Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Realities of the System

You know by now that we love being foster parents.  There is one huge downfall to being foster parents - by nature it means there are children in need of foster care.

I'm taking a note from Ms. Brit  today in recognizing the tragedy of the system. In this post she comments on another blog written by Campbell that describes the horror of what not only she experienced but that so many others experience as well.  It's a story of a child and her siblings who were removed and repeatedly placed back with the parents over and over again until after years parental rights were terminated, leaving this child without a permanent home at an age where many people, even those who are involved in orphan care, aren't willing to consider adoption.  I implore you to read it from her words as I could never do it justice.

I've explained before how the state (Texas) has 12-18 months to find the child a permanent home.  Put another way, parents have more than a year to clean up before rights are terminated, and it takes a lot to terminate parental rights.  In court last week there was a case where the judge met with children behind closed chambers.  They were so afraid to see whoever it was that was in the courtroom (mother, father, etc.) that they were seen running through the hallway frantically looking out to make sure that person couldn't see them (of course the judge had taken care of that for them).  Whatever it was that they were there for was so bad that the judge called the case back up and loudly proclaimed to the D.A. several times "I want charges filed today.  Do you understand me?  Today".  This is very, very rare.  Most parents don't face charges when they neglect their children or worse.

Did the judge terminate rights in that case?  No.  They set another status update for 3 months away. 

Let's take a drug case.  I can't tell you how many drug cases I've seen, most of which have been linked to neglect.  Most of the cases I can think of off the top of my head started off with a phrase like "this parent has already lost custody of XX children".  Let's say the parent loses the child to temporary state custody.  The state will provide the parents with counseling, treatment, parenting classes, etc.  Many times they get an attorney.  So let's say they do all that and 6 months later they have been clean for 3-4 months.  They might get their child(ren) back with what's called a "monitored return" where CPS stays involved.  This seems like a good thing.

But 6 months later after having the CPS case dismissed, the parents relapse.  The case doesn't leave off where it started.  It's a new case.  Sure, they might note the history, but a new 12 months occurs.  This time the parents disappear to the streets for 4 months before showing up and getting clean.  This time because the parents had a documented history they expect more than 6 months of sobriety, so they plan to wait 7, 8, 9 months.  At month 10, parents have a brief relapse but quickly get clean again.  So, what does CPS do?  Should they terminate rights because the 12 month mark is approaching or do they give the parents a chance, yet again, because now they are clean and "working on it". 

And that doesn't even begin to get into the abuse cases where the parents work with the system so much that they get good at hiding it.  So there are no marks.  There is no evidence, just the child's report with nothing corroborating it.  What do you do then? ...

I'm over-simplifying things of course, but the reality is there are kids out there who don't have good parents.  Whether they are sick or evil (and both do exist out there!) the kids are innocent victims who have no choice in the matter.  Usually though, they still love their parents.  They have a dream that their parents will get well and "love them enough" to do what it takes to get them back.  Sadly, when things don't work out the message they learn is that they aren't loved enough by their parents.

Foster care is a way to help.  I've said it before - I think many, many more parents can help by providing foster care than actually do.  Most are afraid or nervous or just don't think it's "for them".  But even then foster care is second best to a loving biological family.  No matter how much healing takes place in a foster family (assuming its a good one!) there is always the reality that this child faced a situation in which they entered foster care. 

We get told all the time how great we are for being foster parents.  How amazing it is that we'd open our home to that. 

After reading through Cambell's story and seeing all we've seen, how could we not?

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