Children's Rights Creates Policy Departent; Madelyn Freundlich Named First Director...

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Children's Rights, a national advocacy organization working to promote and protect the rights of abused and neglected children in government custody, has created a Policy Department to enhance its efforts to reform child welfare systems in America. Madelyn DeWoody Freundlich, an experienced and respected child welfare policy analyst, has been named Director of Policy. As head of the new department, Ms. Freundlich will use the knowledge base developed through Children's Rights' intensive interaction with child welfare systems to analyze policy issues and develop child welfare policy alternatives that can produce better services for children.

"Madelyn Freundlich knows child welfare inside out and I am thrilled that she will head our new Policy Department," stated Marcia Robinson Lowry, Executive Director of Children's Rights. "The leverage of court oversight we possess through our class action lawsuits gives us access to information and can help us persuade child welfare administrators to move toward better practices. With a policy department, we now have a greater capacity to analyze and reflect on this information and to propose concrete solutions for public officials to implement that will make a difference for children in government custody."

Through its use of litigation, or the threat of litigation, to force reform upon often reluctant bureaucracies, Children's Rights currently has six systems under active court oversight. The organization's access to in-depth information about child welfare systems is unique among national children's advocates and can be used to make a significant contribution to the planning and management of child welfare systems, and to changes in policies that affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of children.

"What is exciting to me is the opportunity to mine the rich data that Children's Rights possesses and use it to forge problem-solving strategies," stated Ms. Freundlich. "We will be able to evaluate the impact of policies and the need for policy reform in certain areas that apply at the local and national level. Having worked as a social worker, a supervisor, an attorney and a child welfare analyst, I understand the realities of these systems and how policy can best be applied to improve front line practice."

The first policy project under Ms. Freundlich's direction is a review of the implementation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) in several states where Children's Rights has active litigation. ASFA is a federal law passed in 1997 designed to ensure child safety and see that children in foster care who will not be returned home to their parents will be adopted. Some advocates question whether these benefits may over-correct for existing problems and create new problems for children in the process. There are concerns, for example, that the number of children waiting for long periods of time in foster care to be adopted will grow because a sufficient number of adoptive families has not been recruited for these children. Children's Rights' goal is to use data on policy and practice before and after passage of ASFA to evaluate and analyze its impact.

Children's Rights policy department will also look at privatization of child welfare services. Many child welfare systems are turning to privatization as a solution to problems they face with service delivery. This approach to designing and delivering services can be implemented in various ways, with different outcomes. An assessment is needed, for example, of the outcomes of privatization efforts involving for-profit entities as opposed to the more traditional approach of contracting with not-for-profit agencies to provide child welfare services. Children's Rights' analysis across systems will help raise major policy issues and suggest the implications of pursuing different approaches.

Ms. Freundlich joins Children's Rights from the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York where she was Executive Director. She was previously General Counsel and Director of Child Welfare Services at the Child Welfare League of America in Washington, D.C. Ms. Freundlich has consulted with numerous state agencies and private, non-profit providers on social services program development and funding in states including Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Texas, North Carolina and California. She has trained social services providers and lawyers on a wide range of child welfare policy, practice and legal issues. Ms. Freundlich also developed training material for federal programs related to substance abuse in families and child sexual abuse.

As a writer, Ms. Freundlich has authored dozens of articles and monographs and contributed to numerous books on child welfare practice. She is a peer reviewer for the journal Child Welfare, an editorial board member of Adoption Quarterly, and a member of the Committee on Children and Families, Columbia University, Graduate School of Social Work.

Ms. Freundlich's work experience in social services includes serving as a supervisor of a sexual abuse unit in Harris County Child Protective Services in Houston, Texas and as Supervisor of Family Services in Leesville, Louisiana. She was also director of social services at a Louisiana hospital and a clinical social worker in a mental health center in that state. Ms. Freundlich's academic credentials include Georgetown University Law Center (LL.M.), University of Houston Law Center (J.D.), the University of North Carolina (Master of Science in Public Health), Louisiana State University (Master of Social Work), and University of Southwestern Louisiana (BA).

Children's Rights works throughout the United States in partnership with national and local experts, advocates and government officials to document the needs of children in the care of child welfare systems. Children's Rights helps develop realistic solutions and, where necessary, uses the power of litigation to ensure that reform takes place.
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