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Report: Maine Heading Foster Children in Right Direction

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Advocates for foster children in Maine say programs like this youth leadership training session show the state is moving in the right direction to help make life in foster care more normal. Credit: Penthea Burns
Advocates for foster children in Maine say programs like this youth leadership training session show the state is moving in the right direction to help make life in foster care more normal. Credit: Penthea Burns
 By Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME, Contact
December 9, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine – States can help foster children to thrive by knocking down a few barriers, according to a new Annie E. Casey Foundation report. And the good news in Maine is, experts say the state is ahead of the curve in implementing many of these steps.

Marty Zanghi, director youth and community engagement at the University of Southern Maine's Muskie School of Public Service, says Maine implemented one of the top findings in the new report several years ago, by greatly reducing the number of foster children who are placed in group homes.

He says the state also puts a priority on connections to family and caring relationships.

"A young person, a teenager growing up in foster care, should be treated just like any other kid," Zanghi explains, "in the sense that they want to be able to have sleepovers and friends, and loving, caring family – and the ability to make decisions about their own life."

States are now implementing the Strengthening Families Act, which passed in 2014. Todd Lloyd, senior policy associate with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says child welfare systems in Maine now have the opportunity to do even more to address barriers to normalcy.

"Because it has been a system oriented toward safety, and protecting children," he explains, "it's very easy to create policies that are overly restrictive out of concerns of safety and also, liability."

Zanghi says Maine has largely come down on the side of reason in terms of restrictions placed on foster children.

"We've also had pretty decent policy around normalcy – in other words, allowing a young person to take Drivers Ed or have a job, or do the things that my kids would do," says Zanghi.

The report also stresses the need for a more rigorous selection and training process for foster parents.

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