Saturday, June 23, 2007

California Blue Ribbon Commission on Foster Care
San Diego Union Tribune, June 20, 2007

RIVERSIDE – A state commission appointed to identify ways the courts and child welfare agencies can improve service to California's estimated 80,000 foster care children will meet Wednesday for the first in a series of two-day meetings.

The California Blue Ribbon Commission on Foster Care is holding its sixth quarterly meeting in Riverside, with plans to confer with local judges, talk with members of the county's Department of Public Social Services and tour a women's prison, according to officials.

An opening night dinner is scheduled Wednesday night around 6:30 at the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa. The scheduled guest speaker is Riverside Superior Court Judge Becky Dugan.
The commission, appointed in March 2006 by state Chief Justice Ronald M. George, is halfway through its work and currently in a phase focusing on how to keep foster care youth from becoming long-term wards of the state, or slipping into a life of crime, according to Joni Pitcl, a commission spokeswoman.

She said one in five foster youth end up behind bars.

The commission will look at whether expediting the process of reuniting youngsters in the foster care system with mothers who have spent time in prison might prevent the unraveling of family bonds, Pitcl said.

“When appropriate, reunifying mothers with their children is best for the children and avoids their remaining in long-term foster care at significant cost to the state,” Pitcl said.

There is a planned visit Thursday to the California Institution for Women in Corona, where commissioners will see how the institution handles visitation between incarcerated mothers and their kids, according to Pitcl.

Tonight the 42-member commission will hear from Riverside County Department of Social Services officials who will explain how the county coordinates with local Native American tribes in making sure some 1,000 Indian children in foster care don't get caught in jurisdictional disputes.

“The county has really developed some innovative techniques the commission wants to learn more about,” Pitcl said.

In a statement released this week, State Supreme Court Justice Carlos R. Moreno, who chairs the commission, called the county's approach “pioneering.”


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