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The www.FedPrimeRate.com Personal Finance Blog and Magazine

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Student Loan Debt Contributing to A Failing Foster Care System

Here in the USA, the lawyers for foster children are overworked, underpaid and are most often overburdened with oppressive student loan debts. This is causing many lawyers to leave the foster care system for jobs that are less stressful and--you guessed it--pay more. Here's a clip from a story I found today:

"But with many of these lawyers burdened with overwhelming student loans, poorly compensated posts and outrageous caseloads, many are being forced out of these roles that foster children so desperately rely on.

According to a report by the Children's Law Center of Los Angeles released today, student loan debt drastically affects the ability to recruit and retain attorneys in this practice. The survey of more than 300 juvenile-dependency attorneys in 43 states found that 62 percent of the lawyers said their student loans would affect their decision to seek other jobs.

While the lawyers are saddled with the bill, foster kids are the ones who ultimately pay the price. With many attorneys leaving the practice, kids are often assigned to various lawyers, just as they are shuffled from one foster home to the next. Each relationship between child and attorney is disrupted, and no real trust or knowledge of the child's wants and needs is formed. If foster care is truly meant to provide a haven for neglected and abused children, each of them must be given consistent and effective legal representation."

If you are like me, you are probably saying to yourself, "Hey, these lawyers are working their butts off to do good work for some disadvantaged kids. Cancel their student loan debts, for goodness sake!"

Well, the good news is Congress is doing something about it:

"Two bills were recently introduced in Congress that include provisions on loan forgiveness programs for attorneys representing foster youth -- 'We Care Act,' S1679 (Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va., and Mike DeWine, R-Ohio), and 'Fostering our Future,' HR3758 (Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena).

Both bills call for training for dependency attorneys and call for loan forgiveness for lawyers to require the best representation for children.

'Almost one-third of practicing dependency attorneys graduated from law school with over $75,000 in outstanding loans and 44 percent of them currently owe over $50,000,' said Schiff. 'High turnover among dependency attorneys has led to a dearth of experienced lawyers who can maintain valuable relationships with their young clients.'"
So, fellow bloggers, do fosters kids around the country a favor: email your Senators and you representatives in Congress and let them know that you adamantly support these bills. As a reminder, here are the names of those bills:

The House: "Fostering our Future" - HR3758
The Senate: "We Care Act" - S1679

Email is free and it only takes a moment of your time to send a message. America: this is your democracy, so use it! A good old fashioned snail-mail letter has more impact, in my opinion, and legitimate emails can often get captured and terminated by spam filters. But do your best: snail-mail, email, fax.

OK, let me make it even easier for you. If you don't know who your representatives are or you are not sure how to contact the people who represent you in the national government, click here to jump to site where you can get all the info you need.


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