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Foster Care: Should We Take Another Look ?

 
 
Reply Sat 1 Feb, 2003 03:34 pm
Just viewed PBS's Last Frontline The Taking of Logan Marr .

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/fostercare/

As is, the foster care system focuses entirely on the immediate physical care of the child/children in question. As soon as an incident is reported it is not unusual (especially for poor uneducated parents with out ready access to our legal system) for the child to be removed from the parents care and placed in foster care with strange adults as legal guardians.
In this case the grandmother, after a heated argument with her daughter on how she should raise her own daughter, reported her own daughter to the child welfare system. She was later to regret this decision. Please see the above web site for details. But my question is this:

Should this system lean more towards trying to keep the original family together? In this particular situation the child was not in immediate physical or mental danger. But once in the system she was set on a course of mental and physical abuse at the hands of her foster guardian leading to her eventual demise.

Respectfully, JM
P.S. This is my first time on A2K so I would appreciate any suggestions from you
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Sat 1 Feb, 2003 03:45 pm
James - I am from Australia - and in my state the laws have, in my opinion, gone too much the other way - striving to maintain the family for years, sometimes, while the children go to hell in a handbasket - beyond all help, often, by the time the neglect/abuse reaches a point where the children can be removed.

I may have a jaundiced view, because I am a therapist who gets the demand from the welfare people to put the kid back together when the system has finished stuffing around with them. Only, they haven't finished, because the kids never get adopted, and the parents can file to get them back whenever they like - so there is never any security.

Mind you, the foster system sucks too.

I think in these matters there will NEVER be a system that works extremely well - the problems are too complex, the variables so hard to determine, and the consequences of action/inaction so huge, and so chaotic to determine.

All we can hope for, in my view, is a system that rocks and stumbles around a point that comes closer to an optimum one as time goes by, and we learn from our own, and others', mistakes.

Optimist, aren't I?
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MooseMalloy
 
  1  
Reply Mon 3 Feb, 2003 12:46 pm
I watched that program, and it to me it was gripping but almost pointless. We already knew that nothing humans do is free from the possibility of serious error, and that the apparent solution is sometimes not a solution at all.

Having been raised in a dysfunctional family, I am skeptical about any claims that a dysfunctional family is better than a foster family that has been vetted and is supervised. Each case should be judged on its own merits without any preconceptions of any kind.

Having terrible parents, real or foster, is the worst nightmare I can imagine for a child.

One area of improvement I see open to society is to fund child service agencies better to provide for better training, better followup and better supervision. Another is to make the performance of those agencies more open to public scrutiny, directly or indirectly.
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JamesMorrison
 
  1  
Reply Tue 4 Feb, 2003 04:05 pm
MooseMalloy,

That specific program was the first of three that PBS's Frontline is going to air. The second program will be aired this week (For me it will be this Thursday night)

Sometimes we jokingly say that our own family is dysfunctional but I believe we just have normal problems. However, I must tell you that this first program brought back some frightening memories to me as a parent.

One early summer, when all our windows were open, my 11-year-old son suddenly started screaming and acting as if he was possessed by a demon. It was truly shocking. It took almost 4-5 minutes to calm him down to the point where he could tell us what the problem was. He apparently was lying in his bed just about ready to fall asleep when a relatively benign water bug crawled into his ear and could not find its way out. This woke him up and precipitated the incident. After I determined what happened I flooded his ear with an eardrop containing oil and lidocaine. This, after a minute or two, killed the bug and stopped its maddening motions in my son's ear.

During the yelling and screaming one of my neighbors called the police.
They showed up. When we were asked what happened to cause the screaming we told them exactly what happened. They did not believe me. They did not believe my wife. They were debating whether to call child services and remove my son from my house when I suggested that they talk to my son in absence of both his parents (obviously I was desperate but determined to keep my son out of the system). Fortunately the police have less of agenda than child services and we had a chance at that point.
If you doubt my fears watch the next installment of frontline.

Perhaps, as you mentioned more money and therefore more case workers will help. But my main concern was child service's mindset. Until this is changed and less Gestapo-like the danger of putting children from good environments into the foster care system will be significant.

Respectfully,

JM
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Feb, 2003 07:47 am
I am currently involved in a situation where I am trying to decide if I should get social services involved or not. <sigh>

My two year old sorta-grandson has been living with me for the last month. He's welcome to stay here forever but some kind of custody really needs to be determined.

His parents keep making grand statments about how they are going to get custody and blah blah blah. Meanwhile, I go weeks without hearing from either one of them and neither of them is making any steps to put themselves into a situation where custody would be feasable.

Several people have recommended that I call DHS, assuring me that they would assign me as his foster parent and supervise his parents to ultimatly reach a decision on where the best place for him to live would be. Others (including my lawyer) have told me that once DHS gets involved that anything could happen - including his placement in a stranger's house.

The other day his father applied for government assistance and recieved help after telling the agency that he currently had custody of his son after the mother abandoned them. In fact, he's seen his son three times in the last month and only for a few hours each time despite the fact that I have tried to help with any and all requested visits.

In the meantime, my life is completely on hold. Every day there is a chance that one of his parents will come snatch him away just to prove that they can. Neither of his parents lives are stable right now and their taking him could spell disaster. Still, the risk of losing him to foster care is one that I don't think I can take.

I have found that awful spot between a rock and a hard place.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Feb, 2003 02:32 pm
You keeping a diary, Boomer? Sigh ... it is, indeed, a rock and a hard place. I cannot comment because I have no grasp of your systems.

(((((((((((((((((Boomerang and sorta grandkid))))))))))))))))))
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Feb, 2003 05:39 pm
Thanks, dlowan. I really needed that hug.

Yes, I'm keeping a diary. Besides being a record of his stay here I've found it very valuable in anticipating certain behaviors. Now I know ahead of time which nights I won't be getting any sleep and which days will be pure joy.

I appreciate that your laws are quite different and that prohibits comment. My sister is a social worker in another state and even their laws are very different from ours. The only way to really find out how it works it to dive in head first.

I do have an attorney that I am keeping abreast of the situation and I have scheduled some sessions with a therapist for myself in hopes of helping with the stress and anxiety that moved in along with the baby.

I joined this thread hoping to learn more about how the system works - - and doesn't work.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Feb, 2003 05:42 pm
More hugs for boomer...

Meanwhile, as the mom of a two year old, I'm happy to advise, commisserate, or listen to bragging, as needed.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Feb, 2003 07:37 pm
Thanks sozobe!

I think that if I ever find the time I should start my own thread because I do have many questions.

I don't want to highjack James' thread though because it is such an important question.

The horror story told in the link he provided is a perfect example of the terror I feel about getting social services involved. Of course, I've heard success stories too but lordy, lordy, with so much at stake....

To answer his origional question - I'm not so sure that the child was not in any immediate physical danger. If she had stayed with her mother (at the time that all of this started) there is no telling what might have happened to the child. Certainly her mother has benefited from the counseling and other programs that the state made available to her. And good for her for taking the inititive to get her act together.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Feb, 2003 09:40 pm
Boomer - I meant a diary recording the parents' contacts etc.... for evidence.
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boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 6 Feb, 2003 10:09 pm
Oh absolutely, dlowan. Keeping a record of contacts, visits, and conversations was the reason I began the diary. It just turns out that there are other benefits to journal keeping as well.
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