Executive Order Should Help Families

On June 24, President Trump issued an executive order on the use of federal funds related to the child welfare system. ParentalRights.org federal relations liaison Maggie McKneely gives us her take on the order in this week’s newsletter.

While the directive is something of a mixed bag, we are especially excited about the attention it gives to methods and resources designed to keep innocent families together. Perhaps most useful is its focus on “high-quality legal representation,” because good legal counsel has been shown to keep more families together and to reunify families more quickly if they are divided.

It turns out, giving parents a lawyer who will actually listen to them and help them (instead of overworked court-appointed counsel whom the parents meet three minutes before their hearing) actually goes a long way in protecting families. 

Here’s Maggie’s summary of the order:

In the year 2020, it’s important to celebrate any good news we get. And for a refreshing change of pace, we have good news to report out of Washington DC.

Many of the issues in the broken child welfare system are directly tied to the federal government. Bills such as The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) have enabled states to deprive parents of proper due process, overburdened the system with faulty anonymous reporting, and ensnared parents in seemingly endless, intrusive investigations. So when the feds take it upon themselves to reverse course a bit and fix some of these issues, it’s important to give credit where credit is due.

Late last month, the president issued an executive order that seeks to protect children by improving the child welfare system. While Executive Order No.13930 is broad and leaves most of the details to be determined and implemented by the federal Department of Health and Human Services, there are still some encouraging details that proponents of change can praise.

Much of the executive order is dedicated to improved data collection, so that the federal and state governments can better allocate funds where the money is most needed. This data will also be used to develop community-based prevention and family-support services, all aimed at keeping children with their families.

The most significant portion of the order is Section 5. This section includes a number of items designed to prevent the unnecessary removal of children from their homes or, in such cases when it is deemed necessary, to ensure that those children who are removed will be placed in permanent, stable households as soon as possible.

The order also directs HHS to provide guidance to states on using funds to provide families and children with high-quality legal representation “to prevent the removal of children from their families, safely reunify children and parents, finalize permanency, and ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are protected.”

Because the executive order is general in nature, it will be some time before we see any immediate impact from it. But it’s refreshing to see government officials acknowledge the flaws of the current system and take steps to address them.

At ParentalRights.org, we know that protecting families isn’t a partisan issue. Regardless of party, race, or religious ideology, every parent should have the right to act in the best interest of their kids. So we applaud the actions taken by the current administration in this arena and continue to encourage lawmakers from both parties to protect children and preserve parental rights.

            Maggie McKneely,

            Federal Relations Liaison

We will monitor the results of this executive order as it is carried out, and we will continue to stand, as always, for your parental rights.