ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Expert stakeholders in child welfare came up with 11 recommendations to improve the foster care system in Arkansas.

This comes after Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed an executive order in February for them to come up with a strategic plan. 

The stakeholders were divided into three groups – prevention and mental health, foster care, safety and permanency and resource home retention and recruitment.

Abby Rundell, program director at Fostering Change, was part of the prevention and mental health group. 

She says mental health and foster care go hand-in-hand.

“I don’t know how a child can be placed in foster care and there not be some type of trauma involved in that. And so when we have trauma, we need to be able to have those mental health support services in place and to work through that trauma,” Rundell said. 

Tiffany Wright, director of the division of children and family services at Arkansas Department of Human Services, says they already have some resources available to support foster families and children, but they learned that it wasn’t enough.

“We needed to do more to wraparound foster families and make sure they had that support and really have a combined collaborative effort for that work to happen in how they are supported and in the child welfare space,” Wright said. 

One of the recommendations includes community-specific training for everyone involved in the child welfare system. 

Wright says the amount of training may be changed for foster parents. 

“That is actually one of the recommendations is to evaluate that training and determine if it’s an appropriate training And actually we are assessing the amount of hours as well,” Wright said. 

The kind of training DCFS staff, social workers, child welfare workers, and frontline workers receive may also be changed. 

“Trauma training. There may be training around human trafficking, whatever it might be, whatever hot topics are going on, there could be some additional training around that as well,” Wright said.

Another recommendation is strengthening the DCFS workforce. 

“I think by strengthening the DCFS workforce, that would help overall the state with children in foster care. That’s going to provide more support to the foster families. It’s going to provide more support to the placement providers, it’s going to provide more support to the biological family. It’s going to provide more support to them, even the children themselves,” Rundell said. 

There are about 3,900 children in foster care in the state.

Rundell says she sees a lot of the children who left, come back into the system because of a failed adoption.

She says wraparound services like family therapy and therapeutic foster parent training may help eliminate this. 

There are also not enough foster homes in the area according to Rundell.

She says if the experts can provide support and wraparound services, it may convince people to become and stay foster parents.