Friday, July 22, 2011

Improving the Foster Care System - Part XXVI

This week, it seems that a lot of adoptive bloggers have picked up on the topic of the anger felt towards their behaviorally-challenged kids.

Wednesday afternoon, Sojourner Truth wrote about an online support group:

[T]oday I realized that I have been doing really well with my anxiety. I have been pretty chilled out with the son's behavior. I am pretty sure that is directly related with the opening of the group. I have had a place to vent AND hear others vent. It has taken the taboo out of saying "I don't want to look at my child" or "Hugging them makes me want to vomit". Do we still hug? Sure. But there, it is okay to admit to yourself and others that you had that feeling. It may sound really ugly and really bad, but you realize that those feelings are not solely in your own head. For me it has allowed me to love myself again.

I think feelings of anger and resentment are normal when one is parenting a desperately-troubled child.  It's hard not to feel resentful when one looks at other "normal" families who don't have children who behave in dangerous, impulsive and destructive ways.  It's hard not to feel angry when a child, again and again, does things to injure you, your spouse or your pets.  It's hard not to feel frustration and despair when the promised post-adoptive services magically disappear when you need them, or fail to provide any meaningful or lasting help.

It's just so damned hard.

And the worst of it is, even if you know in your heart that you can't help your child there's no graceful way out.  There's no way to admit failure without incurring massive legal and financial consequences.  Parents who are in over their heads can't go back to the Social Services Department and say, "I've failed.  I can't do this.  Please help me."

What happens if you do?  In our state, you'll find yourself with a substantiated case of child abuse on your record, and you'll likely end up facing felony child abandonment charges as well.  Even if everyone agrees that your child would be better off somewhere else, there's no way to gracefully do that.  Our county has to approve every adoption or guardianship arrangement, and they have a blanket policy of denying guardianship or re-adoption of children that were previously adopted from the county.  Even if your child is the sickest of the sick and somehow manages to qualify for residential treatment, that option is only temporary.  Unless your child murders someone or commits a serious felony, no matter how sick or how violent he may be, he will eventually come home.

If you aren't wealthy enough to afford boarding school or private residential treatment, there is no way out other than to commit an act of felony child abandonment.

That's just so wrong on so many levels.  Parents shouldn't be forced into such a dreadful no-win situation.  Children shouldn't have to be abandoned by their parents in order to qualify for the help they desperately need.

The truth is that there are cases where adoptions fail.  Is it right that those parents, who thought they would be able to handle their child's challenges and gave their best effort, should be punished with criminal charges, jail time, and forever being listed in the child abuse databases?

No.  There ought to be a way for the system to recognize that there are some children and some parents who turn out to be a bad match after the adoption has been finalized.  There ought to be a mechanism to provide relief to the families (and the child) without destroying everyone in the process.

But there isn't a way, and this is just another example of how our foster care and child welfare systems are insanely broken.

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