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Granny's Manifesto

June 4, 2004 |
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They fight over how to fix it and how to fund it, but Republicans and Democrats agree on one thing in this contentious election year: America's troubled foster care system is in dire need of repair. From New Jersey to Texas to California, states are unveiling unprecedented plans to stop the steady stream of child tragedies, including nationally publicized cases of starvation and murder. To expedite the reform process, the Pew Commission on Foster Care recently released its promising recommendations, issued by a panel of child welfare experts, to improve both federal foster care financing mechanisms and court oversight of child welfare cases.

Amid these highly touted initiatives, however, is a lesser-known prevention effort that is quietly and effectively working to keep thousands of children out of the foster care system. Who is behind this impressive movement? Grandparents like Gwen Bartholomew.

Eight years ago, Ms. Bartholomew got the call every mother dreads. Trapped in a violent relationship, her daughter had called the police on an abusive boyfriend. Bartholomew's young grandchildren, who had witnessed the latest attack, had been placed in emergency foster care. "I took the next plane from New Orleans to Los Angeles," remembers Bartholomew. "I looked the judge in the eye and said,

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