Friday, July 06, 2012

Foster Parent Fridays - Is there such thing as successful reunification?

Q: Is there such thing as successful reunification?

A: I'm sitting here asking myself this - whether people who have their kids removed can actually get things together enough to get their kids back and keep them.

(As a side note, you'll notice a few of my blog features are down including the one about my kids.  I may put that back up soon.  I have also taken down several blog posts.  This is temporary.  I have had a "security breach" with a birth parent who became antsy to know more about mie and did some digging to find my facebook.  Some things were taken out of context and she was offended.  I quickly made my facebook private but I don't know whether or not the link to my blog was noticed.  Therefore, I took a few more things off here not because I'm ashamed of what I posted or that I think I violated some rule but because I don't think it will be helpful for HER if she sees some things on here.  So, for the time being, I have reverted a few posts).

If you could see the page that has my kiddos on it (by number of arrival and general info of their case) you would see we've had 10 kiddos, 1 of whom was adopted and 7 of whom "went home".  The first two kiddos went to be with a relative for the duration of the case and it was thought the relative would end up adopting.  The 3rd child reunified with his parents in what seemed to be a successful reunification.  The 4th we adopted.  The 5th and 6th we only had for 2 weeks but it was expected they would be adopted at the end of their case.  The 7th and 8th were reunified last October.

To date, #7 & #8 were the only ones with a successful reunification.  #1 & #2 was technically a reunification since the relatives who took them in had them before removal.  1 year after they went "home" we were notified that relatives could not afford to care for them and they were going to be put up for adoption.  #3 only lasted in his "successful reunification" for about 8 weeks before we got the call to take him back - he went to live permanently with a grandparent.  #4 was adopted by us - no reunification possible.  I don't know what happened to 5 & 6.

Frankly, I was surprised that we hadn't received a call about 7 & 8 earlier this year.  One of the kiddos was a RADlet and though all parents involved loved the children it just didn't appear to me that they'd be able to handle the RAD with the various emotional challenges the parents faced.  Nevertheless, as of January or February I was in communication with mom every couple weeks or so and we'd planned to meet up to get the kids together.  For a variety of reasons including my schedule that didn't happen and I've been meaning to give her a call (or text, since that's what I did).  I was beginning to think that I was wrong.

I wasn't.

I got an email last night from bio-dad of #7 asking for his shot records.  When reunification happened the kiddos went to live with mom and step-dad/bio-dad to #8 so I was surprised that bio dad #7 was asking for this information.  After asking a few questions and doing snooping online I found that #7 was sent to live with his dad and #8 and her dad moved out of state - mom no longer had custody of either.  There was an arrest involved.  During the return-to-monitor.  I swear to you I'd specifically heard "sometimes we send them home because our case isn't strong enough but that gives us a chance to watch them to see if they'll screw it up for themselves before the case ends".

Successful reunification it was not - not in the long run.

I hear a lot of people talk about how screwed up the system is.  So what would we say in these cases?  That its the system's fault?  That the system wasn't successful?  It depends I suppose - at the end of the day these kids are not with their mother which means both that they're not with the person who should be caring for them and they're not with the person who's unable to care for them/posed them risk.  Was this case successful then?  What does success look like in CPS cases?

I know at the end of the day I did everything I could to keep these kiddos safe while I had them.  I advocated for them.  I kept in contact with mom to help her adjust.  I left the door open with biodad long enough for him to know he could contact mie to get shot records, 9 months after they left my home.  I continue to extend the offer to help however I can to keep these kiddos safe.

I'm staring down the path of reunification for my current kiddos and with case details and my history so far I'm not sure I believe reunification will be successful.  It has nothing to do with how much the parents are or are not working their case plan or how much effort is being put in.  I just haven't seen a successful reunification yet and wonder if THIS will be the time that sticks or will I hear at some point down the road that yet again another family is left broken.


Raina said...

I had actually been thinking of asking you if you knew any stats on how often reunification is successful. While I think every attempt at preserving the bio family should be made, it is hard to think of kids bouncing back and forth. Such heartbreaking situations. :-(

Attempting Agape said...

I've been asking myself the same question. I have yet to see it as well. Two of mine went home last week and I am already just waiting for the call to get them back... I hope NOT, but it is always a possibility. I have heard stories of successful r/u but, like you, have yet to see it. Sad.

Luke's Army said...

Perhaps you would think differently if they were your own children who had been stolen. My two year old was murdered in foster care, so how was that better than reunification. Up to to ten per cent of children in foster care are abused, and children in foster care have ten times as much chance of dieing than in the family home, the average age is four and under.

Mie said...

@Luke's Army - I'm sorry for your loss. I'll be happy to post your comment and allow you the forum on my page to spread your message.

With that in mind, no, I'm not sure how I would think any differently if my own children were "stolen" - by which I presume you are referring to CPS removal. I believe in reunification. I want reunification with safe, healthy families to occur. I just haven't seen it. That is fact, not opinion that is subject to change based on a different perspective or changed circumstances.

Your statistics are presented in a flawed mannner. Based on your stats, 90% of foster children are in non-abusive homes whereas 99% of those children were in abusive/neglectful homes previously, assuming a 1% error rate in removals, which I haven't seen in at all in my cases yet. Assuming all abuse is equally damaging (its not acceptable, but not equally damaging), that means approximately 90% of children removed are safer after removal...I'd call that successful (but not successful enough). Based on those numbers it is impossible for children in foster care to have 10X as much chance of dying in a foster home than in the family home. The only way that is numerically possible is if you are considering the chance of death in a healthy, safe, non-removal family home which is comparing apples and oranges. In any case, even one case of abuse or intentional injury in foster care is unacceptable in my book and we need to continue to weed out the bad foster homes. That being said there is no causal relationship between bad foster family homes and bad family homes so the point is moot.

I wish you well.