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As for “overwhelmed parents” who may have children with challenging behavioral problems or medical problems, Ms. Sokoya said, here is where governmental agencies could do more to help curtail and prevent problems before separation becomes necessary. Parents should not have to sign forms admitting they are neglectful in order to secure help, as they do now, she added.

In the past five years, the trend has been to attempt to keep children and their parents together or place them with relatives first. Ms. Sokoya said the District now conducts “family group conferences” to mediate things such as guardianship and child care within the existing, often extended, family structure.

As the Casey Foundation also suggests, lawmakers can do more to provide financial assistance to family members, such as grandmothers who end up raising their children’s children rather than see them separated and sent off to strangers. In that way, the children may be able to stay in familiar surroundings.

We’ve all come such a long way from the “Hot Ghetto Mess.” But reports such as Kids Count remind us how much further we have to go “to do better.”