- Offer opportunities to come together and provide mutual support to each other.
- Educate the general public about the contributions that foster, kinship, adoptive, and guardianship caregivers can make in the lives of children and about issues affecting the quality of care.
- Advocate for appropriate public policies and needed resources.
- Communicate regularly with the membership about issues of interest to them.
- Provide professional development opportunities and other benefits and services requested by the membership.
- Work in partnership with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and MSPCC’s Kid’s Net Program to improve the system of care for the children in DCF custody.
The Board meets regularly to identify issues that concern foster, kinship, adoptive, and guardianship (FKAG) families and determine advocacy goals with regards to the legislature, DCF, or other systems that impact children in out of home placements. MAFF also hosts an annual conference for FKAG caregivers and DCF staff.
Membership in MAFF is free and open to all foster, kinship, adoptive, and guardianship parents as well as anyone interested in improving the foster care system.
Current Advocacy Efforts
Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights
This session, MAFF’s main legislative priority is passing H.212/S.87 An Act Establishing a Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights.
This bill includes several key rights important to foster families, including:
- access to training & resources
- the right to appropriate communication between DCF, courts, and others involved with caring for the child
- the right to be free from all forms of discrimination in carrying out their duties as foster parents
- the ability to exercise rights without fear of repercussions
- establishing a reasonable & prudent parenting standard (a framework for routine decision making designed to help foster parents provide a relatively normal family environment for children)
The full text of the bill can be found here.
In addition to leading the charge on the Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights, MAFF has also endorsed two bills that will directly impact DCF-involved children and the foster, kinship, adoptive and guardianship families who care for them:
S.91 An Act Relative to Screening for Childhood Screening
Trauma screenings can be a useful tool for providers to use in early identification of behavioral health concerns. However, it is equally important to know when screening is not appropriate. This bill creates a short term committee charged with creating guidance on when screening should and should not be used. With regard to circumstances where screening may be helpful, the guidance will address the the types of screening tools that should be used, the credentials of the person administering the screen, the setting in which screening is conducted, whether, how and with whom results should be shared and follow up services that should be available post-screening.
Status: Hearing Held 9/1
For more information, click here.
H.228/S.139 An Act to Eliminate Disproportionality and Inequities for At-Risk Children
This bill requires the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) to produce an annual report on disproportionality and inequity in services provided by child-serving state entities. The demographic categories to be examined shall include, but are not limited to, race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, transgender status, and disability status. The report will also include gaps in the data that was provided to the OCA for the report.
This bill also requires the OCA to produce detailed recommendations for addressing inequities in child serving state entities and requires state entities to produce corrective action plans that address the issues raised in the report.
Status: Hearing Held 7/15
For more information, click here.
MAFF is active in advocating for increased funds from the Massachusetts state budget to support much needed programming and resources for children in out of home placements.
Below is the list of priorities MAFF is advocating towards in the FY23 state budget:
- Closing the gap between the daily rate of support for children in foster care and actual expenses.
- Improving access to behavioral health supports for children in foster care.
- Increasing support of MAFF
- Fully funding the law providing for tuition and fees waivers for foster and adopted children who attend state colleges and universities.
For more details on our priorities, click here.
Your voice is critical to the success of our advocacy initiatives. Please join us in standing up for foster children by signing up to receive alerts on important legislation and budget priorities.
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Foster Home Safety and Support Workgroup
MAFF board members have been working closely with DCF leadership for several months as part of a workgroup intended to better understand the impact of 51As on Foster Parents. The goal of this workgroup is to:
- understand the frequency, nature, and disposition of complaints and 51As filed against foster parents;
- understand the procedures, timelines, and rights of foster parents during and after the investigative process; and
- explore opportunities to enhance policy, training, communication and supports afforded to DCF staff and foster and kinship parents at the time of a complaint and during any subsequent investigation.
This workgroup drafted a report with a number of recommendations to inform policy and practice changes within the Department of Children and Families. This report will be made public shortly. MAFF representatives, in collaboration with leaders at the Department, formed a workgroup to discuss strategies for implementation of the recommendations at the state level.
MAFF’s Response to COVID-19
In this period of unprecedented uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, MAFF has been more active than ever to ensure that FKAG voices are being heard and that the needs of children in out of home placement remain a priority. In order to gain a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 and the resulting needs of FKAG families, we conducted a survey. Thanks to all of you who participated in it. Several key themes emerged in the survey responses, including the need for additional financial resources, increased access to behavioral health supports, and access to testing and personal protective equipment for high risk FKAG families or for new placements.
The feedback from this survey resulted in Governor Baker announcing a $100 per month per child in foster and kinship care for the months of April, May, and June 2020. Commissioner Spears renewed this additional financial support for the months of March, April, May, and June 2021. We are continuing to ensure that your voices are being heard and the needs of your family and the children in your homes are being met, especially in this difficult time.