A network of Baptist children’s homes in North Carolina is receiving credit for derailing sweeping reform of the child welfare system stripped from a larger bill that funds medical research, speeds up the approval process for drugs and devices at the Food and Drug Administration, and funds states to fight the opioid epidemic.
The Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina launched a social media campaign claiming passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act of 2016 would undercut residential care for boys and girls provided at six Baptist Children’s Homes facilities across the state.
Baptist Children Homes President Michael Blackwell told the Biblical Recorder the bill “would have a devastating impact on Baptist Children’s Homes of North Carolina as well as other such homes in our state and across the nation.”
“Any legislation seeking to inhibit children from accessing the exceptional care Baptist Children’s Homes and other residential organizations provide is extremely troubling,” Blackwell said in a recent action alert.
The bill, which previously passed the House of Representatives by voice vote in June, would have redirected child welfare funding away from institutions that warehouse children in long-term congregate care toward providing better support for at-risk families in order to help prevent children from entering foster care.
“In America, we have long recognized bringing children from foreign-country orphanages into our own homes as a noble effort,” said Celeste Bodner, executive director of FosterClub, a national network for young people in foster care. “We know the harmful effects of orphanages and all children deserve to grow up in families. America’s children deserve the same love and support.”
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) mentioned pleas of the group homes in comments at last week’s House Rules Committee meeting opposing a provision of Family First limiting federal funds for such settings in most cases to two weeks.
“I am well aware of the work these facilities do,” she said. “I did a lot of volunteer work with one of them. I know how hard they work to get foster homes established.”
Baptist Children’s Homes operates 21 facilities across North Carolina that serve more than 21,000 at-risk youth, single mothers, special needs adults and aging adults. The agency is funded by church gifts, donations and earnings and fees for services including government contracts.
Placements by the Department of Social Services comprise 88 percent of Baptist Children’s Homes’ current population. DSS referrals for BCH’s residential services increased by 48 percent between 2013 and 2015.
BCH chief operating officer Keith Henry said in an article in the April issue Charity & Children, the agency’s long-running news publication first published in 1887, said DSS personnel need every option available to them in determining a child’s best interest.
“There are situations where a foster family is the right solution, and there are times when it’s not,” Henry said. “We have seen many situations where a child has been forced to move from home to home because the foster family was not equipped to meet the extreme need of that child.”