THE FAILING CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM:
FOSTER and ADOPTIVE FAMILIES AT RISK
A note to readers from Deborah Beasley in New Jersey:
There are very serious systemic wide problems which exist within the foster care system in the United States. It is no secret that the system set in place for the sole purpose to protect its young and most vulnerable charges from all harm is too often the same system which fails so terribly in its ability to fulfill this promise.
The failure of the functioning of state foster and adoptive care systems grossly impacts families who have elected to adopt their children from the state in which they live, or across state lines. Foster-Adoptive parents do experience a deficit along the continuum of care when their children suffer from mental, emotional and behavioral health issues.
Families affected begin to break down quickly as the increase of stress and secondary trauma consumes the caregiver’s lives.
Trying to raise a child with severe behaviors often rips families apart. The intense life struggles a family experiences due to their child’s pre-adoptive trauma ignites equal fears in each family member. The child is deep in his personal battle for self-survival, and fight’s for his life. The same is true for parents and siblings. In-home care is often experienced, but general. It does not adequately address the child’s or parents concerns.
These issues are quite serious, and most families are never prepared, trained, or supported adequately to handle the shocking and severe behaviors displayed by even their very young children. Against many odds and challenges, parents struggle to keep their families together and their mental and physical health intact. Sometimes they lose both.
You may feel that Toni’s words are too strong. She writes from her personal experience. She also writes from a deep understanding of the injustice suffered by both the children and families involved in the system.
Admittedly some attention has been brought to local systems because of public awareness groups and lawsuits calling for reform. There is still a long way to go. It amazes me that a typical parent or caregiver will be so tuned in to a child’s psychological and emotional welfare, but the child welfare system falls far short in this regard.
It is true that the law and the actions of the system perpetrates even more trauma on the children they serve. Someone has to take notice. These cases are not isolated. There is so much to be done. Laws must change. Policy must change. Minds must change. Great care and emphasis must focus beyond the physical welfare of the child, and onto the emotional and psychological welfare of the child and the adoptive family.
I thank Toni personally for her strong voice, to which I join my own in the fight to bring greater awareness to the serious issues which plague both agencies and families alike.
ASFA: SECOND TIME FOSTER CHILD
Adoptive children cycling back into the system due to unmet clinical needs
Written by Toni Hoy, Illinois adoptive mother and freelance writer © 2010
Reprinted here with permission of the author.
Lately, I have been recalling days gone by as a foster parent. I so clearly remember the importance and urgency that the system placed on PERMANENCY. Caseworkers talked incessantly about the permanency goal. They did not want the children languishing in foster care. They deserved a home and a family. Children required stability. They deserved a nurturing, loving, and happy childhood. DCFS caseworkers wanted them to have what every other child takes for granted. Normalcy.
Birthparents struggling with substance abuse or domestic violence issues were told, ‘You have one year to get your act together or you will lose your children forever.’ They received little or no sympathy in and out of the courtroom. Often, they did not receive enough help to correct the conditions that took their children away from them. The very system that professed to be helping them, impeded attempts at progress.
While the system professes to advocate for the child’s best interests it so quickly dismisses the permanency of the first time foster child, when his clinical need becomes financially impossible for the adoptive family to successfully meet. In lieu of offering the adoptive family intensive and/or residential mental health services, under the auspices of adoption preservation, the system favors making the child a second time foster child. Suddenly, as an adoptive child, greed for federal funding outweighs the long forgotten permanency goal that was so highly esteemed during his foster care years.
Perhaps what stands out to me most of all, is the blatant indifference of the child welfare and juvenile justice system workers. Many of them are the very same people who so adamantly pulled the child out of the system during the first tour. They cast nary a glance at plucking them back into a caseload in order to access outrageously expensive mental health services. They turn a blind eye to the notion that the child is now, once again, experiencing grief, loss, and abandonment. They have meetings to facilitate, deadlines to meet, and blanks to fill in. Aptly and robotically, they apply the same protocol and policy designed for neglect and abuse cases, scarcely looking up to see the devastated faces of the child and his family.
Concurrently, they are spewing at the adoptive parents to cooperate, comply with the terms of the service agreement, or risk termination of parental rights and interrogating a mentally and emotionally compromised child about whether or not his loving parents abused him.
Permanency, once salient, is suddenly fleeting.