Foster Care not the Best Way?

My local newspaper, The Fargo Forum, (North Dakota) allows space each Sunday for a guest OpEd piece. Below you will find an article entitled, “Foster Care Not the Best Way. The article appeared on Sunday, October 21, 2007.

After reading it I felt it needed a response though I agreed with her data. However I did not agree with her conclusions. The Forum decided to print my response as a Letter to the Editor in its Wednesday, October 24, 2007 edition.

Here is the original article followed by my reply:

Foster Care Not Best Way
By Sheri McMahon

Based on the statistics from the administration for children and families, North Dakota places more of its children (per capita) in foster care than almost any other state in the nation.

North Dakota also contributes less of its own money to child welfare costs than almost any other state in the nation, preferring to rely on federal handouts to care for its own children. Less local and state money translates to less money to help children stay with their families.

This does not necessarily result in a lot of “bang for the buck” when one looks at the long-term outcomes of foster children – physical and metal illness, unemployment, low graduation rates (estimated around 50 percent), homelessness, incarceration. It is well-established that foster placement itself contributes to these factors.

For example, major studies (from MIT, the University of Minnesota and the University of Chicago) have determined that except in extreme cases, children who remain in their homes have better outcomes than children with the same risk factors who are separated from their parents. But according to minutes of the Children’s Justice Initiative Task Force convened in 2006 by the North Dakota judiciary, resources to keep families together are mostly unavailable.

Prevention services can include assistance with school and activity fees, clothing expenses, toys, housing (particularly emergency and transitional housing other than shelters, which are difficult places for kids to live), child care or after school programs (particularly for parents working low-wage jobs at night or on weekends, or for those whose children have needs requiring specialized child care), transportation to appointments for mental or physical health care (transportation assistance for kids or parents on medical assistance has basically vanished in recent years), transportation for parents to work (bus transportation is limited or nil at night and on Sundays, but many low-wage workers are required to work on Sundays) assistance with individual concrete needs.

It is one thing to spend money on gas and vehicle wear and tear to transport an extra child in the house; having to take a sick child on a long city bus ride to a walk-in clinic on a winter day is another, not to mention having a sick child, no cash in the house for bus fare and no phone. It is one thing to go through more laundry detergent and hot water; it’s another thing to scrub socks and underwear in the bathtub.

Oftentimes the public simply cannot imagine the hurdles faced by families in poverty. Perhaps, if they could, they would be a little more willing to help them through these hurdles. Let’s work harder on preventing foster care in the first place.

McMahon, Fargo, is with Cass Clay Child Welfare Family

My Reply:

Foster Care Opinion Has it Wrong

This is in reply to Sheri McMahon’s opinion entitled “Foster Care not the Best Way” in the Sunday (10/21/07) Fargo Forum.

I agree with McMahon’s basic facts regarding the number of youth in care and the possible results of their being in care.

I, however, do not agree in what appears to be her conclusions. McMahon seems to think the only reason youth are in foster care is because the parents live in poverty; just need some basic in home services and all will be solved.

While in-home services may help some she needs to examine the basic truths as to why youth end up in foster care…poverty is not on the list!

According to the latest statistics provided by the federal government youth are in care for:
65% extreme neglect
18% physical abuse
10% sexual abuse
7% emotional maltreatment

In-home services will not resolve these problems and the youth need to be removed from their families as long as they are in danger. There are also numerous programs and charities available to address the problems McMahon brought up.

Parents, doing their best, despite their circumstances, rarely face their children being removed and placed in foster care. It is the parents who willingly or intentionally or knowingly do not provide for their children for reasons other than poverty…such as alcohol or drug abuse. There is absolutely no excuse for extreme neglect, physical or sexual abuse of their children!

Let’s not blame society for youth going into foster care…put the blame where it belongs: the parents. This is not yet another problem that can be solved by just throwing money at it!

There are numerous problems with our foster care system which definitely need to be addressed so youth do not have the issues McMahon refers to.

This is coming from one who lived in the foster care system for years and has gone on to have a fairly successful life.

Sincerely,
Lawrence P. Adams
Regional Manager North America,
World Initiative for Orphans, Fargo

my web site @  http://www.larrya.us

10 Responses

  1. Thanks Larry. I wish the media would get their facts correct. The citizens of Fargo now know the true facts because of your article. We have parented over 100 children. The majority of those children came into care because one or both of their parents were drug or alcohol users, which led them to abusing their children or not protecting their children. At least 80% of the children we have fostered were sexually abused. 95% were neglected.

    Keep up the good fight for our children. You are so awesome. We love ya!
    Cherokee_Rose

    • North Dakota targets the children of new residents for foster care placement cause they recieve MILLIONS and MILLIONS and MILLIONS of dollars from the federal government and if they do not place a pre-determined number of kids in foster care they lose their funding. This problem has grown worse since the oil boom and it isn’t just poverty that determines whose kids will fund the Federal monies the state recieves from this profitable venture. Length of residency does as well. Somebody’s kids have go to be removed and if they can target the new resident or those who cannot afford attourneys than they leave the rest of the community to live in peace with out running the risk of being reprimanded. They run the risk of job loss and rural office closure if they cannot maintain the number of children removed and people are having long, drawn out investigations being done for nothing. Literally nothing. I am looking to contact out of state media, THERE ARE 4 FAMILIES IN MY COMMUNITY THAT HAVE BEEN TARGETD AND I AM UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR HOMESCHOOLING. I WAS REPORTED CAUSE MY DAUGHTER WAS SEEN PLAYING IN THE YARD WITH HER DOG ONE DAY AND ANOTHER EPISODE HER AND A NEIGHBOR GIRL; HAD THE SHERRIFF DISPATCHED FOR BEING ON THE PLAYGROUND. A NEIGHBOR OF MINE IS UNDER INVESTIGATION AFTER SHE REFUSED TO PLACE HER 5 YEAR OLD ON ADHD MEDS FOR “EDUCATIONAL INTERFERENCE.” They have very, very loose definitions of abuse and neglect here, basically, once the investigation is open they may keep it open as long as they wish to and they may change the reason for the investigation numerous times until they find a loophole. The more kids you have also, the more likely you are to be a target.

  2. Very interesting! Always nice to hear from someone that actually lived it.

  3. Thanks Larry!
    I’ve only had the opportunity to foster parent four children so far, two of which we’ve adopted. All four were removed from their parents due to extreme neglect, drug abuse, maltreatment and so on.
    Keep putting your voice out there and it will definitely get heard. Best wishes.
    MommyOh (FP boards)

  4. Thanks for pointing out the problem with this writers simplistic and unrealistic solution to the problems that foster children face .

  5. Can I give my support to Larry and the realistic view he has about not constantly passing the buck to society for youth going into foster care and identifying the real problem….the parents. Well said from simplyfostering in the UK!

  6. I am an aged out foster youth I am 20 years old also a board member of ND’s Youth Advisory Board, I want to state that I do not agree with this blog. The Youth Advisory Board NDYouth, Mission Statement is: It is the mission of ND Youth to use our influences and resources to educate, recruit, and to encourage active participation at all levels – providing confidence and motivation for youth to step up, speak out, and change the stereotypes of all current and future in care.

    I am speaking out, not all youth have horrible families, some do yet not all, I am one of the youth that doesn’t have a horrible family or unwealthy family, so why was I in fostercare I made wrong choices well I was growing up, which end me up in the states care, I was helped, and now in college. As for other youth some it isn’t there fault and some have made wrong choice, and yet some just have had a bad card dealt to them, parents passing away or underage parents and so on. We as a Board want to change the sterotype of the foster youth, every youth have different stories and different lifestyles and You as a person can relate. So instead of placing a blame, get to know your state’s youth and make a change and give a helping hand. If you want to become a Foster Parent I suggest contacting your local Path office or Children and Family Services, and make a difference in a childs life.

  7. What ND offer’s Foster Youth. Regional Youth Advisor Boards, for youth to bring up issues that they have, mentors, a time to talk to some who was in the system or is in the system.
    State Youth Advisor Board, which advocates for the foster youth.
    Independ Living Coordinators, a safe adults that teach foster youth how to be indepent, and who will be there after the age of 18 and help them turn into adults. The hardest working group of people that advocate for foster youth. In my case my ILC is a hard working woman that has been with me for 3 years and has help me out of alot jams, and is with me to this day.

    Chafee Grant, which helps pay for higher education for foster youth.

    North Dakota is trying to help its youth, yet there are still more youth that need homes, youth that the only placement avaible is away in another county or away from there bio family or group homes.
    If you choose to become a Foster Parent and change a youth’s life or interested, please contact your local children and family services center or your local path office.

  8. Hey, nice tips. I’ll buy a glass of beer to that man from that forum who told me to visit your site🙂

  9. […] This does not necessarily result in a lot of “bang for the buck” when one looks at the long-term outcomes of foster children – physical and metal illness, unemployment, low graduation rates (estimated around 50 percent), homelessness, incarceration. It is well-established that foster placement itself contributes to these factors. For example, major studies (from MIT, the University of Minnesota and the University of Chicago) have determined that except in extreme cases, children who remain in their homes have better outcomes than children with the same risk factors who are separated from their parents. But according to minutes of the Children’s Justice Initiative Task Force convened in 2006 by the North Dakota judiciary, resources to keep families together are mostly unavailable. It is one thing to spend money on gas and vehicle wear and tear to transport an extra child in the house; having to take a sick child on a long city bus ride to a walk-in clinic on a winter day is another, not to mention having a sick child, no cash in the house for bus fare and no phone. It is one thing to go through more laundry detergent and hot water; it’s another thing to scrub socks and underwear in the bathtub. Oftentimes the public simply cannot imagine the hurdles faced by families in poverty. Perhaps, if they could, they would be a little more willing to help them through these hurdles. Let’s work harder on preventing foster care in the first place. https://prairieguy.wordpress.com/2007/10/24/foster-care-not-the-best-way/ […]

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