The Foster Child Bill of Rights, published by the National Foster Parent Association, is well known to most in the child welfare field. Ratified in 1973, it lists ten inherent rights of each child or youth in the foster care system. The Bill of Rights opens by directly identifying that these children depend on you and me.
“Even more than for other children, society has a responsibility, along with parents, for the well-being of children in foster care. Citizens are responsible for acting to insure their welfare.”
The first right listed is the right “to be cherished by a family of his own”. The second is the right of each child “to be nurtured by foster parents who have been selected to meet his individual needs” and who receive appropriate supports to aid them.
A child has the right to be placed with foster parents who have been intentionally chosen based on their fit for the child.
Not the foster family who always answers the phone…
Not the foster family who always says yes…
Not the family who just had a bed open up…
Many foster children throughout the country are still lacking these basic rights. Social workers do their best for foster children and try to place them with the right families, but they often do not have the tools to determine which foster parents are best suited for a particular child. With high caseloads and the urgency of finding placements quickly, workers cannot sort through all the information available on each parent to find the perfect fit.
ECAP can help solve this problem and move our nation closer to making sure every child’s rights are fulfilled. Experienced social workers know that finding the right placement for a child involves intuition and compassion; it also involves the mechanical process of sorting through a large amount of information. ECAP searches through foster families and ranks them based on their fit for each particular child. Placement workers are then able to view the list and choose a family specifically matched with the child. ECAP doesn’t make the decision; humans still have the best skill-set for that. ECAP simply provides the needed information in a way that workers can easily digest to make optimal decisions.
Research by the University of Kansas has shown that using ECAP improves placement stability by 18%. This means that, when we focus on finding the best fit between families and children, the children are subjected to fewer traumatic moves.
There is more good news! As we work to ensure that every foster child receives this second right—the right to be placed with a family specifically chosen for him or her—we will also improve the foster care system’s ability to meet the first right—the right “to be cherished by a family of his own”. The research shows that ECAP decreases time to permanency by 12%. Children in stable placements are reunified with their families more quickly, and—when that is not an option—they are adopted more quickly as well.
ECAP stands for Every Child A Priority. It’s not just our name…we truly believe that every child is a priority and that every child deserves these basic rights and so much more.