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View Diary: My July 4th in prison, or what it really takes to be a foster family (141 comments)

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  •  Wow... (46+ / 0-)

    Thanks for being Dad to Jack.  My partner and I adopted a system kid after he had aged out--CNN did a story on us last year.  My son is doing great--can't even begin to say how proud I am of his courage and growth after many years of hurt and instability.

    I now work part time with an agency that focuses exclusively on permanency (adoption) for teens.  We try to really shake up the conventional thinking about older kids and have been pretty successful in improving outcomes for kids.  The biggest hurdle is the county social services system and the inability of folks to understand that years of trauma take a toll on kids.   They are not just "troubled" kids--they are strong kids who need a unique form of parenting in order to bring their developmental needs together.  The trouble is that without some form of unconditional commitment--like a good family--there are very few options for getting the support they need.  Your story--including the prison part--demonstrates the success of permanency.  Even if a kid ends up in prison, they are going to be better off if someone will stand by them.  Again thanks for being that committed person for Jack.

    Unfortunately the "system" too often unintentionally perpetuates the cycle of abandonment and views these kids as less than human.  Every time a social worker proclaims that some kid can't live in a family--and therefore shouldn't be allowed to pursue permanency with a family willing to commit to them--when in fact they are living in a family, except that the family is getting paid, refuses to adopt them, and can kick them out at any moment, I simply want to scream.  Yes, you understood that correctly.  For our agency the challenge is just as likely to be a social worker insisting on keeping a kid in foster care--even when the child wants to be adopted and a qualified and approved family has been found-- as it is the lack of a family willing to commit to the kid.   I have been thinking of doing a post on this topic for awhile because my faith in government interventions has been so deeply shaken by the incompetence, profiteering and heartlessness I have witnessed in a sizable portion of the government child welfare system where I work (and our state is generally highly regarded).  

    •  I want to scream along with you. (26+ / 0-)

      The (social worker) situation you describe is simply unfathomable to me. Beyond that, it seems such a dereliction of duty that I am near livid.

      It is one thing to be hesitant about adopting out younger kids. But to deny teens what may be their last, best hope is unconscionable.

      And please do write and post about it. You never know where it might lead.

      The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. - H.L. Mencken

      by two roads on Sun Jul 04, 2010 at 09:45:09 PM PDT

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    •  Oregon has something called permanent placement (22+ / 0-)

      My daughter took in one of her students (a young teen) as a foster child. The situation was such that it would have taken years to terminate parental rights, if it could be done at all. It probably was better for the child to believe that her parents did not want to give her up and that they were not so bad that the court terminated their rights. These cases are complicated.

      •  There are similar programs in our state (20+ / 0-)

        And certainly when a TPR (termination of parental rights) is not warranted or possible, a permanent placement makes sense.  There are many kind-hearted folks who provide this opportunity to kids and we should support them with thanks and accolades.  It is good work they do.

        Even in those cases I wish the kids were better protected. I don't know the laws in Oregon, but in most states "permanent" or "long-term" is an arrangement that almost no thinking adult would enter in to contractually from the youth's side because they have so few enforceable rights.  

        And there is another side to this.  If there is a TPR--which most "waiting kids" have, and many more should but the back log causes agencies to move slowly-- should the state be ordering children permanently in to families in which they have no legal standing and where there is no desire to give them legal standing?  Permanency and family are not simply a roof over your head or a place where you are assured you will be welcomed at the holidays. Unlike a legal family, if a foster family decides they don't want a kid due to behavior, personality conflicts (sometimes with a newly arrived foster child) or any other circumstance, the youth can simply be moved even if the placement was "long term" and there is no legal consequence for the parent (try doing that with your teenager after a big fight and you will be investigated for neglect or abandonment).  Further, if a family experiences a difficulty--death, unemployment, relocation--the foster child is typically moved to take the strain off the family, whereas legally protected children stay--to suggest otherwise would be greeted with shock.   Legally protected children experience life with their families, cannot be rejected without legal consequences,  and most enjoy the continuity and stability of extended family, of facing challenges or changes with the same people by your side, and of knowing that your siblings, cousins, parents and grandparents are still yours, for better or for worse, at age 18, 21, 40 or 60.  The wonderful privileges of family run deep--even in less than ideal families--and it is almost impossible to replace unless the relationship bears the same cultural and legal weight.  And for kids who have been traumatized, it is imperative that we fulfill our inherent promise to make their lives whole after the courts act on our behalf to terminate parental rights.  The social and cultural cost of what happens to far too many kids who age out demands that we do better.

      •  Then the laws need to be changed, so that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        two roads

        the parental rights could be terminated: IF it was not in her best interests to live with them.

        Children need to belong in every way to their new families, who need to understand they will still have some belonging to their bio-families, whether parental rights are terminated or not.

        There is one good thing in this story, the state allowed the teen to live with someone she had a relationship with.

        When the state prevents foster children from being placed with people who love them and want them -- and trust me, it happens all over the country, and frequently -- the child loses.

        This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

        by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 02:40:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I remember that story! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, two roads, OldLady in BC

      But I had no idea it was you.  Congrats to all of you.

      If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

      by marykk on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 07:42:39 AM PDT

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    •  I've also witnessed horrible things within (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      two roads

      the system. Starting with foster-adopt parents not being able to adopt the children they wanted to adopt.

      The supervisor who saw a child with a family on visitation to bio-parents... decided the child would be "perfect" for her daughter, had the child removed and "given" to her daughter.

      The couple who had a little girl 4 years, her ages 4-8, were told they could finally adopt (supposed to happen in first 18 months), hired an attorney for the adoption. The SW (social worker) came by for a visit, was friendly but roamed the house looking for "violations". Wrote up said "violations" against the couple. Went to the child's school on a Friday, removed her, then went to the parents' home with trash bags, asked for all her clothes and possessions. Moved her to home of father of her half-brother, the father was no bio-relation to her. He had had his children removed years ago, for over a year, for awful reasons. Yes, you read that right, no goodbyes. The parents had the charges reversed in court, the charges had been bogus. They still could not get back the little girl from the system.

      WHO is this serving? The little girl was suicidal the first weekend away from home, as the father disclosed to someone who knew the parents.

      What lesson does she learn from that treatment of her?

      My case: had little boy his ages 4 to 5.5, he was attachment-disordered, essentially a little sociopath in a 50-pound body when he arrived. His father had worked hard to train him to be a manipulative, assaultive person. One of the most dislikable children I've ever met. He literally attacked me verbally or physically 500-1000 times a day when he was first here. Not everyone can stand up to that, and start to change a child's course, change, them inside and out. I did entice him to change, through being sparkly and joyful and being tough as needed. Watching him change was remarkable, and hard, hard work for both of us.

      Here's a comment about one special, sweet incident when he was first here:

      In the process, of course we came to deeply love each other -- how could you not? He needed a mom, any kind parent. And how could an adult not love a child as months go by.

      We were both rewarded for all that by him being removed after 18 months. Sent to another family (non-bio relations) who gave up on him in less than 6 months. Of course, they didn't let him come back here, where he was deeply loved by me and a community of people. No, he had to go to another home and try to start over.

      I've come to the conclusion that there's one common thread that unites many of these hideous decisions about children in foster care, especially the older children. Anyone know what it is?

      This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

      by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 02:29:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  What causes all this horror in the system? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        two roads

        I kept looking at all the factors, things that were happening that didn't seem related.

        Finally came to one item that could unite them all:

        What's job security for social workers?


        [Broken children, broken families.]

        This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

        by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 02:31:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Know this article by Pat O'Brien? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      two roads

      Great article which states that the only way to help a teen is to place them permanently. (Of course.)

      It's not like no one's ever figured out the right answers. It's like the system is just ignoring them. Most of the people I know are horrified by many of the choices the system makes -- because they're contrary to good parenting, to common sense of the heart.


      The Only Love That Matters To Teens
      by Pat O'Brien

      Having directed both foster care and adoption programs that place teenagers into permanent families, and then having founded an agency that places teenagers into permanent families, I often get asked the question "what kind of people will offer their home permanently to a teenager?" My answer is always the same. I always say "any and all kinds of people who, after a good preparation experience, are willing to unconditionally commit themselves to a child no matter what behavior that child might ultimately exhibit."

      Teenagers need first and foremost at least one adult who will unconditionally commit to and claim the teen as their own. Any thing less is an artificial relationship. Teenagers need unconditional commitment before anything else constructive can happen.

      article is here:

      His org:

      The Older Child Adoption & Permanency Movement, Inc.
      1728 Mermaid Avenue
      Brooklyn, N.Y. 11224

      1-800-601-1779, 718-372-3003, 718-372-3033 (Fax), (e-mail)

      This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

      by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 02:36:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for the work you're doing, and best of (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      two roads

      success with it.

      Important -- and yeah, know what you mean about the frustration.

      This health care system is a moral atrocity. Dr. Ralphdog

      by AllisonInSeattle on Mon Jul 05, 2010 at 02:36:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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