Saturday, January 28, 2017

Grey

Most kids in foster care are there because of grey reasons. It's simply NOT cut and dry. Most kids are in foster care because of the ambiguous term "neglect".

I found this data to be interesting and it definitely backs my claim. It says that 81% of all confirmed cases of maltreatment in Texas were neglect-based. Eighty-one percent. Let that number sink in just a bit.

Foster care is necessary. I'm not saying it isn't. But out of those 81% of children that were neglected, how many were taken from their families of origin and placed with strangers? And how many of those times was it REALLY necessary?

Sadly, I've had quite a few "black and white" cases come to my home.
  1. MissArguePants and her sister, TurtleTurtle, had been sexually abused (and physically abused and horribly neglected).
  2. Pumpkin had been medically neglected and physically abused and neglected to the point of being totally alone where she wandered the streets. (Pumpkin is non-verbal and functions on the level of a toddler. This was really serious neglect.)
  3. Daisy had been shaken almost to death.
  4. The Neverland Kids watched their infant brother be killed right in front of them. They needed a safe environment. I'm not 100% convinced they NEEDED to be taken from their mother permanently. She wasn't the abuser. But the death of a child is incredibly serious and the situation was very significant. I stand behind CPS removing the children so they could assess the full level of danger in the home. I'm not sure I stand behind how CPS handled things after the kids were forced to leave my home. CPS terminated rights on Mom and Dad and the children are in need of an adoptive home. Odds are, the siblings are being split up. At least that's the last information I heard.
  5. Russell had 15 broken bones, a lacerated liver, and he had been starved almost to death.

All of these children NEEDED to be taken from their families and placed into a safe home. Foster care really is a necessity.

However...
  1. Dude and Dolly were being neglected. There was never any evidence of physical abuse. They were being fed and clothed. Their needs were being met for the most part. Granted, their mother just walked away when they were taken. And then she spent quite a bit of time in jail. But could the case have gone totally different if she had been given better services? What would have happened if she got help and her kids stayed WITH her?
  2. Ricky NEVER needed foster care. Yes, he needed to be out of the home with his mother. But he had already moved to a good place. Rebecca took excellent care of him. She had already been caring for him for years. CPS did not need to get involved the way they did with Ricky.
And that brings me to our newest kids: Whiz and Rex.

Their case is grey. Oh so very grey.

It doesn't look that way on the surface. After all, Whiz has been in foster care before. Domestic violence and alcohol abuse are damaging to families. I do not know what happened for real during the first year of Whiz's life. I don't even really know the whole story of how he got to me. I know that Rex was born and the State did not remove him. He stayed at home with Mom and Dad. I know that Rex is fat and happy. I know that someone took good care of him. And for the last couple months, when Whiz was at home with his Mom and Dad, I think they cared for him OK enough as well.

Maybe they didn't. Maybe there's more to this than I know.

But it's not my job to go down that path. It's my job to help this family get back together.

Really. That's part of my job as a foster parent.

I'm not "allowed" to do much with the family of origin. I'm not allowed to supervise visits. I can't provide transportation or do anything outside of our contact before and after visits in the CPS office. But I can smile at Mom. I can use respectful language and not look down on her. I can ask her about bedtime rituals, favorite meals, skincare products, and more. I need to show her that I value her as their mother.

I will struggle a little bit more offering this level of respect to their father. If the criminal charges against him are true, he needs more help than CPS is probably going to provide. But...it's not MY job to judge him. It's my job to care for his children and to support the goals of the State. And despite his mistakes, I can still be a decent human being. I don't have to vilify him. I can encourage a positive relationship with his kids.

I'm not 100% convinced that the children needed to come into my home in order for Mom and Dad to get the help that they need though. I do NOT have any answers. But I do know that foster care, no matter how wonderful the home, is damaging to families. Whiz was plucked from everything he knows and placed with strangers. It's been weeks and he's seen his parents 1 or 2 times...tops. Nothing about my house looks or smells or sounds right. And there's nothing I can do to fix this. All I can do is meet his needs and help him see that he is safe and loved.

I pray that all the services CPS offered to Whiz and Rex's parents are good. I pray that they get the help they need. I honestly do. Because these awesome little boys deserve to grow up with their family. Every kid does. I hope this case is a short one.

2 comments:

abrianna said...

I am almost afraid to ask...where Are Russell and Star?

VJ said...

I am slow in catching up on my blog reading...
I totally agree on this one. I really think the process of being removed from your family of origin is so traumatic that it shouldn't be considered unless there is the risk that the child will die in their care. There are definitely some cases where that is true. If I thought my son's birth mom could raise him to live until age 18, I would absolutely fight for her to get back into a position to parent again. For reasons I don't really disclose on my blog, it's about a 50/50 chance we would live to see adulthood, so I don't make the effort to get her services, and she and her caseworkers don't try either. But in other cases, I have stood in court and advocated return to parent, because that's really what's best for kids if at all possible.