Little Rock, Arkansas – Disability Rights Arkansas, Inc. (DRA) congratulates Peter Butler on the publication of his report on the status of the Families in Need of Services (FINS) in Arkansas. Peter Butler of Hendrix College carried out this project under the direction of Dr. Jay Barth, with support of the Bill and Connie Bowen Odyssey Professorship, in collaboration with Disability Rights Arkansas.
Unfulfilled Promises: The Reality of FINS in Arkansas offers policymakers, advocates, courts, and stakeholders the tools needed to provide meaningful changes to a system that is in need of substantial reform. The report provides a comprehensive, systemic analysis of the benefits and faults of FINS, and supports the problems DRA has encountered in our individual-level experience of working with parents and students involved in FINS proceedings. FINS have a disproportionate impact upon rural Arkansans, poor Arkansans, and Arkansans with disabilities, and reforms are crucial to maximizing the benefits and reducing the risks of this impact.
“DRA echoes the concerns and praise expressed in Unfulfilled Promises. The report wisely recommends reforms that will return FINS to its original purpose: coordinating and providing services to assist parents,” says Tom Masseau, executive director of DRA. “Far too often, the government and its courts are going beyond this assistive role and instead are acting as parents.”
More and better data collection is urgently needed, without which children are at risk of ineffective and counterproductive court-involvement. Policies are needed that will compel schools to adhere to special education requirements before resorting to filing a legal action against a student. Adequate legal representation must be provided to all parties. Courts should end the punitive practice of locking up children who have not been adjudicated responsible for any crime. Perhaps most importantly, reform efforts need to produce an increase in the amount and quality of home and community-based services available to youth in the FINS system.
Disability Rights Arkansas is hopeful this report will initiate an informed discussion among policymakers and stakeholders that will lead to reforms that benefit all Arkansans and especially children with disabilities. DRA is looking forward to continuing to be part of that discussion.
“Working with Mr. Butler, Hendrix College, and the Arkansas Policy Program provided an opportunity for DRA to delve into a topic that has a frequent and profound impact on the lives of individuals with disabilities in Arkansas. DRA is profoundly appreciative of the cooperation, information, and hard-work that multiple judges, advocates, and stakeholders provided in the development of this report and for their dedication to their communities and Arkansas youth,” says Mr. Masseau.
A copy of the report can be found at https://disabilityrightsar.org.php72-4.lan3-1.websitetestlink.com or https://www.hendrix.edu/uploadedFiles/Events_and_News/News_Releases/Unfulfilled_Promises.pdf