I’m a Child!

The following poem was not written by me.

I read it on a messageboard yesterday. I was moved to tears as I read it as I could so relate to it having spent my entire youth in foster care. Though I aged out of the system almost forty years ago the once closed wounds can very easily be reopened. This shares perfectly just a few of the feelings a foster youth endures while in care of the state. 

I later asked the author, after the tears dried, if I could share it on my blog and she agreed. Please bear in mind it is her copyrighted material and cannot be used in any manner without her consent.

The writer is a biological mom, a foster mom as well as an adoptive mom.

God bless her and the many I know like her!

I’m A Child!

I’m a Child,
I’m not a placement.

I’m a Child in foster care,
I’m not a foster child.

I’m a Child,
not a RADish, a child who has been hurt deeper than anyone can imagine and I have behaviors that I would change if I could, but I can’t, until I have someone who comes along and sees me as more than my diagnosis.

I’m a Child just like any other child,
except that my parents weren’t able to care for me, so the state took me. The damage that my parents did hardly compares to the damage the state is doing by not providing my foster parents with the services they need to care for me. Instead I am moved from one house to another until I end up in a place called Residential Treatment Center.

I’m a Child,
not a statistic. If I aged out of foster care, it’s because the state didn’t do their job, as my legal parent, to find me a home that could love and care for me.

I’m a Child,
not a payment to the state to keep me in permanent foster care, where they can, at their full unaccountable discretion move me away from the HOME where my FAMILY is.

I’m a Child,
Please don’t give up on me when my behaviors say I’m so unlovable. That may be how I feel about myself right now. I need someone to show me I’m wrong.

I’m a Child,
who, like any other child, wants to be loved and cherished. I want someone to see the value within me. I have the same hopes and dreams as any other child. I need someone to help me realize them.

I’m a Child,
I have no voice.
I need someone there to advocate for me when the system that I’m in makes decisions that are going to hurt me. Please don’t give up on me!
_________________
copyright 2007Lovemy6
Bio, adoptive, and foster mom

 

Petition: All Children Deserve Permanent Homes

Thousands of children enter foster care through no fault of their own, as victims of child abuse, neglect or abandonment.

Unfortunately for too many of these children’s; the hope and dream for a permanent, loving new family never becomes a reality. Over 24,000 children available for adoption will turn 18 and leave the system without a family this year.

In fact, more than 114,000 children in the U.S. foster care system are waiting to be adopted right now. More than half of them are nine years of age or older. They often wait five years or more to be adopted, can move three or more times in foster care and are frequently separated from siblings.

Through no fault of theirs, these children are “lost in the system and treated as if they have committed some crime! Being jerked from one foster home to another, can only add to the turmoil already going on within them .Our country can put a man on the moon, build rockets, create a “test-tube baby”, yet we cannot give older children a loving home life ? What’s wrong with this picture? This SHOULD BE our # 1 PRIORIOTY! Let us take the title President Bush used in “No Child Left Behind,” and apply it to this situation, let us look these older kids in the eyes and promise them, “You will not be left behind ever again.”  Are we willing TO MAKE AND KEEP THIS PROMISE?

Policy makers need to know that Americans believe:

Every child deserves to live in a safe, loving and permanent family.

No child should linger in foster care or leave the system at age 18 without a permanent family of their own.

No child is unadoptable!

Tell U.S. policy makers the process of adopting foster children must be streamlined so every foster child is adopted into a permanent, loving home!

Below is a link to a petition sponsored by the David Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Please take a few moments to read, sign it and pass it on to all that you know!

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/592844389

All kids under 18 have a right to a loving family; free from abuse and neglect. They all need love and guidance to help them become respectable members of society. A child is everything that it is brought up to be. As adults and elders we guide them to they’re destination and we teach them to be the best they can possibly be. Please we must do all we can do to make the future of the world a better place for all by starting with the innocent children!

Uniform Definitions for Child Abuse/Neglect

Current Definitions in Federal Law:

Federal legislation provides a foundation for States by identifying a minimum set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. §5106g), as amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003; defines child abuse and neglect as, at minimum:

Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

This definition of child abuse and neglect refers specifically to parents or other caregivers. A “child” under this definition generally means a person who is under the age of 18 or who is not an emancipated minor.

While CAPTA provides definitions for sexual abuse and the special cases related to withholding or failing to provide medically indicated treatment, it does not provide specific definitions for other types of maltreatment such as physical abuse, neglect, or emotional abuse. While Federal legislation sets minimum standards, each state is responsible for providing its own definition within civil and criminal contexts.

Child abuse is harm to, or neglect of, a child by another person, whether adult or child. Abuse can happen in any family, regardless of any special characteristics such as cultural, ethnic, or income. Child abuse can be physical, emotional – verbal, sexual or through neglect. Abuse may cause serious injury to the child and may even result in death.

I have examined the laws in all fifty states and in general they use the basic definition of the Federal Law. They then have an assortment of guidelines defining specifics. They vary from state to state and unfortunately county to county as well as the state guidelines are just that…guidelines.

I have also noticed that neither the Federal law nor state laws address whether a person acts intentionally, knowingly or willingly as opposed to accidental. The definitions of “abuse and neglect” have become so broadly defined that almost anybody could have such a charge made against them.

You may find current state laws by clicking below…they also address 38 other subjects as it relates to child welfare.

http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/state/index.cfm

I addressed before in my entry, “False Allegations & CPS” that one of our current problems is due to the lack of uniformity of laws/guidelines defining what child abuse/neglect is. I feel they should be uniform. What is abuse/neglect in one county or state should be the exact same in another. This is one subject where one size should fit all.

Below, after consulting with many people and completing my own research, I have written what I feel could be the law across the country if the US Congress would pass such legislation applicable across the country. I also address a few other issues that may relate to the topic.

Physical abuse:

Physical abuse, which is 18% of all substantiated cases of child abuse, is the most visible form of abuse.

It should be defined as: An intentional or knowingly or willful physical act by any adult of a child which results in a non-accidental trauma, serious physical injury or death of the child. It may also apply to any adult who wintesses these acts and intentionally or knowingly or willfully and fails to protect the child.

Inflicted physical injury most often represents unreasonable, severe corporal punishment or unjustifiable punishment. Such injuries can be caused by: striking, shaking throwing, punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning or otherwise harming a child.
This also includes but is not limited to: unnecessary, illegal, or excessive prenatal drug exposure.

While any of these injuries can occur accidentally when a child is at play, physical abuse should be suspected if the explanations do not fit the injury or if a pattern of frequency is apparent. Physical abuse thus could also be unexplained or repeated injuries such as welts, bruises, or burns; injuries that are in the shape of an object (belt buckle, electric cord, etc.); injuries not likely to happen given the age or ability of the child (IE: broken bones in a child too young to walk or climb); unreasonable explanation of the injury.

See below on how these allegations should be handled

Sexual abuse:

It is very difficult for most people to talk about sexual abuse and even more difficult for society as a whole to acknowledge that the sexual abuse of children of all ages — including infants — happens everyday in the United States. Sexual abuse; is 10% of all substantiated cases of child abuse.

It is should be defined as: Any involvement with a child by an adult  in sexual activity to provide sexual gratification or financial benefit to the perpetrator, including contacts for sexual purposes: molestation, statutory rape, prostitution, pornography, exposure, incest, exhibition, fondling, sexual intercourse, oral copulation or other sexually exploitative activities. It may also apply to any adult who witnesses such acts and intentionally or knowingly or willfully fails to protect the child.

Examples of such possible actions covered:

Non touching sexual abuse offenses include:
» Indecent exposure/exhibitionism
» Exposing children to pornographic material
» Deliberately exposing a child to the act of sexual intercourse
» Masturbation in front of a child

Touching sexual offenses include:
» Fondling
» Making a child touch an adult’s sexual organs or oral copulation
» Any penetration of a child’s vagina or anus by an object that doesn’t have a medical purpose

Sexual exploitation offenses include:
» Engaging a child for the purposes of prostitution
» Using a child to film, photograph or model pornography

Note that the words intentional, willingly and knowingly is NOT included in the definition for sexual abuse. Any person who would engage in such activity with a child would automatically be doing so intentionally, knowingly and willfully.

See below on how these allegations should be handled

Emotional abuse:

Emotional abuse is 7% of all substantiated cases of child abuse. This is the most controversial area of childe abuse. Many feel including this type of abuse is telling parents how they should parent their child. However, statistics tells us that this type of abuse can destroy a child for a lifetime. The Federal government does include this in their definition of abuse; they however do not spell out what it may include, thus allowing CPS to define as they wish and usually in very broad terms.

It should be defined as: The systematic, intentional or knowingly or willful tearing down of a child by an adult over an extended period of time through rejection, humiliation, terrorization, ignoring, isolating, or corrupting. It may also apply to any adult who witnesses such acts and intentionally or knowingly or willfully fails to protect the child.

It is considered a pattern of behavior that can seriously interfere with a child’s positive development. Emotional abuse is probably the least understood of all child abuse, yet it is the most prevalent, and can be the cruelest and most destructive of most types of abuse.

Because emotional abuse attacks the child’s psyche and self-concept, the victim comes to see him or herself as unworthy of love and affection. Children who are constantly shamed, humiliated, terrorized or rejected suffer at least as much, if not more, than if they had been physically assaulted.

An infant who is being severely deprived of basic emotional nurturing, even though physically well cared for, can fail to thrive and can eventually die.

Types of Emotional Abuse:

Rejecting — Telling a child in a variety of ways that he or she is unwanted. They may tell the child to leave, call him or her names and tell the child he or she is worthless. They may not talk to or hold the young child as he or she grows. The child may become the family scapegoat, being blamed for all the family’s problems.

Ignoring — They may not show attachment to the child or provide nurturance. They may show no interest in the child, express affection or even recognize the child’s presence. Many times the parent is physically there but emotionally unavailable.

Terrorizing — Parents may single out one child to criticize and punish. They may ridicule him or her for displaying normal emotions and have expectations far beyond his or her normal abilities. The child may be threatened with death, mutilation or abandonment.

Isolating — A parent who abuses a child through isolation may not allow the child to engage in appropriate activities with his or her peers; may keep a baby in his or her room, not exposed to stimulation; or may prevent teenagers from participating in extracurricular activities. Parents may require the child to stay in his or her room from the time school lets out until the next morning, or restrict eating to isolation or seclusion.

Corrupting — Parents permit children to use drugs or alcohol; to watch cruel behavior toward animals; to watch pornographic materials and adult sex acts; or to witness or participate in criminal activities such as stealing, assault, gambling, etc.

See below on how these allegations should be handled

Child neglect:

Child neglect, which is 65% of all substantiated cases of child abuse,   is the most common form of child abuse currently reported to child protective services.

It should be defined as: The intentional or knowingly or willful failure by an adult over an extended period of time to provide needed age-appropriate care,” such as shelter, food, clothing, education, supervision, medical/dental/theroputic care and other basic necessities of a child. It may also apply to any adult who witnesses such acts and intetionally or knowingly or willfully fails to protect the child.

The types of neglect:

Physical neglect — accounts for the majority of cases of neglect. The definition includes the failure to provide proper shelter, food or clothing, delay in seeking necessary health care, child abandonment, inadequate supervision, and failing to adequately provide for the child’s safety.

Educational neglect – allowing a child to engage in chronic truancy when the child is of mandatory school age but not enrolled in school or receiving needed special educational training.

Emotional neglect — includes such actions as having the child being exposed to chronic or extreme spousal abuse in the child’s presence, allowing a child to use drugs or alcohol, refusal or failure to provide needed psychological care, constant belittling and withholding of affection.

Medical neglect — is the failure to provide appropriate health care for a child although financially able to do so. In some cases, a parent or caretaker will withhold traditional medical care during the practice of religious beliefs; these cases generally should not fall under the definition of medical neglect.

See below on how these allegations should be handled

How Allegations of Child Abuse/Neglect should be handled:

When an allegation of child abuse/neglect as defined above is made it should be turned over to the police as is every other crime. They, not CPS, should investigate and determine if there is sufficient credible evidence to come to the reasonable conclusion that intentional or knowingly or willful child abuse/neglect has occurred. If they determine this, then the alleged abuser must be charged. This also applies to anyone alleged to “fail to protect.”

Currently the accused has little or no rights where people charged with crimes are given the full spectrum of rights under our legal system. Those alleged must be given the opportunity to defend themselves under the same conditions an alleged criminal is allowed. If they cannot afford an attorney, one should be provided them.

A person found guilty in a court of law of one of the above should be sentenced to the fullest extent of the law. They should be placed on a national registry. A parent; biological, foster or adoptive upon conviction should have their parental rights terminated immediately. No one convicted of one of the above crimes should be given the opprtunity to abuse/neglect their child a second time.

If the police allege the crime of child abuse/neglect has intentionally or knowingly or willfully occurred in the parents home; the accused not the child should be removed from the home. If it is a single parent home, then the child will need to be removed for their safety. In this event every possible effort should be made to find kinship care to keep family ties intact if possible. Foster care should be the last resort.

If police find that there is not sufficient evidence to the allegation of child abuse/neglect, intentional or unintentional; the case must be closed and no further action is required…CPS and any other agency is NOT to become involved. 

The allegation one I cannot fathom them not finding intentional, knowingly or willful if there is credible evidence that such allegation ocurred is Sexual Abuse.

Children, due to allegations of child neglect being made, (if age appropriate) should be interviewed as soon as possible after any allegation is made and before a determination is made by the police. All interviews should be conducted by appropriately trained police personnel and accompanied by an independent witness. ALL interviews MUST be taped (both audio and video). The purpose of the witness is to verify the interview has been fully taped; that is the tape started at the beginning and at no time during it course was it shut off until its conclusion.

Police, CPS or other workers involved in a case MUST be held accountable for their investigations and disposition of cases. If they perjure themselves at any point of a case, been negligent in their responsibilities or their actions result in further harm or death to a child; they must be held accountable up to and including criminal charges.

If police find reasonable evidence that some type of abuse/neglect did occur but they determine it was NOT intentional or knowingly or willful; they will turn the matter over to the appropriate agency to  determine and provide beneficial for the child/family as a result of needs discovered during the course of the investigation. (See Below)

Poverty, low income, lack of formal education or other things that may fall in these definitions does not automatically define neglect and warrant the child being placed at risk and removed from their home.

Underlying some of the current removal decisions is the unexpressed belief that they are “saving” this child from a life of lower-class poverty, by placing the child in a “good” home, one that more resembles what they themselves think of as a good family.

What they need to realize is that poverty and lack of education or job prospects are not indicators in and of themselves that the parent cannot provide the love and meet the child’s basic needs and teach him/her right-from-wrong.

Many times when there is a dirty home, little food in the home, or children dirty may just mean the parents need knowledge of programs that may be available to them or assistance in helping them be better parents.

These services should be home based with the child remaining in the home if not at further risk.

Home-Based Services: In-home activities provided to individuals or families to assist with household or personal care and improve or maintain adequate family well- being. Services may include homemaker chores, home maintenance, nutrition and meal planning, and household management services; to name just a few.

Parents should be offered, one, one year case plan to improve their situation. If they fail to meet the case plan in one year, drop their case plan during the course of the year, renew their activities which lead to new allegations of child physical abuse, emotional abuse or child neglect; their action would automatically cause such allegations to be deemed intentional, knowingly or willful (if police deem there is sufficient evidence) and they would be charged accordingly and their rights accordingly would apply. If convicted the same result would apply as to those who were found guilty in a court of law during an initial investigation.

http://www.larrya.us (my web site)

False Allegations & CPS

Imagine you as an unsuspecting parent (biological/foster or adoptive) answers a knock at your front door to find an agent of the government who wants to obtain answers to allegations (which may not be shared with the “suspect”) made by a shadowy, anonymous source, without even so much as a “Miranda warning” being offered.

The unexpected and uninvited government visitor may wander throughout the home — without any presentation of a search warrant! — officiously opening cupboard and refrigerator doors or may demand that any children present be stripped naked so they might be “examined for possible injury.” (The agent may even intend to take photographs of any alleged “injuries.”)

Throughout this Kafkaesque ordeal there is the implicit (or perhaps explicit!) threat that any refusal to “cooperate” may result in the sudden removal of any and all of the children into the care and custody of Big Brother.

The above is a reality not a myth of today’s CPS (Child Protective Services) system.

The definitions of “abuse and neglect” have become so broadly defined that almost anybody could have such a charge made against them. Quite honestly, ANY FAMILY may suddenly be subjected to an encounter like the one described above.

I’m not at all sure that “the system” or society recognizes just how traumatic a CPS investigation may be for a family.

The U. S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children & Families collects data each year from the states. There is usually a 2 year lapse in this data collection; thus this data is from FY 2005…the last fiscal year that data is fully available.

In FY2005 there were 3 million reports of child abuse and/or neglect

There does NOT have to be any actual abuse or neglect, only a “supposedly credible allegation” (as deemed by often arcane bureaucratic standards) that such problems MAY exist. “Grudge referrals” — false allegations which are intentionally made for various malicious purposes, such as to hurt one parent during a custody dispute — do occur.

For sake of comparison, how many “suspected terrorists” or other “suspicious individuals” might be locked up if the forces of Homeland Security were allowed to play by the same rules? Quite a few, I suspect!

At first CPS contact, a parent enters a distorted mirror image of what our legal system is supposed to be. Everything is backwards. There are no Miranda warnings, yet everything one says will be used against them, and perhaps even some that one hasn’t. The accused have little or no rights where people charged with crimes are given the full spectrum of rights under our legal system. The parent is presumed guilty and must prove innocence.

At times even proving innocence is not even enough!

Of the 3 million cases reported in FY2005; 872,000 were supposedly verified. I say supposedly because the verification process can differ from state to state as well as counties within each state. Because of how Child Protective Services acts some verifiable cases can actually result from false allegations…if CPS wants to find you guilty they will no matter the evidence. Some of these reports came in after a child was removed from their biological family and placed in out of home care.

Of the 872,000 supposedly verifiable cases the data breaks down as follows:

65% neglect
18% physical abuse
10% sexual abuse
7% emotional maltreatment

966 cases actually resulted in the death of the child

I first have to wonder about the over 2 million reports that were NOT verified. Were they not verified because there was not enough evidence? Were they not verified because they were false allegations and were those who made such allegations held accountable for their actions? What price did the biological/foster/adoptive familes pay (not just financial) due to these allegations? 

Of course this is a statistic that is not available despite exhaustive research done by me. I am sure this is one statistic that no state would want out in the daylight for the world to see.

I know of many specific cases from across the country where families were destroyed by investigations that should never have been launched. In the end the children were not removed but the family will NEVER be the same. They paid a price none of us should ever be asked to pay!

The original accuser can choose to remain anonymous, which makes little difference, as one has no right to know who is accusing them. Parents do not have the right, as criminals charged, to face and have their accuser crossed examined.  The confidentiality of the reporter is guaranteed by law.

The rule of confidentiality I believe is NOT to protect the child but rather to protect  those who make false allegations as well as CPS officials in order to cover their A$$ when they fail to do their job legally and properly.

A former foster youth and reform activist in Canada, John Dunn, wrote the following poem in regards to the confidentially rule. I believe it tells how foster youth feels about the rule and could apply as well to biological/foster or adoptive parents as well.

“Bound by Confidentiality”

They say the confidentiality is needed to protect us…in reality it is to protect themselves.

Child Welfare takes us from our friends and families.
Using chainsaws of authority, they cut down our family trees.

Once in the quagmire foster care, you wind up living God knows where.

Shipped around like a piece of mail, till eighteen years when you can bail.

To our natural families, were not allowed to speak.
Child Welfare is too afraid, we little rats will squeak.

They make our file summaries in attempts to satisfy.
But cut out all the crap they did and leave us with a lie.

They keep our lives a secret, from the public and the press. So nobody can witness this manufactured mess.

They say our files are secret so that they can protect us.But in reality, it’s so they can repress us.

Bound by confidentiality, what a lovely phrase;
Hiding sanctioned child abuse for 6570 days.

The longer they procrastinate in giving us our lives.
The bigger and more fortified become the Child Welfare hives.

Copyright: John Dunn

Anonymous reporting should be abandoned. A reporter should be required to give a signed statement of their charges. They need to be advised that the accused have the right to face their accusers. They also need to be advised that intentionally false or unsubstantiated reports could result in perjury charges brought against them.

This would be extremely helpful where there is domestic violence or disputed divorce custody issues involved. This would also cause the accuser to at least pause before making a false or unsubstantiated allegation; knowing there will be a price to pay for doing so.

CPS or other workers involved in a case MUST be held accountable for their investigations and disposition of cases. If they perjure themselves at any point of a case, been negligent in their responsibilities or their actions result in harm or death to a child; they must be held accountable up to and including criminal charges.

We now come to the 872,000 supposedly verifiable cases…are they ALL true…NO!

We have to ask a few questions:

Are children being abused, neglected and even killed in their homes…ABSOLUTELY!

Should some children be removed from their biological/foster or adoptive parents for abuse or neglect…ABSOLUTELY! As fast as CPS remove some children with little or no reason; they also allow some children to remain in a dangerous situation until it is too late!

Is there a need for Child Protective Service and are their good, hardworking and honest workers within CPS…ABSOLUTELY!

There are some who would strongly disagree with the last answer above.

Some would suggest the abolishment of CPS. I believe this is absolute not necessary and totally unrealistic based on the two previous questions. Critical reform however is direly needed in order to not only protect the children but also many innocent parents as well.

I believe that when a complaint of ABUSE (physical or sexual) is made it should be investigated by the police like any other crime. If the police determine there is ample evidence of abuse the parent(s) should be charged  & prosecuted; only then should CPS be called  for determination regarding the youth involved. If abuse of an animal is a crime (Vick Case); shouldn’t abuse of a child be even more so of a crime??!! 

Once a child is becomes a part of the system merry-go-round via CPS; it is extremely difficult to get off, in some cases it never happens.

The psychological damage a child suffers in being ripped from the only family he’s known, his home, his/her siblings with no contact allowed, his community, his school, his pets, his friends…is a CERTAIN damage; especially if the result of a false allegation. This is whether the family is his biological/foster or adoptive. Damage WILL happen; to what degree might vary but there WILL be damage. Yes, there is a risk…but to remove the child because of a risk only to inflict certain damage to that child would be like amputating a limb for a wound that MIGHT cause a fatal infection.

After supposedly verifying the 872,000 cases of child neglect and/or abuse during FY2005; 311,128 youth were removed from their homes. Some of these cases involved biological, foster and adoptive families.

We know that 459,872 of the supposedly verified cases did not warrant removal from their home whereas 311,128 did according to state CPS officials.

I know a number of the cases were due to how abuse/neglect is defined. There are no uniform codes or guidelines used across the country for determining removal of a child from their home. Each locality, county and state defines in their own fashion when CPS should be called, how abuse/neglect is defined and how CPS determines if removal is necessary.  What may be such in one locality would not even come close to being such in another. There also appears to be no enforcement mechanism in place to see that CPS follows the guidelines of their specific area. This ABSOLUTELY MUST be changed in any part of a reform movement. Guidelines need to be made uniform laws across the country!

I know for a fact some biological and adoptive parents had their children removed strictly because of the broad definition of abuse and or neglect by some localities. I also know that some, despite proof of false allegations, still had their children removed from them. I have the evidence which I cannot share it here in order to protect the innocent and keep my promise of confidentiality to those who have shared with me as some are still fighting the system. I also know some CPS workers have visited my blog as they have left comments on occasion. These cases come from across the country.

Please remember what I said earlier; some biological and adoptive parents absolutely need to have their children removed because of abuse and/or neglect which places them in imminent danger and it was done properly by all involved!

I know there are also cases of children being removed from foster homes due to abuse and or neglect. The same applies to them as it does the above biological/adoptive parents cases above.

However foster parents’ can face even more possibilities of having children removed from their care. CPS and the foster care system can remove, and do, a child from a foster home without cause.

Though anyone can become a mother or father; foster parents must go through a lengthy screening process to be approved to become such. They are fingerprinted, have background checks done, have their home invaded for a home study as well as ongoing intrusions, have a verifiable income to show they can support themselves without foster care stipends and go through initial training as well as further training each year.

If an allegation of abuse or neglect is made against them, whether false or not, the foster youth, in most cases, is removed immediately and then the investigation follows. Some foster youth will make up allegations just to be removed from a home just because they don’t like it there or the rules they must follow. System workers have and will also make up allegations so it looks like they are justified in removing a child.

The system had also been known to threaten removal or actually remove a foster youth if they feel the foster parents advocates too much on behalf the youth.

Just as with biological and adoptive parents I have the evidence for my above statements. Their cases as well come from across the country. I to will not share the information they have supplied me in order to protect the confidentiality placed in me and they are still a part of the system.

Let me just share generalities of two situations:

I know of a case where a youth was with the same foster parents for six years and suddenly jerked out of the home for no reason to be moved to another foster home. Think of the lifetime impact this traumatic experience will have on the youth.

I in fact know this happens as it happened to me. I spent my entire youth growing up in foster care. I was moved sixteen times before aging out.

During those years in care I spent four and a half years with one family (they had also care for me previously for over two years). I was suddenly yanked from there home. It was not to go to an adoptive family but rather to yet another foster home and then eventually to an orphanage where I age out. This was forty eight years ago. It is a tragic shame this continues to happen to youth still today.

I know of yet another case where a youth suffered a “bug bite.” The system suddenly made it a case of abuse and removed the youth. When abuse could not be shown they then tried to say the foster parent’s heath may not allow her to properly keep after the youth. When this could not be documented they kept on going. Suddenly out of nowhere a charge of “sexual activity” was made supposedly by the youth towards two older youths in the home. Despite no proof of the allegation one youth had to be removed from the home so the other youth would not be. This case continues. The foster parent involved in this is a “strong” advocate for those placed in her care and has fought the system many times. This appears to be nothing more than retaliation for her efforts. 

There are far too many such cases from across the country that have been shared, in detail, with me to believe that none of the above occurs. It does! It happens far too often!

The result is families are destroyed; more importantly to me…children’s lives are destroyed! It appears the system is an equal opportunity destroyer!!

Far too many children become just a pawn within a system they do not understand.

Yes, they can be and are moved at will, they can be and are lost, they can be subject to abuse far worse than may have occurred within their own homes…and yes a number of them tragically get off the merry-go- round only through death, painfully suffered through the system that was to protect them!

Sadly 534 youth died during FY2005 while in out of home care attributable to a variety of causes including medical conditions, accidents and yes; homicide. This is in addition to the 966 youth from abuse which brought the original allegation.

Any parent, whether biological, foster or adoptive, which abuses, neglects or kills a child must be held accountable. Abuse (physical and sexual) should be handled as a crime just as I would face an assault and battery charge if I struck someone. There are enough “real” cases of such actions; the system does not need to deal with false allegations made by others nor make up their own!

We, as a society, must be extremely careful when we say we are “saving” the children. If “saving” the child is going to do more harm to that child!

At the end of FY2004 there were already 517,463 youth in foster care

In FY2005:

311,128 youth entered foster care
828,591 youth spent some portion of FY2005 in foster care
287,998 youth exited foster care via reunification, adoption, runaway, aged out, etc
114,000 TPR (termination of parental rights) complete awaiting adoption of which 66,000 had TPR completed in FY 2005
24,407 youth aged out
51,691 adopted by foster parents or others

513,131 remained in care at end of FY2005

I absolutely know in these above figures some biological parents should have never have had CPS enter their lives.

I know some youth should never have been removed from their natural homes and placed in foster care. I also know that some youth should have been removed and were not; they ended up paying the ultimate price.

I know some youth should not be spending year after year in foster care or move after move without the justifiable termination of parental rights being completed

I know some youth should not have been removed from some of their foster homes due to a false allegation or the whim of a worker.

I know some youth who will spend years in the system unjustifiably only to age out (thousands in FY2005 alone) and possibly have their future in shatters due to what happened to them initially by removal followed by years of damage.
 
We will never fully know the number of lives that have been destroyed due to false allegations, the broad and non uniform definition of abuse and neglect or the whims of the system. 

If nothing changes… by the year 2020:

Nearly 14 million more reported cases of child abuse and neglect will supposedly be verified;

22,500 children will die of abuse or neglect, most before their fifth birthday (roughly 36% after placed in out of home care);

An additional 9,000,000 children will spend some time in foster care (there are over 12 million current alumni of the foster care system);

300,000 more children will age out of our foster care system unprepared to become productive members of our socety

We each MUST become outraged, motivated and caring individuals willing to fight our child welfare system for reform.

We MUST fight to see that a child is removed from their biological, foster or adoptive home only when abuse or neglect is truly proven and not due to false allegations or a CPS withchunt.

We MUST fight to see that those who make knowingly false allegations against families be held accountable for their actions.

We MUST fight to see that the bound of confidentiality currently enjoyed by the system is broken. We cannot allow the system to continue to hide behind this convenient cloak of darkness. The vault doors of confidentiality MUST be opened to the sunlight of day.

We MUST fight that all involved in the child welfare system be held accountable for their actions.

Until the above happens families and children will continue to be destroyed. We cannot afford the price our society will be asked to pay as a result!

The highest measure of a civilization lies in how it cares for its children. ~Margaret Mead

http://www.larrya.us (my web site)

Analysis of Foster Care System Data

The U. S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children & Families collects data each year from the states as to their foster care system. This, along with other resources, provide for the base of this analysis. There is usually a 2 year lapse in this data collection; thus this data is from FY 2005…the last fiscal year that data is fully available.

In FY2005 there were 3 million reports of child abuse and/or neglect

Of the 3 million cases reported 872,000 were supposedly verified. I say supposedly because the verification process can differ from state to state as well as counties within each state. Because of how Child Protective Services acts some verifiable cases can actually result from false allegations…if CPS wants to find you guilty they will no matter the evidence. Some of these reports came in after a child was removed from their biological family and placed in out of home care.

I also wonder about the over 2 million reports that were NOT verified. Were they not verified because there was not enough evidence? Were they not verified because they were false allegations and were those who made such allegations held accountable for their actions? What price did the bio/foster/adoptive familes pay (not just financial) due to these allegations?  

Of the 872,000 supposedly verifiable cases there are some cases that may be from a second or third report regarding the same child

Of the 872,000 supposedly verifiable cases the data breaks down as follows:

65% neglect
18% physical abuse
10% sexual abuse
7% emotional maltreatment

966 cases actually resulted in the death of the child

After supposedly verifying the cases of child neglect and/or abuse 311,128 youth were placed in the foster care system. Data is not provided as to how the remaining cases were resolved.

At the end of FY2004 there were already 517,463 youth in foster care

In FY2005:

The U.S. spent $22 billion dollars ($5 billion from the Federal government and the balance from state/county governments) to provide services for children and youth in foster care. This averages out to $40,000 per child.

311,128 youth entered foster care
828,591 youth spent some portion of FY2005 in foster care
287,998 youth exited foster care via reunification, adoption, runaway, aged out, etc
534 youth died while in out of home care attributable to a variety of causes including medical conditions, accidents and homicide).
114,000 TPR (termination of parental rights) complete awaiting adoption of which 66,000 had TPR completed in FY 2005
24,407 youth aged out
51,691 adopted by foster parents or others
513,131 remained in care at end of FY2005

Placement settings of youth in foster care during FY2005 :

Pre-Adoptive Home                                              4%    18,691
Foster Family Home (Relative)                        24%   124,153
Foster Family Home (Non-Relative)               46%   236,775
Group Home                                                          8%     43,440
Institution                                                            10%     51,210
Supervised Independent Living                          1%      5,918
Runaway                                                                 2%    10,930
Trial Home Visit                                                    4%    21,883

Case goals of the youth in foster care during FY2005:

 Reunify with Parent(s)                                    51%    262,706
Live with Other Relative(s)                               4%      21,722
Adoption                                                             20%    100,949
Long Term Foster Care                                      7%      37,628
Age Out                                                                 6%      31,938
Guardianship                                                        3%      15,653
Case Plan Goal Not Yet Established                  8%     42,403

Outcomes for the children exiting foster care during FY 2005

Reunification with Parent(s) or Primary Caretaker(s)
                                                                 54%   155,608
 
Living with Other Relative(s)              11%     31,362
 
Adoption                                                 18%     51,691
 
Age Out                                                    9%     24,407
 
Guardianship                                          4%     12,881
 
Transfer to Another Agency                2%       6,440
 
Runaway                                                 2%       4,445
 
Death of Child                                         0%         534

(NOTE: totals do not equal per the US DHHS due to how states submit their data)

32 states had an increase of youth entering care in FY 2005; Texas had the largest with a 3,320 increase over FY 2004 and Florida showed the second largest increase of 2,315.

29 states had an increase of youth in care at end of FY 2005; Texas had the largest increase of almost 20% (FYI: Texas data is also available for FY2006 which shows yet another almost 20% increase over FY2005.)

Of the youth entering foster care in FY2005 the percentage based on age is as follows:

0-5 years          32%
6-10 years        20%
11-14 years       20%
15-up                 29%

The lengths of stay in foster care for youth in care at the end of FY23005 are:

Days to 11 months         42%
12-23 months                 21%
24-35 months                12%
3-5 years & up               25%        

The 10 states with the most youth of foster care at the end of FY2005 are:

1. California              81,174
2. New York            30,420
3. Florida                 29,312
4. Texas                   28,883
5. Pennsylvania      21,691
6. Michigan              29,498
7. Illinois                   19,431
8. Ohio                      17,442
9. Georgia                13,965
10. Massachusetts  12,197

Race/Ethnicity of youth in care:

White, Non-spanic                                                       40%
Black, Non-Hispanic                                                    34% 
Hispanic                                                                         18% 
American Indian/Alaska Native, Non-Hispanic        2% 
Asian/Pacific Islander, Non-Hispanic                         1% 
Unknown                                                                         2% 
Two or More Races, Non-Hispanic                              2% 

Gender Percentage:

Male         52%
Female     48%

Foster Homes Available:

In 2005, there were 153,000 licensed non relative foster homes nationwide.

None of the above data includes the more than 2 million U.S. children living with grandparents or other relatives because their parents cannot care for them but are not part of the foster care system. When relatives provide care it is known as kinship care.

There are currently 114,000 youth who are eligible for adoption at the end of FY2005 after 51,691 youth were adopted. The data does NOT include youth age 16 and over who are eligible for adoption but whose case plan is for them to age out of the system

Age percentages of those waiting for adoption at end of FY2005 are:

0-5 years          37%
6-10 years        25%
11-14 years       23%
15years-up       14%

Lengths of stay for those youth awaiting adoption at end of FY2005 are:

Days-11 months            13%
12-23 months                25%
24-35 months                23%
36-5 years or more       42%

Age percentages for those youth that were adopted from foster care during FY2005 are:

0-5 years            53%
6-10 years           28%
11-14 years          14%
15 year-up             5%

The above data clearly shows the older the youth is and the longer the youth remains in care the less opportunity they will have to be adopted and instead will age of out the system.

Top 10 states with the great number of youth adopted from foster care during FY2005 are:

1. California              7,549
2. New York             3,422
3. Texas                    3,181
4. Florida                  3,020
5. Michigan               2,884
6. Pennsylvania        2,065
7. Ohio                       2,044
8. New Jersey          1,380
9. Missouri                1,309
10. Washington        1,306

The 10 states with the greatest number of youth in foster care but eligible for adoption at the end of FY2005 are:

1. Texas                   10,768
2. New York              9,219
3. Florida                   7,374
4. Michigan                7,061
5. New Jersey*          4,425
6. Ohio                        4,348
7. California                4,121
8. Oklahoma*             3,993
9. Pennsylvania          3,679
10. Oregon*                3,441

*Though these states are not amongst the highest with youth in care they are among not those with the highest number of youth awaiting adoption

In FY2005 24, 407 (this is up 4,400 from FY2004) youth aged out of the foster care system. Many are only 18 years old and still need support and services. Several foster care alumni studies show that without a lifelong connection to a caring adult, these older youth often are left vulnerable to a host of adverse situations. Based on previous studies done over the past number of years these youth will face the following:  

Will earn a high school diploma                                                      54% 
Will obtain BA or higher                                                                    2%
Will become a parent 12-18 months after discharge                   84% 
Will experience unemployment                                                      51%
Will have no health insurance                                                         30% 
Will become homeless                                                                      25%
Will receiving public assistance                                                       30%
Will experience the justice system                                                 27%

There is vital data missing from what the states report to the federal government (or the state does not provide this data) which would prove vital in analyzing the foster care system and the potential damage caused to youth in care. They are:

1. The number of placements the youth experienced while in care. This is vital as it has been shown the more the placements the higher the possibility of damage to the youth.

* * Children have on average three different foster care placements. The longer a child or youth remains in foster care the more moves. Frequent moves in and out of the homes of strangers as well as new schools can be profoundly unsettling for children, and it is not uncommon to hear of children who have been in 20 or 30 different homes or 5 to 7 new schools. Many have been separated not only from their parents, but from their siblings.

*Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support

2. The percentage of lengths of stay and age percentage for each state. This would show how each state is doing in complying (or not) with the AFSA of 1997 in regards to the 15 months out of 22 months rule.

3. How many TPRs were completed were done in each state. This could help in figuring out why a state as California have over 81,000 youth in care at the end of FY2005, only 7,549 adoptions happened during that year but only 4,100 were still eligible for adoption at the end of  FY2005.

4. How many of the youth in FY2005, or before,  had been in care before but had been reunified with their family only to return. How many have been reunified and returned more than once and how many times?

5.  How were the other 560,852 supposedly verified cases (of the 872,000 total supposedly verified cases) of child neglect and/or abuse in FY2005 resolved? (IE: parenting classes, in home services, rehab, therapy, etc.) Were some of these reported a second time and come into foster care?

6. What are the exact figures from each state for youth aging out and how many of the 24, 407 youth nationwide who aged out of the system in FY2005 were offered services to assist them to become productive members of society so as not to end up as one of the statistical failures indicated above?

My top question is: How much longer will our society allow our youth to languish within the quagmire of our foster care system???  

The highest measure of a civilization lies in how it cares for its children. ~Margaret Mead

Outragous They Make Decisions on Foster Youth!!!

Below are two very recent examples of case workers responsible for making decision concerning foster youth in “their best interest.” Unfortunately these are not isolated situations but rather examples can be found acrossd the country on a daily basis.

Yes, there are great case workers as well as these that should be eliminated but the system as a whole is a failure and detroying the lives of thousands of youth yearly and MUST be reformed!

RANBY, Mo. — The foster parents of eight children are accused of smoking marijuana with a state social worker who was checking on a child in their home.

Granby foster parents Wayne Anthony O’Neal Sr., 32, and Christel J. O’Neal, 29, along with Nova G. Propes, 44, a caseworker with the Children’s Division of the Missouri Department of Social Services, were charged Monday in Newton County Circuit Court with two counts each of second-degree child endangerment.

The O’Neals had as many as eight foster children and two of their own children living with them earlier this month when marijuana allegedly was smoked in their home, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed with the court.

The affidavit stated that a 17-year-old foster child told a county sheriff’s deputy about marijuana use in the home and provided pictures she took of drugs in the home.
The sheriff’s office executed a search warrant and found drug paraphernalia, according to the affidavit.

Wayne O’Neal told investigators that he smoked marijuana almost every day in the master bedroom and that his wife and Propes had smoked with him there on several occasions when Propes conducted in-home visits with one of the foster children, the affidavit said.
_________________

TULSA — A state Department of Human Services worker failed to properly investigate accusations a boy was being abused in the weeks leading up to his death and faked reports to cover up the blunder, a new report has revealed.

DHS discovered the fabricated reports only after the boy was murdered by his father, according to a special report that a state oversight agency prepared at the request of The Oklahoman.

Keenan Taylor, 2, died from burns on June 9, 2005, a day after he was scalded by boiling water at his home.

The DHS “intake” worker reported he’d checked on the boy and three other children two weeks earlier because of abuse complaints but found no problems at the father’s home.

The worker actually may not have interviewed or observed the boy at all then, the special report shows.

Also, a DHS supervisor found key witnesses were never interviewed even though reports reflect the worker questioned them, records show.

The worker resigned after he was confronted about inaccuracies in his investigative reports, the oversight agency’s report shows.

The tragedy is an extreme example of a recurring problem at the agency — workers sometimes fail to check on a child’s welfare then falsify reports to show they did.

Some former employees have told The Oklahoman that workers make phony reports because they are struggling with high caseloads and are under extreme pressure from supervisors to make documentation a priority.

“They chose to put these kids in these types of situations and then they don’t follow up and they lie about following up,” said Keenan’s grandfather, Archie Taylor, who is suing DHS and current and former DHS employees.

“It was like they were just half doing their job,” said Taylor, a Tulsa aircraft machinist whose daughter is Keenan’s mother. “I want to make sure that this don’t happen to other kids, and the only way to do that is to expose DHS.”

DHS Director Howard Hendrick did not respond directly to a request for comment. Instead, DHS spokesman George Johnson said, “When we hire and train staff to do a job, we have to rely on a certain amount of trust and honesty.

“With a work force the size of ours, that trust is going to be violated. That’s why we have policies in place to address those issues when they do occur.”

In Keenan’s case, both the worker who faked reports and a “permanency” worker resigned shortly after the boy’s death, records show. The permanency worker failed twice to turn in accusations of mistreatment for possible investigation, records show.

Keenan’s father, Carlis Anthony Ball, 25, is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for the boy’s death. He was found guilty of first-degree murder and neglect at a trial last year.

Prosecutors say Ball deliberately poured scalding water on his son, burning 50 percent of the boy’s body, on June 8, 2005. Ball allegedly then stuck the boy in a dirty bedroom closet overnight. Ball watched a movie, had sex with a girlfriend and went shopping in the hours after the boy was burned, according to testimony at his trial.

Ball called for help the next afternoon and claimed he accidentally knocked a pot of boiling water on Keenan while cooking, according to testimony. Ball said he had not realized at first the boy was burned so badly, court records show.

DHS disclosed to prosecutors its intake worker had done an inaccurate investigation. DHS did not discuss the fraud in its only public report on the case. The majority of DHS records on the case remain confidential by law.

The Oklahoman discovered the fraud as part of its ongoing inquiry into DHS. It is unclear if the worker faked the records before or after Keenan died.

The Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth last week revealed some details about the fraud in an 11-page report based in large part on a review of DHS records.

The oversight agency did not name the employees in the report.

However, a DHS attorney identified Granville L. Haynes II and Billie J. Mayberry as the two child-welfare specialists who resigned to avoid being fired for their actions in the case.

DHS will not represent Haynes and Mayberry in the lawsuit, said the attorney, Richard Freeman Jr.

The former employees could not be reached for comment. “I just cannot take any more of the pressure,” Mayberry said in her resignation letter.
The report
The Commission on Children and Youth reported:

Keenan had been placed with his father on Dec. 23, 2004, after his mother tested positive for marijuana and cocaine. Ball was allowed to care for the boy even though he had been in trouble with the police and DHS before. He was caring for three other kids.

Complaints about the father were made to DHS in 2005 on Feb. 25, April 4, May 3, May 20, May 24, May 25 and June 7.

The accusations included claims that the father had whipped Keenan with a belt, that his children were dirty and smelled of urine, and that he was “smoking marijuana all the time.”

Many of the complaints were not even investigated.

DHS supervisors questioned whether the intake worker really checked on the boy on May 23, 2005, two weeks before the death. The worker reported he had found the apartment clean on May 23, 2005, the four children there showed no signs of abuse or neglect and there was no evidence of drugs or alcohol.

However, after Keenan’s death, his body was found to have injuries at various stages of healing, and two other children in the home had a pattern of marks on their bodies consistent with abuse and neglect.

Confronted by a supervisor after the death, the intake worker “had difficulty in locating the case notes and could not recall spe”ific information about the investigation.

The supervisor checked with people who were reportedly interviewed by the intake worker and determined that the worker never interviewed certain key people.

It remains unknown as to whether Keenan was interviewed or observed by the intake worker.
In the lawsuit:
 
In his lawsuit, the grandfather blames DHS for Keenan’s death, saying workers failed to take steps to remove the boy from an abusive situation. The grandfather alleges Keenan’s civil rights were violated.

The grandfather’s attorney, James Linger, said he learned about the faked records after filing the lawsuit last year. He said he found the evidence this summer when a Tulsa County judge allowed him to review almost 6,000 pages of confidential DHS records. He said he is not allowed to discuss what he found.

Foster Youth/Parents Bill of Rights!

I have been spending a lot of time lately researching the issue of “Bill of Rights” for foster youth/parents.

I have previously addressed the need for biological parents rights when faced with allegations which may result in removal of a child from their home. This was done when I addressed reform of Child Protective Services. 

I believe that when a youth is removed from their home and placed in foster care they as well as their foster parents should be guarenteed certain rights for each of their protection and best interest.

I have found this is not the case today for foster youth and is quite limited when it comes to foster parents.

Let me address each below:

FOSTER YOUTH BILL of RIGHTS

My research has unfortunately discovered that neither the federal government nor any of the states have passed into law a bill of rights for youth placed in foster care. The Feds and states have general guidelines which does not have the backing of law, many are not enforced, no consequences result for failure.

A few states have in recent years attempted to pass such laws but have not been successful The most recent state was Texas this year but it died in their House after the Senate had passed it.

This puts the youth at the mercy of a system that is broken and severely damages the youth in many cases.

Below is a Foster Child Bill of Rights that was suggested in 1973 and reaffirmed in 1983 though never adopted by the states or federal government:
Foster Child Bill of Rights

Ratified in Congress Hall, Philadelphia
Saturday, the Twenty-eighth of April, Nineteen Hundred and Seventy Three

Reaffirmed during the National Focus on Foster Care Conference, Norfolk, Virginia Wednesday, the Fourth of May, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Three

Even more than for other children, society has a responsibility, along with parents, for the well-being of children in foster care. Citizens are responsible for acting to insure their welfare.

Every child in foster care is endowed with the rights inherently belonging to all children. In addition, because of the temporary or permanent separation from, and loss of, parents and other family members, the child requires special safeguards, resources, and care.

EVERY CHILD IN FOSTER CARE HAS THE INHERENT RIGHT:

Article the first
….to be cherished by a family of his own, either his family helped by readily available services and supports to resume his care, or an adoptive family or, by plan, a continuing foster family.

Article the second
….to be nurtured by foster parents who have been selected to meet his individual needs, and who are provided services and supports, including specialized education, so that they can grow in their ability to enable the child to reach his potentiality.

Article the third
….to receive sensitive, continuing help in understanding and accepting the reasons for his own family’s inability to take care of him, and in developing confidence in his own self worth.

Article the fourth
….to receive continuing loving care and respect as a unique human being…a child growing in trust in himself and others.

Article the fifth
….to grow up in freedom and dignity in a neighborhood of people who accept him with understanding, respect and friendship.

Article the sixth
….to receive help in overcoming deprivation or whatever distortion in his emotional, physical, intellectual, social and spiritual growth may have resulted from his early experiences.

Article the seventh
….to receive education, training, and career guidance to prepare for a useful and satisfying life.

Article the eighth
….to receive preparation for citizenship and parenthood through interaction with foster parents and other adults who are consistent role models.

Article the ninth
….to be represented by an attorney-at-law in administrative or judicial proceedings with access to fair hearings and court review of decisions, so that his best interests are safeguarded.

 Article the tenth
….to receive a high quality of child welfare services, including involvement of the natural parents and his own involvement in major decisions that affect his life.

Foster youth in recent years have themselves suggested a bill of rights as well:

As a youth in foster care, you have the right:*

 To know your rights in foster care, to receive a list of those rights in written form and to know how to file a complaint if your rights are being violated.

 To be told why you came into foster care and why you are still in foster care.

 To live in a safe and healthy home where treated with respect, with your own place to store your things and where you receive healthy food, adequate clothing, and appropriate personal hygiene products.

 To have personal belongings secure and transported with you in a humane, dignified fashion.

 To have caring foster parents or caretakers who are properly trained, have received background checks and screenings, and who receive adequate support form the Agency to help ensure stability in the placement.

 To be placed in a home with your brothers and sisters when possible, and to maintain regular and unrestricted contact with siblings when separated (including help with transportation), unless ordered by the court.

 To attend school and participate in extracurricular, cultural, and personal enrichment activities.

 To have your privacy protected. You can expect confidentiality from the adults involved in your case.

 To be protected from physical, sexual, emotional or other abuse, including corporal punishment (hitting or spanking as a punishment) and being locked in a room (unless you are in a treatment facility).

 To receive medical, dental, vision and mental health services.

 To refuse to take medications, vitamins or herbs, unless prescribed by a doctor.

 To have an immediate visit after placement and have regular visits ongoing with biological parents and other relatives unless prohibited by court or unless you don’t want to.

 To make and receive confidential telephone calls and send and receive unopened mail, unless prohibited by court order.

 To have regular contact from and unrestricted access to social workers, attorneys, and advocates and to be allowed to have confidential conversations with such individuals.

 To be told by your social worker and your attorney about any changes in your case plan or placement and receive honest information about the decisions the Agency is making that affect your life.

 To attend religious services and activities of your choice and to preserve your cultural heritage. If possible your placement should be with a family member or someone from your community with similar religion, culture and/or heritage.

 To be represented by an attorney at law in administrative or judicial proceedings with access to fair hearing and court review of decisions, so that your best interest are safeguarded.

 To be involved, where appropriate, in the development of your case plan and to object to any of the provisions of the case plan during case reviews, court hearings and case planning conferences.

 To Attend court and speak to a judge (at a certain age, usually 12) about what you want to have happen in your case.

 To have a plan for your future, including an emancipation plan if appropriate (for leaving foster care when you become an adult), and to be provided services to help you prepare to become a successful adult.

 To not be discriminated against based on gender, religion, physical-mental or emotional disability, age, race or sexual orientation.

* Unless restricted by law,restricted by the court or not age appropriate.

I would strongly suggest that the suggested bill of rights be combined in some fashion and legislation be passed in Congress mandating a Foster Youth Bills of rights to be followed in every state and county in the US and that an enforcement clause to be added along with penalties for failure to follow. I also suggest that foster youth be given the right to sue in federal court when these rights are not adhered to.

FOSTER PARENTS BILL of RIGHTS:

Things are a bit different with foster parents, that is some states have passed a bill of rights law for foster parents. Unfortunately only 18 states have done so thus far.

The following are the states which have enacted a Foster Parent Bill of Rights:
 
Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia,
Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland,  Missouri, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington

This leaves 32 states and the District of Columbia without any such law.

Since each of these laws are lengthy I will not attempt to put them on this blog entry. However, here is the link you may go to in order to review each state’s law, except Iowa.

http://www.nfpainc.org/faq.asp?page=69&nmenu=3&title=Foster%20Parent%20Bill%20of%20Rights

I have read and reviewed each of the laws and have noticed each lacks an enforcement clause and their is no penalty for failure to follow the law. This then allows the counties in each state to interput the law as they please without penalty.

Just as with a Bill of Rights for Foster Youth I feel legislation must be introduced and passed in Congress to mandate a bill of rights to be followed uniformly in each state and counties within the states. This law also must contain an enforcement clause, penalties for failure to follow and the right for foster parents to sue in federal court if necessary.

In my series of entries regarding reform of the system I also suggested federal laws be passed. Today there is no uniformity of definition for abuse, neglect, etc. which has allowed states to defined it as they please. This has caused major confusion in the system throughout the country.

We must have uniformity of rights for biological parents facing allegations, youth placed in foster care, for foster parents as well as definitions of terms. What applies in one state should apply in every state.

What do you the reader think?