms are meant to improve training and support for foster parents. Also, providing mental health and substance abuse to families can lower the number of children needing foster care.

The executive order directs “trauma-informed training” to be incorporated in the overall training of child welfare workers, law enforcement officers and teachers.

The order noted that almost 200 children “aged out” of foster care in a year, meaning they turned 18 and chose not be under the division’s jurisdiction. They may choose to remain in extended foster care until they turn 21. The executive order directs the division’s staff to improve methods to help those young people avoid homelessness, trafficking and incarceration.

The division was to survey similar strategies in neighboring states, and nationwide, to gauge the effectiveness of our efforts.

Volunteering to become a foster parent can take up to six months, due to the need for background checks, home inspections and paperwork. The state is trying to reduce the length of the process, and the complexity of it, in order to recruit more families and in order to place foster children in a safe environment as soon as possible.

The division has authority to hire more than 1,400 employees. During the recent fiscal session, the Legislature appropriated $147 million for salaries and related expenses.

Facilities funding

The Commission for Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation has approved grants totaling $87.7 million for 43 projects in 29 Arkansas school districts.

The Legislature created the facilities funding program in 2006 as a response to the Lake View case, in which the state Supreme Court ruled that state education funding was distributed inequitably.

The projects include new roofs, heating and air conditioning, fire protection, electronic door locks and other safety features and even new buildings in some districts.

The state funding matches local spending, based on a formula that accounts for local wealth. The state matching rate is higher for relatively poor districts, measured in terms of their property tax base.

In districts with industry and a strong economic presence, a mill of property tax generates more revenue than a mill in a district without a lot of businesses.

The wealth index in the funding formula also takes into account the median household income, as indicated by the most recent U.S. Census.

Sen. Reginald Murdock

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