Kara Foley is a newly hired policy analyst at Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, a children’s-policy organization working to improve the health, safety, education and economic well-being of Rhode Island’s children. She focuses on policy analysis, research and writing regarding child-related welfare and juvenile justice issues. Her previous experience includes serving as a community program consultant with Adoption Rhode Island, a research health science specialist at the Providence VA Medical Center and an MSW intern at both the Office of the Child Advocate and Adoption Rhode Island. Foley is a 2012 graduate of The Women’s Fund of Rhode Island’s Women’s Policy Institute, where she was involved in crafting model language for temporary caregiver insurance legislation.
PBN: What are some of the greatest challenges facing at-risk children in Rhode Island?
FOLEY: There are two major challenges facing at-risk children in Rhode Island: [child welfare and Juvenile justice]. Every child needs to be safe and have a family. While a residential program may be the appropriate choice for a small number of youth who need time-limited treatment, we can, and should, find safe family placements for all children in the care of DCYF. In particular, there is a particular need for more foster families for teens. Rhode Island KIDS COUNT is pleased to partner with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Family Court, DCYF and community agencies and providers on the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative, which uses data-driven strategies to reduce the number of youth detained at the Rhode Island Training School and to promote prevention and reduce involvement with the juvenile justice system.
PBN: What are child welfare and juvenile justice issues that need to be better-prioritized in Rhode Island?
FOLEY: There are two large justice issues that need to be better-prioritized by the state. Protecting the safety of Rhode Island children is a steadfast priority. We can continue to keep our most vulnerable children safe by ensuring DCYF has adequate funding to hire and retain appropriate staff, to offer a wide variety of high-quality community-based services and to strengthen evidence-based care.
In terms of juvenile justice, we need to prioritize community-based prevention strategies and detention alternatives at the Rhode Island Training School.
PBN: How can the business community better support the mission of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT?
FOLEY: We often work in partnership with business leaders to develop promising approaches that result in better outcomes for children and families. In addition, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT is a nonprofit that welcomes donations from business leaders. We encourage members of the business community to get to know us, and our mission, better. Visit rikidscount.org to learn about issues affecting the safety, health, education, economic well-being and development of Rhode Island’s children.
PBN: What are your goals in this new position?
FOLEY: My primary goal is supporting the mission of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT through evidence-based advocacy for the state’s children. I am passionate about progress and plan to use our data as a catalyst to improve the safety and well-being of children in Rhode Island.
PBN: Do you participate in any philanthropic work in your free time?
FOLEY: Giving back to the community is a true passion of mine. I remember volunteering with my parents at a young age and often attended volunteer events with my father, who has been a Rotarian for many years. I enjoy volunteering and attending fundraising events for a variety of organizations including Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance, Ronald McDonald House and Adoption Rhode Island. I also co-founded a volunteer project titled The Rhode Tour with the goal of volunteering in all 39 municipalities in Rhode Island.