Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Oh My Gawd (UPDATED)...

Heather's comment about a piece in Time magazine a post or two ago piqued my interest, so I just now looked it up and read it. Join me, won't you?

[pause while you slog through 3 pages of putrid, sanitized horse manure]

I apologize for inflicting that on your frontal lobe. But NOW I understand some of the insanity that's been inflicted on our household. I should have known it was some kind of organized assault.

Oh, the brilliance:

Plans such as the one Oksana accepted still use the threat of removing a child from the home, but they also encourage troubled parents to enlist a support network--birth families, friends, in-laws, neighbors, nonprofit and government agencies--capable of interceding before a crisis develops.

Great. Except for the fact that family friends and/or neighbors might be and sometimes are the ones buying drugs for the kids, or sexually abusing them, or who knows what else. "Josie's" visit with her dad last weekend was just information is that he himself bought her and her friend booze during the visit. But after all, the best thing is to rush them back to be with Mommy and Daddy, right? With parents like that, who needs Satan? And what about the fact that a lot of these kids don't have relatives or a support network around them, and if they do then the relatives are often as big a part of the problem as the parents?

My favorite is this bit:

Most controversial, however, was Finch's proposal that if Karla and John should decide to use drugs, they do so when Justin was not home but at a relative's, to protect him and avoid losing custody. "We don't encourage parents' using," says Christie Bausman, another county social worker, "but we know that they might. If they're going to use, we ask them, 'How can you use when your children aren't around and in a way that won't damage them?'"

The answer to that oh-so-perplexing question? You can't. Period. How hard is that to understand? You can't use drugs, or your children will definitely be taken the hell away. That's part of the whole parenthood thing you willingly entered into, even if the pregnancy may have been "accidental". Pretty sorry about that Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Addict, but that's how it is. Being a foster parent, I can't drink even though I'd sometimes like to. Being an actual parent, you can't shoot up or have a hit. It's a sad, sorry world we live in, but there it is. But these people are just so ready to accomodate and enable drug abuse, so why quit when you can just ship little Johnny or Jane off to your sister's so you can get high for an evening?

Can you tell I have little patience for parents who use?

Upon completion of reading this foul breach of sanity, I immediately had an involuntary typing spasm and fired this off to the editor:

To the Editor,

I saw your piece entitled "When Parents Are The Thread", and I am curious as to why you never sought out a serious opposing view to "Alternative Response". Your article makes it sound as though everyone is mostly happy with it so far. I vigorously dispute its worth in many if not most real-world cases, and as a foster parent working in one of the Minnesota counties that is piloting this one-size-fits-all wonder program, I can assure you with complete confidence that the opposing viewpoint is not mine alone.

We have had a bitter experience this winter dealing with this blinkered adherence to the idea that the best thing for a child who has finally escaped a horrible situation is to rush them back into the same situation as soon as humanly possible. In our experience, nothing but that remarkably counter-intuitive idea seems to have had any effect on the decision-making process. The opinion of the people who are closest to the situation on a day-to-day basis (us) has never once been asked for by the county social worker that I can recall.

If you want meaningful, heartfelt objections to this approach, you should start by attending a foster parents' training/meeting somewhere in Minnesota and just ask someone at random. There are a lot of skeptics there, if nowhere else.

I don't have time or space here to get into specifics, but you can find a fairly detailed chronicle of my practical observations of the results of one application of this "great" program at


PS. Bite me. [ok, so I didn't include the PS...but I wanted to -ed]

Bet they won't print it, but I feel better for having sent it. And yes, I did note that they put a token semi-objection from someone, but from what I can tell there was no serious effort to elicit a negative response to this abortion of a program.

If you're truly a nerd, you can find all the information you'd ever want to know about Alternative Response in this 176-page report. Being only a semi-nerd myself, I could only spend 5 or 10 minutes with it before my eyes glazed over...but I discovered a very telling fact about this report. It's in acrobat format. Do a search for "foster parents" or "foster parent". Unless my computer is different than yours, you'll come up with a goose egg.

Zero occurrences of "foster parent" in a 176-page report on a new child-care system. The least they could have done was add the sentence "screw what the foster parents think". But I guess that was implied, so they didn't need to explicitly come out and say it.

If you do a search for "foster", you'll get two hits, neither of them significant.



Here's the response from TIME:

Dear Reader:

Thank you for letting us hear from you. The editors appreciate theinterest that prompted you to write, and they have made attentive note ofyour comments. We hope that you will continue to share your thoughts with us.

Best wishes.
TIME Letters


At 6:22 AM , Blogger Mary said...

My three children were put through the "reunification" route. I think it's ridiculous. If "Time" does contact you, please feel free to send them my way too! I'm not too far from you (Otter Tail County) and I have more horror stories to share.

At 8:29 AM , Blogger FosterAbba said...

In a perfect world, I think reunification should be the primary goal for most kids put into foster care. Family is family, and the bonds of blood relations are very powerful. When a child loses their biological roots, it's a huge loss that hurts for a lifetime. We should try, whenever possible, to prevent that loss from happening.

That being said, we also have a responsibility to protect kids from loser parents who can't or won't get their act together, and we have to recognize that some situations will be too dangerous to consider reunification. If the root cause of the abuse/neglect is alcohol or drug use, and a reunification plan is in place, then the conditions for regaining custody must include the parent(s) staying clean. Kids should not be sent back to homes where chemical dependency is an issue, period.

IMHO, a kid should only go home when the bio-family has met the following conditions: 1) chemical dependency issues have been resolved, 2) the family has a steady source of employment income, and 3) the family has a decent and safe place to live. If those conditions aren't met, then a child has no business going home.

I agree that in your case, Dan, the county is making a terrible mistake in sending "Josie" back to her bio-family. They've repeatedly demonstrated a complete inability to get and stay sober, and I don't think that creates a safe environment. I do have empathy for them, as I realize alcohol dependency is very difficult to overcome, but that doesn't mean I think they should get their kid back.

At 9:34 AM , Blogger Mary said...

I absolutely agree with fosterabba.

However, that being said, at what point does reunification efforts end? These are (usually) adults who have had an opportunity for treatment, counseling, job training, etc. They have made choices in their lives -- good or bad. For THEIR sake, they are given more chances to get their lives together. Meanwhile, the children are moved from home to home or placed in peril with no chance for normalcy. Is being with biological relations more important than safey or security or love?

As an adoptee myself, I resoundingly will answer that with a big NO. Yes, I deal with "issues" from no blood relations prior to my bio children. But I would much rather wrestle with those issues than with the turmoil, neglect, abuse, abandonment, and fear most children experience living with birth parents who suffer from addictions, mental illness or just plain carelessness.

My children have issues with attachment, FASD, developmental delays, and more. Other than the FASD, everything else they've been diagnosed with could have been prevented if not for the county's wonderful "reunification" plan. Which obviously didn't work or I wouldn't be their mother now.

Whose interests are REALLY in mind with reunification? Because if those plans were really in the best interests of my children -- or "Josie" -- they truly wouldn't exist.

At 10:31 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The state is looking to save money. Period. Forget about the welfare of the children, we have budgets to be concerned with.

My son spends half time with his mother and half time with me. We have been assigned a court representative to overlook the situation and make recommendations on occasion. I have given police reports as proof that his mother is drinking and driving with my son in the car and yet nothing has been done. This state (and probably others) does not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up for the kids as it might cost them some money (aren't Minnesota taxes the highest in the US for a reason?).

At 10:40 AM , Blogger Garrent said...

A neighbor of mine had her kids taken away from her because she made them live in the shed in the backyard for 2 weeks as punishment for something. CPS was called out and they took the kids into foster care for a total of 3 weeks. After which they were sent back home (and the shed, I assume) because unification is the "better" plan.

I'm still seething...

At 9:44 AM , Blogger Lisa said...

Your posting inspired me to do some research on the risks of reunification, which I've posted in my blog.

As a former foster child, I've gotta say, I wish my father's custody had been terminated immediately. Or at least after the first two years.

The 1997 Adoption & Safe Families Act came too late for me... I was in foster placements in the 80's.

I think that people who value "family preservation" are likely to be people whose families treated them well.

If your parent physically or sexually abuses you, maybe that's never going to be the best place for you to be. The foster care system often (inadvertantly) makes kids feel punished.

As in:
-Uncle Joe touched me in an inappropriate way, and now I'm in foster care, but he's still at his home.

I spoke recently with a girl whose stepfather had sexually abused her. She felt that she had been the one being punished for his actions.

Interestingly, this young lady was reunified with her biological mother. Guess who Mama is dating again?? Guess who's worried about her younger sisters?


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