“Children need parents to teach them life skills, give them guidance during the turbulent adolescent years, and most importantly give them a stable home life that allows them to thrive and reach their full potential,” stated Commissioner Martinez. “While the City of Philadelphia does the best that it can to provide a sense of security for these children, it cannot provide the intimate bond that a loving parent can. We need more people to come forward and open their hearts and homes to these kids.”
Today, City Solicitor Diaz formally announced that all city government employees may serve as foster or adoptive parents in the same capacity as other citizens who apply through foster care agencies.
“This is an interpretation was spurred by a progressive mayor and a forward-thinking commissioner,” said Nelson Diaz. “It is a decision that is long overdue. Now many more children have a chance of finding a safe place that they can call home.”
Previous interpretations of the Charter did not permit government employees to adopt because of potential conflicts of interest, such as government employees acquiring personal gain through the adoption arrangement or the ease of access to confidential case files. The new interpretation comes with it policies and protocols which address such concerns.
Foster or potential adoptive parents are eligible to receive reimbursement to cover the costs of care for a child, also known as a non-entitlement benefit. Reimbursement is provided by DHS from a combination of federal, state and local funds. It covers the “allowable costs” of providing the foster child with food, clothing, shelter, child care, personal incidentals, reasonable travel costs for the child to visit his or her family, and school supplies.
Additionally, under the new DHS protocol, the city recognizes the professional relationships that exist between many of the Department’s employees and its provider agencies and access these entities have to confidential case information. Therefore, DHS employees may only serve as kinship givers for children committed to DHS. DHS employees may, however, also serve as foster parents for children committed to other counties who are in the care of an agency that contracts with DHS.
“DHS social workers and its provider agency have done an excellent job in finding homes for so many of the children in waiting. However, we are not naïve enough to think that because we are making headway we can rest on our past successes,” explained Martinez. “On the contrary, we are energized by our new found abilities to tap into the municipal employee population. This monumental decision is cause to celebrate.”
As part of the celebration of the opinion, and in honor of National Adoption Month, a ceremonial cake-cutting took place to commemorate the city’s hundreds of adoptive families and to stress the need to continue the push to find permanent, loving homes for all Philadelphia’s children.
The Philadelphia Department of Human Services is the City agency charged with protecting children from abuse, neglect, and delinquency; ensuring their safety and permanency in nurturing home environments; and strengthening and preserving families by enhancing community-based prevention services. In partnership with community organizations, DHS provides services to strengthen the overall well being of Philadelphia children, youth, and families using a customer focused approach that is responsive to evolving community needs.