On Netflix- a foster care angle: Chris Rock & Mrs. Chatterjee vs. Norway

After a productive May National Foster Care Month we thought we would share two recent shows on Netflix to appreciate some of the perspectives of the general public on the foster care system. In case you missed them, both are worth a watch. Some summer fun and maybe something to think about.

Chris Rock : “Selective Outrage”

“Selective Outrage” is the Netflix show that Chris Rock had after being famously slapped by Will Smith at last year’s Oscars. Chris mentions “social worker” in this clip and in a way forces us to think of our own biases and prejudices.

Here is a clip:

Mrs. Chatterjee vs. Norway

This is an Indian movie with English subtitles and traces the challenges of Mrs. Chatterjee in Norway with the foster care system in that country. Her children are removed primarily based on misunderstanding her culture.

Here is a clip.

We hope our readers will enjoy these shows!


How many kids in Foster Care in the US- Top ten states

As we celebrate 2023 May National Foster Care month, here is the latest publicly available data. In 2021, an estimated 391,098 children were in foster care in the United States. This number has been steadily declining in recent years, but there is still a significant number of children living without a permanent home. See AFCARS report #29 from November 2022 and the summary screenshot below.

Many factors contribute to the number of children in foster care. These circumstances for removal are neglect (63%), Parent drug abuse (36%), Caretaker inability to cope (14%), Physical abuse (12%), and others. Since more than one reason exists for removing the child, the totals for reasons do not add up to 100 in the AFCARS report.

The following is a list of the 10 states with the highest number of children in foster care in 2021:

  1. California (47,871)
  2. Texas (28,042)
  3. Florida (23,507)
  4. Illinois (21,086)
  5. Ohio (15,449)
  6. Arizona (14,890)
  7. New York (14,657)
  8. Pennsylvania (13,664)
  9. Indiana (13,239)
  10. Missouri (13,194)

The data from the AFCARS State reports shows a wide variation in the number of children in foster care across the states. The ten states with the highest number of children in foster care have a large population, and the ratio of people to foster kids in a state will be covered in a future blog.

Several factors contribute to the variation in the number of children in foster care across the states. Some of these factors could include the state’s child poverty rate, the state’s racial and ethnic demographics, and the level of reporting by the public and mandated reporters that cause an investigation by the State child Welfare authorities.

The state’s child poverty rate is an important factor contributing to the number of children in foster care. Children who live in poverty are more likely to experience abuse and neglect, and they are also more likely to be placed in foster care.

The state’s racial and ethnic demographics can also affect the number of children in foster care. Children from minority groups are more likely to be placed in foster care than white children.

According to JooYeun Chang, ACF Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, over 100,000 kids were waiting for foster parents in 2020:

“With over 117,000 children waiting for placement in a permanent home, the 2020 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System shows that over 5,000 fewer children are in the ’waiting for adoption’ category this year compared to 2019

JooYeun Chang, ACF Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary

If you are considering becoming a foster parent, many resources are available to help you. You can contact your local child welfare agency or find information online. If we work in your State and region, you can attend one of StartFosterCare’s monthly meetings. Many support groups and training programs are also available to help you prepare for the challenges of foster parenting.

What is the racial composition of foster kids compared to population in the US?

As we prepare to celebrate May National Foster Care Month 2023, discussing the racial composition of foster kids in the US is timely.

According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), there were 391,000 children in foster care in the United States as of September 30, 2021. This represents a decrease of 2.2% from the previous year when there were 407,318 children in foster care.

The Racial Composition of Foster Kids in the US

The racial composition of foster kids (Source AFCARS report #29 Page 2) in the United States is as follows, in descending number of kids as of September 2021:

  • White: 168,063 (43%)
  • Black or African American: 86,645 (22%)
  • Hispanic (of any race): 85,215(22%)
  • Two or More Races 30,701 (8%)
  • American Indian or Alaska Native 9,393 (2%)
  • Unknown/Unable to determine: 7,144 (2%)
  • Asian 2,025 (1%)
  • Native Hawaiian: 987 (rounded down to 0%)
RaceUS Foster Kids US Census Data Population by Race Less or More than Population?
White43%75.8%Foster kids are 32.8 % less than the proportion of the white population
Black or African American22%13.6%Foster kids 8.4% more than the proportion of the Black population
Hispanic or Latino22%18.9%Foster kids 3.1% more than the Hispanic population
Two or More Races8%2.9%Foster kids 5.1% more than proportion of two or more race population
American Indian or Alaska Native2%1.3%Foster Kids 0.7 % more than the proportion of the American Indian or Alaska Native Population.
Asian1%6.1%Foster kids are 5.1% less than the proportion of the Asian or Native Hawaiian population
Unknown/Unable to determine2%We could not find the category in Census Data
American Indian or Alaska Native1%1.3%Foster kids 0.3% less than the proportion of American Indian or Alaska Native
Native Hawaiian0%0.3%Foster kids are less /equal to the proportion of the Native Hawaiian population.
Foster Kids by Race compared to the population by race

Foster Kids are more (Overrepresented) than the proportion of some racial groups

The highlighted categories in the table above are racial demographics overrepresented in the foster kid population. This signals that there needs to be a change in how foster care is managed.

Fortunately, the Social Work community and all US States (that we have spoken to) generally agree on solution steps like reducing child poverty, emphasizing kinship care, relating to culture, and diligent foster parent recruiting can help meet the challenge.

About StartFosterCare.org

Today is Giving Tuesday!

Today is Giving Tuesday in the US and the start of the Holiday Giving Season.

If you think about it, the entire community of professionals, i.e., social workers and foster parents, are “giving” people – throughout the year and not just on Giving Tuesday!

We salute the entire Foster Care Community for the great work they do every day. Many in this community are involved with non-profits and fundraising. So here is how to figure out when Giving Tuesday falls every year:

  1. Start with Thanksgiving (US): Thanksgiving in the US is the fourth Thursday in November. This is the anchor date we use o figure out the calendar date for Giving Tuesday later in this post.
  2. Black Friday: Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. Physical retail, including malls, sees a great deal of foot traffic. Everyone starts buying gifts for the holiday season, and there are great discounts on several products, including electronics, toys, and apparel. Traditionally, retailers used to be making a loss till Thanksgiving day – hence their accounting books were in the “Red.” Given the massive boost in sales, their accounting books turned “black,” or they went into profit.
  3. Small Business Saturday: Small Business Saturday was started by American Express in 2010 to encourage shopping with local businesses.
  4. Cyber Monday: Cyber Monday started in 2005 and was intended to promote online shopping in the early days.
  5. Giving Tuesday: Giving Tuesday was created in 2012 as a global generosity movement. It is also positioned just after all the indulgences and spending over the long Thanksgiving weekend. It signals the formal start of the giving season to coincide with the upcoming Holidays, including Christmas and New Year. It is also a great time to fundraise by non-profits as donations till December 31 are eligible for tax deductions for US donors. Since it is essential for non-profits to plan for Giving Tuesday – here are the dates for 2022 and upcoming years based on Thanksgiving Dates.:
    • 2022 Giving Tuesday: November 29.
    • 2023 Giving Tuesday: November 28.
    • 2024 Giving Tuesday: December 3.
    • 2025 Giving Tuesday: December 2.
    • 2026 Giving Tuesday: December 1.
    • 2027 Giving Tuesday: November 30.

About StartFosterCare.org

Therapeutic vs. Traditional foster care

Foster Care is the temporary care of children whose parents cannot care for their biological children. At StartFosterCare our goal is to help find the foster carer or prospective foster parent for foster kids in the US.

What happens to foster kids?

Foster Care has huge challenges, primarily in kids being too difficult to handle and foster parents quitting. As a result, kids get shunted from home to home with tragic pictures on TV showing them carrying their meager belongings in garbage bags.

To improve the situation, State Governments and Agencies keep working hard, and we try to help recruit the right foster parents who will be steady once a child is placed in Foster Care.

Nationally, in the US, there seems to be a consensus that it might be best if efforts are made (a) to reunite the kids with their biological families as soon as viable or (b) to find nearby kinship care if possible, or (c) Find unrelated foster parents that live near the biological parents.

Our efforts are focused primarily on finding unrelated foster parents locally. Check out our upcoming events:

Broadly there are two categories of foster kids. Traditional Foster Care involves caring for children who are “normal” kids not dis-similar to kids from a regular biological household in terms of behavioral issues. Therapeutic (or Treatment) foster kids are kids that need a higher level of care and attention to help resolve the trauma that they have suffered. Naturally, the therapeutic foster parent has a more difficult task. These parents are additionally trained and given additional support by the coordinating social worker representing the state, often through a contracted agency. Here are six things to know about Therapeutic Foster Care.

We all have good days and bad days

As the picture suggests, the same child is showing two moods. And that happens to all of us. It’s just that the therapeutic foster kid shows extended or repeated periods of difficult behavior. This is due to past trauma, and social workers call this behavior “acting up.”

If we pause and think of parents, school teachers, and coaches – they develop the skills to handle periodic “acting up” from the so-called “normal” kids. The important thing to remember is that therapeutic foster kids had past traumatic experiences for which they were removed from their biological home. See the AFCARS report for detailed data. The data does not provide the numbers of kids in therapeutic foster care, but as we have written before -removal from your biological home is traumatic by definition.

A useful way to think about becoming a therapeutic foster parent is to know that you are specially trained for the role. With experience, you became a valuable resource to your local community. And your licensing agency is only a phone call away for any additional support.

We at StartFosterCare consider trained licensed foster parents as professionals in their own right.

Above all, effective foster parents can turn the life of a child around.

About StartFoster Care.

National Foster Care Month: Can neighbors be like kin?

National Foster Care Month; Can neighbors be like kin?

May is National Foster Care Month. And this year the focus is on kinship care and reunion with bio families (biological or birth families) where possible. This post explores the idea that neighbors can be considered as kin for the purposes of “keeping families together.”

Kinship care is traditionally thought of as biological relatives on the kids parents side including grandparents, uncles and aunts. Extensions of the concept of kin in foster care research includes godparents and close family friends. The main reason to favor kinship placement is not to disturb the child’s cultural identity and thus provide stability. We argue that many neighborhoods may provide many of the same benefits as “blood” relatives for the foster child.

Neighbors play different roles in different cultures across the world. In high rise residential buildings neighbors can be pretty insulated from each other, except to just say “hello” on the elevator or lobby. On the other hand communities are pretty well knit in rural or even city low rise apartments. Everyone knows everyone else and folks connect at the community gatherings (eg. playground, community fairs, school or town meetings, neighborhood facebook groups, church etc.) or simply talk to each other at the porch. In many cultures (eg. India) kids refer to adult neighbors as Uncle and Aunt.

Dr. Danny Avula the current Commissioner of Social Services at Virginia illustrates the power of neighborhood in his TED talk from 2014. The talk is “Dependance is not a dirty word.” Disclaimer: This talk is a great way to think about your neighborhood. Foster Child placements are a hyper local decision left best to the discretion of the dealing Social Worker/Foster Care Professional on a case by case basis. We hope that prospective foster parents will be inspired by this video to become foster parents for kids in their neighborhood.

To understand kinship care in more detail, prospective foster parents can see the Anne E. Casey Foundation for some great resources,

A wonderful resource for Social Workers while deciding neighborhood placement is an article by Jill Duerr Berrick of Berkeley : “Neighborhood-based foster care: A critical examination of location-based placement criteria.” Social Service Review 80, no. 4 (2006): 569-583. Read the full paper.

About StartFosterCare.

Why plan a party: May is National Foster Care Month

National Foster Care Month - plan a party between foster parents and biological/birth parents.
Planning a party with foster parents and birth parents help the foster kid

May is National Foster Care Month. And it’s a great idea for Foster Parents to plan a party with Birth (Biological) Parents of the foster child. This can work wonders for foster kids where reunification is a possibility. Reunification is a core goal of the 2022 National Foster Care Month.

Everyone loves planning a party and here are some tips!

This post explains why good working relations between foster parents and biological parents can help the foster child.

Foster Kids feel worse when foster parents don’t get along with birth parents

A Dutch study from 2016 by Anne M. Maaskant, Floor B. van Rooij, Henny MW Bos, and Jo MA Hermanns in  Journal of Social Work Practice  suggests that if the foster child guesses that their birth parents and foster parents don’t get along, they feel worse. The Dutch people (Country : Netherlands also Holland) are considered some of the happiest people in the world. You can be sure if they report negative feelings for the foster kid – you can expect the same in the US.

Dr. John DeGarmo of the Foster Care Institute in Georgia explains this wonderfully:

Dr. John DeGarmo on Birth Parents and Foster Parents
Better foster parent to birth parent contact can improve child behavior

A recent 2022 study in the US by Lenore M. McWey, Ming Cui, and Armeda Stevenson Wojciak in  Journal of Social Work Practice, finds that externalizing behavior (“acting out” i.e. aggression, delinquency, and hyperactivity) reduces when foster youth has more contact with the biological family.

To summarize: during this National Foster Care Month everyone involved in foster care should encourage contact between foster parents and birth parents. Even if reunification is not possible the foster child will be happier and you should see a reduction in externalizing behavior.

About StartFosterCare.org

Who says “I love you ” on Mother’s Day?

Who says “I love you” on Mother’s day in Foster Care

Mother’s Day on the second Sunday in May coincides with the National Foster Care Month. This year it is on Sunday May 14, 2023.

So it’s timely to think of ways how everyone can celebrate Mother’s Day in the Foster Care ecosystem by saying “I love you,” to the foster child. This is the reverse of the biological child saying “I love you” on Mother’s Day. But first some background.

Mother’s day is meant to honor all mother figures in our lives including our own mothers, aunts, god mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers etc. Later visions of Mother’s day included the community leadership role that mother have always played. At StartFosterCare we believe that foster mothers are true heroes because they take the mother’s role beyond their own children.

There is a history Ph.D. Thesis ” Memorializing motherhood: Anna Jarvis and the struggle for control of Mother’s Day” by history professor Katharine Lane Antolini. And the origins of Mother’s Day is fascinating. We quote:

“Mother’s Day celebrated its centennial in May 2008. A century before, on May 10,1908, four hundred members of the Andrews Methodist Church, in Grafton, West Virginia, and a crowd of fifteen thousand people at the Wanamaker Store Auditorium in Philadelphia attended the first official observance of Mother’s Day in the United States. The following year, forty-three additional states joined West Virginia and Pennsylvania in commemorating the day. The speed and extent of the observance’s popularity gratified its founder, Anna Jarvis. It was obvious to her that the country’s sons and daughters craved such a day of maternal tribute as she recounted how “thousands and thousands of persons in all walks of life, with the mother-hunger in their hearts, found Mother’s Day a blessing, a comfort and an uplift.”
She resolved to devote her life to the day’s perpetuation and, after six years of urging, Congress designated Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914. The Mother’s Day Flag Resolution (H.J. Res. 263) empowered the President of the United States to issue a formal proclamation calling on the American people to honor the nation’s mothers by displaying the American flag on all government buildings and private homes on the second Sunday in May.”Source : Page 1, Ph.D. Thesis , Katharine Lane Antolini (2010)

For our readers interested in the historical role of Anna Jarvis, in founding Mother’s Day read Dr. Antolini’s book at Amazon.

Anna Jarvis did not like the way Mother’s Day got commercialized.

It turns out the Americans spend the second highest on Mother’s Day after Christmas.

Mother’s day is not about spending money by the foster kid (who has precious little anyway) but about who says “I love you” . A Foster Kid is already traumatized and needs more support than your biological kid to celebrate Mother’s day. Here are some ideas everyone involved in foster care, particularly foster moms:

Saying “I love you

Foster Care academic research is silent on whether Foster Moms,Biological Mothers or Social workers do say say “I/We love you” to the child. Anecdotally, we understand that many foster parents do so. However, there is a fascinating piece of research by Richard Wilkins, and Elisabeth Gareis,”Emotion expression and the locution “I love you”: A cross-cultural study.”  in International Journal of Intercultural Relations. They conduct research and identify the relational context in which people say “I love you.” The 77 respondents were from a Communication undergraduate college course. We can assume that most of the respondents were from functional families that we consider “normal”.

Naturally romantic love declarations had the highest numbers. Followed by parental numbers where love was expressed. As you can see parents said “I love you” twice the number of times than kids said “I love you”. Similarly grandparents said ” I love you” to grandkids more often than grandkids who said “I love you” to their grandparents. In other words, in “normal” families parents and grandparents say “I love you” far more often than kids say “I love you” back to them. In other words, kids in “normal” family situations seem to be shy of saying “I love you” to their parents and grandparents. For saying “I love you” comes with a fear of “what if the other person does not love me?”

Understand the fear of rejection in saying”I love you”

It is not common for a kid to say “I love you ” from a “normal” family as indicated in the research above. One can only imagine how hard it must be for a foster kid to say “I love you” to their foster mom, biological mom or any other mother figure. For the foster child, the fear of rejection is real.

Take the leadSay “I/We love you“to the foster kid

For all mother figures in the foster care system it is probably important to take the lead and say “we love you”, to the foster child. With this you can encourage the child to reach out to their other mother figures via text, call or card for mother’s day. Try to reduce the fear in the child’s mind of saying “I love you” for Mother’s Day!

Take the initiative for a get together

As we come out of the pandemic plan a get-together. That could be at a restaurant (expensive on Mother’s Day!) , picnic or backyard party. Be sure to invite mother figures in the child’s life. There are two goals for such a gathering. First the foster parents can reduce the hostile feelings that biological parents have towards foster parents. Second, you give reunification a chance- a major goal of the 2023 National Foster Care Month.

Happy Mother’s Day and National Foster Care Month to all!

About StartFosterCare.org

Kinship Foster Care: Why Culture is important

Kin and Culture provide a sense of belonging to the foster child

We are delighted to celebrate the first anniversary of StartFosterCare.org and the May 2022 National Foster Care month. Kinship connections and stronger families is a focus of this year’s foster care month.See the Children’s Bureau and Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

For this post we explain why culture is important to the foster child.

No culture is good or bad, it’s just different. We all tend to believe that our own culture is the best! Once we reflect we realize that cultures are not good or bad- they are just different. For example, different cultures can value work over leisure and be equally happy . A very influential study of multi-national culture was conducted by Geert Hofstede (1980) in the book “Culture’s Consequences“. IBM commissioned the study in the 1970’s. International Business Machines (IBM- also called Big Blue)) was the iconic American company, so revered, that company purchasing managers worldwide swore” You can’t be fired if you bought IBM”. IBM had discovered a strange problem in their multiple global offices: Despite hiring the best people in each country, IBM discovered that each country seemed to interpret the same exact instructions differently. For example, if the office starts at exactly 8.30 am local time, one country would have employees arriving before time while another country would have employees arriving late. Hofstede did his landmark study across IBM offices globally and identified cultural dimensions that differed between countries. These cultural dimensions explained their attitudes, behavior and approach to life and work. Recently, Hofstede has a developed a great website where you can compare country cultures’ on Hoftede’s dimensions. Try Hofstede’s culture comparison tool– and be prepared for surprises! In 2022, despite instant news, social media and our always on smart phones culture persists. Your own culture and community makes you feel warm, cozy and comfortable.

Culture in the foster kids biological family: Going by the logic that that no culture is good or bad, we need to accept that the foster kid’s biological family has its own culture. And it’s neither good or bad. But can be very different from our own. Yes it was severe family dysfunction that that led to removal of the child by the State.It is possible that the child has relatives nearby who have a functioning family and are ready to take the child in. Thus, most US States (we are talking with) , prioritize such kinship foster kid placements. At one level extended families have similar cultures. But think of the drama surrounding extended family gatherings during weddings and holidays. Even for the most “cultured” families! There can be acute differences in behavior, attitude among different family units. Nevertheless a common culture gives some sense of stability and belonging to the foster kid. This in turn makes the child feel more connected to family. The question as to whether feeling more connected to family leads to better outcomes for the foster child is still being researched. Also it’s not clear if the biological family or kinship foster parents fare better than when the foster parent is unrelated to the child. See a meta-analysis in Clinical child and family psychology review (2021) by Allison Hassall, Elmie Janse van Rensburg, Sebastian Trew, David J. Hawes, and Dave S. Pasalich.

To summarize, if you are a kinship foster parent there are certain foster kid outcomes that you might be able to deliver better because of your common culture. Sometimes kin foster parents can try to manage everything internally because its “family” but it can be too much according to some research. In such situations, do not hesitate to reach out for support from your State professional resources. If you are an unrelated foster parent remember that understanding and accepting the culture in the foster child’s family community is critical. Just your nonjudgemental approach can greatly enhance the sense of stability and belonging in the foster child.

About StartFosterCare.org

Why Foster Parent Training ?

The foster parent recruitment process involves compulsory foster parent training. It is after training that a foster parent becomes a licensed foster parent in a US state. This is an important professional credential for us at StartFosterCare.org. As social work/foster care professionals always explain at StartFosterCare meetings, there are different levels of needs of foster kids. These levels include levels of therapeutic foster care. Different levels of Foster Parenting can require different kinds of training.

Based on academic research and our experience, here is why Foster Parent training is so important:

  1. Successful foster parenting/ avoiding placement breakdown: Like any type of professional training the goal of foster parent training is to produce a licensed foster parent. A new Licensed Foster Parent who is successful. “Success” is that once a foster kid is placed in your care, you can provide a stable, loving, supporting home environment for the duration of the placement. Everyone wants to avoid a placement breakdown i.e. the child is moved from one foster home to another. Recall heartbreaking TV images of kids moving from one from one home to another with their meager belongings in garbage bags. See a recent meta analysis David Solomon, Larissa Niec, and Ciera Schoonover (2017).”The impact of foster parent training on parenting skills and child disruptive behavior: A meta-analysis”.Child maltreatment22(1), 3-13.
  2. Higher level of parenting skills: The foster parent training involves learning parenting skills formally. This can be very important as one comment on our Facebook page suggests that if all biological parents received the training, there would be such an improvement in parenting, that there would be no foster care needed in the first place! See an example of research on parenting skills from Oregon: Becci Akin., Yueqi Yan, Thomas McDonald, and Jungrim Moon (2017).”Changes in parenting practices during Parent Management Training Oregon model with parents of children in foster care”. Children and Youth Services Review76, 181-191.
  3. Increased foster parent satisfaction: Once a foster child is successfully parented it leads to foster parent satisfaction. Like any field of work, you know that you have done/are doing a good job and that makes you satisfied. A sense of satisfaction with your own work leads to a longer term commitment to that field of work. See research by Melanie Randle, Leonie Miller, and Sara Dolnicar (2018) that suggests that pre-placement training is key to foster parent satisfaction. “What can agencies do to increase foster carer satisfaction?”. Child & Family Social Work23(2), 212-221.
  4. Ability to handle disruptive behavior: Well trained foster parents are able to handle disruptive child behavior in their stride. Since they know about types of disruptive behavior and a set of playbook approaches to deal with those behaviors a disruptive child is not seen as a big problem. The consequent stress to the foster parent is thus minimal. As already mentioned in 1- see a recent meta analysis David Solomon, Larissa Niec, and Ciera Schoonover (2017).”The impact of foster parent training on parenting skills and child disruptive behavior: A meta-analysis”. Child maltreatment22(1), 3-13.
  5. Helps Retention of Foster Parents: Once a foster parent is trained and licensed that foster parent is very valuable to society. It turns out that that good pre-placement training followed by periodic training is very helpful in retaining foster parents. Reinforcing knowledge after the parent has experience is a powerful mechanism to keep the experienced foster parent motivated. See recent research on foster parent retention by Ryan Hanlon, June Simon, Angelique Day, Lori Vanderwill, JaeRan Kim, and Elise Dallimore (2021).”Systematic review of factors affecting foster parent retention” .Families in Society102(3), 285-299.

Our numerous discussions with Social Workers across the US States reveals that the initial requirements for foster parents is about 80% same across US States. We believe that our registration questions in the StartFosterCare technology platform covers most of these common themes in trying to prequalify a prospective foster parent. And you can be sure that someone who goes through the registration process for a StartFosterCare event is certainly motivated to become a foster parent.

Luckily, there is an effort to produce a common curriculum for training foster parents across the US. Funded by a grant from the Children’s Bureau of the Administration For Children and Families of the US Department of Human Services, the National Training and Development Curriculum (NTDC) website gives you a sense of the structure and content of training that foster parents go through. Do have a look at the foster parent training curriculum.

We urge both Foster Care Professionals/Social Workers and Prospective Foster Parents to take the training very seriously. If you already know what to expect with foster kids and have a clear practical playbook, it’s far more likely that you would succeed !

About StartFosterCare.org.

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