Friday, April 8, 2011

Improving the Foster Care System - Part XXI

On Wednesday, Cindy over at Big Momma Hollers wrote:

Tony and Scotty had been trading hatefulness for a week now, it blew up while I was gone, a major fistfight ensued, fortunately Yolie had the five older boys there to pull them apart, but Mr P raged on for the remainder of the day. Ever felt your own blood boil?

We had a much worse incident later, one in which I plan to go to juvenile court and file assault charges.

I sat despondently on Lily’s floor, as I was helping her clean her room, so tired of violence and aggression, angrier still at a broken system in which parents like me are expected to live with this level of danger, that we must’ve asked for it by adopting older children. Sucks to be you, Big Mama.

This is a huge problem with the foster care system. Sometimes, it places violent or dangerous children in adoptive homes, and those homes aren't prepared or able to deal with the levels of violence or danger these children create.

Although some might argue that this isn't a problem with the foster care system, but rather a problem with post-adoption support, I argue that this is a problem with the foster care system, because some of these children ultimately find themselves back in care.

If you roam around the foster and adoptive parenting blogs, you'll find a number of families who have had to disrupt or dissolve their adoptions. Some parents, unable to keep their children safe, find themselves on the receiving end of child neglect or abandonment charges, because they can't control their uncontrollable kids. Exactly how do you prevent a child from sexually perpetrating on another child if they are bound and determined to do it? Likewise, how do you prevent a violent child from seriously injuring his sibling?

The truth is, you can't. Sure, you can set up door alarms and keep kids separate and supervised, but if a child is really determined to make trouble, he's going to wait until that one moment, when your back is turned for a second, to make his move.

So to improve the foster care system, we need to improve the supports provided to foster and adoptive parents. Respite care should be widely available and free or low-cost. Mental health services should be easily and quickly accessible. Funding should be available for children to go to residential treatment centers without forcing families to choose between financial ruin or dissolving their adoptions.

But for the most seriously-troubled children, adoption dissolution should be an option. It shouldn't be an easy choice, as we don't want children to be sent back to foster care for trivial reasons, but it should be available just the same. The idea of a forever family is a myth for many of these kids, anyway. If they are violent, mentally ill or dangerous, sometimes their parents find themselves in court facing termination of parental rights.

Parents shouldn't be punished for taking on kids that turn out to be much more troubled than originally thought. I think that most adoptive parents go into the system with the right motives, but sometimes things don't work out. In the cases where the children are violent, criminal and/or mentally ill, there ought to be a way for those children to get the services they need without destroying their new families in the process.


  1. While I agree that there needs to be an option for removing a child from you home without the fear of charges, I'm not really in favor of TPR. The kids need to know that they still have parents that love them, but even so, they can't live with them. Some children need a very controlled, supervised environment, twenty-four hours a day to keep them out of trouble and that's what we need access to for our very violent children. We shouldn't have to TPR to be able to get the services that are offered to foster parents!

  2. I'm not disagreeing with you, but you are not looking at the big picture.

    Really, the system doesn't care about your problems. They got their money. They got the notch on their belts by getting the judge to sign off on the adoption order so they can claim the kid had a successful outcome.

    It makes them look good. It makes them look like they're doing their jobs because they can pick and choose which set of statistics to display to the public or the legislature when submitting their budget requests. The states use this same set of statistics when submitting their requests for federal reimbursements.

    It doesn't matter to them if the adoption fails. They don't have to erase it from the books. They can start the process all over again and practically double their take on that one kid. And all they have to do to accomplish that is to find another potential set of kind hearted suckers to take the kid in.



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