First Lady Melania Trump announced Thursday that her Be Best initiative is making one of the most broken system in the United States a top priority — The foster care system.
“As part of my Be Best campaign, I have made foster care a top priority,” Melania wrote in an op-ed published in the White House website. “The Trump administration is committed to ensuring that children benefit from the care and support of loving, permanent families, preferably in their own homes whenever possible. We are doing all we can to establish commonsense solutions that best serve our children in the welfare system.”
#FosterCare is of great importance to me as part of my #BeBest campaign. The Administration’s recent Executive Order addresses many of the obstacles children in the foster system face in finding a forever family, but there is still more work to be done. https://t.co/xXcgVUUyRv— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) July 31, 2020
With the coronavirus pandemic causing disruption in every aspect of Americans’ lives, the First Lady has focused on the social, physical, and mental health of young children, one of her key pillars of her Be Best initiative. However, children in the foster care system have been hit the hardest. Foster care system across the nation has been struggling with an array of problems caused by the pandemic, including the closing of family courts causing delays in a child’s exit from foster care to return home, a disruption in visitations for children placed in the system and a steady decrease of recruiting new prospective foster parents over fears of virus transmission.
Last month, President Trump signed an Executive Order that aims on strengthening the child welfare system nationwide. Titled ‘Strengthening the Child Welfare System for America’s Children,’ it outlines three areas of reform — improving partnerships, resources, and oversight. The Executive Order is pertinent to the mission and values of the First Lady’s Be Best initiative.
Following the executive order, Melania held a virtual roundtable with a group of foster care and adoption organization, youth who were once part of the foster care system, foster care families, governors and their spouses to help make the child welfare system better for foster children. This week, she held another virtual roundtable with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) Foster Youth Intern Group to discuss issues they found plaguing the foster care system and the group’s policy recommendations on solutions to address these issues.
Currently, there are 400,000 children and youth in the foster care system, nearly 124,000 of them are waiting for a permanent placement, but haven’t found a “forever family.” Melania stressed the importance of being the voice and establishing commonsense solutions for children in the foster care system “find loving, safe and forever families.”
To address this issue, Melania is working with the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on an important initiative aimed at ensuring the children awaiting placement are placed into forever families. The First Lady is also strengthening partnerships with governors, human services leaders, philanthropic organizations, and faith-based organizations to help improve the foster care system amid the pandemic.
In talking with state governors and local leaders, Melania is calling on them to implement these reforms as a step towards creating a long-term solution. Such initiatives include extending the foster care age from 18 to 21, work with the courts to expedite quality hearings, develop additional resources for older foster youth and adoptive parents, and identify laws or barriers that stand in the way of helping our children.
“It is so important that we use these voices to create policies and deliver resources for children and families,” Melania stated. “This is a team effort to help America’s children. We are taking bold actions, and we will stop at nothing to help our children find safe and loving families that they can call their own forever.”
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