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
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.
Lawrence P. Adams
Regional Manager North America,
World Initiative for Orphans, Fargo
my web site @ http://www.larrya.us