2008 A Bad Year for Foster Care…Prospects for 2009!!

 

 A few hours ago we turned the final page, read the last paragraphs and finally closed the book called 2008.

 

We know how dreadful a year it was in regards to our economy, many losing their jobs and homes, more people without health care, falling apart infrastructure and the list goes on and on. We know of all this because the news media hammered it home day after day in their news coverage and headlines of the day.

 

Unfortunately one area of disaster is not well known amongst the public as the media did not consider it worthy of the attention. Yes, we saw the random headlines and occasionally it received coverage on the news; though most of the time it was limited to local coverage.

 

I am speaking of the continued plight of youth in our nation’s foster care system. We as a nation were in 2008 continuing to lose yet another generation of youth who face the tribulations of foster care. These youth continue to be voiceless, unseen and forgotten by most.

 

In 2008:

 

We saw an increase of over 6,000 youth whose parents had their rights terminated continue to languish in foster care as legal orphans: from 123,000 youth in 2007 to 129,000 youth in 2008. This count does not include youth 16-18 years of age who choose not to be adopted.

 

We saw the continuing trend of more youth aging out of the system; in many cases unprepared for the world that awaits them. Just a few years ago the number was holding steady at 20,000 youth a year aging out but the numbers have been increasing; 2007-24,000 youth and 2008-26,000 youth. I have reported in other blog entries the high failure rate of youth aging out of the system.

 

We saw judges continue to ignore ASFA1997 and allowing youth to linger in the system well past the 15-22 month rule. We saw them give the biological parents chance after chance to work their case plans while the youth were held in limbo in regards to permanency.

 

We saw foster parents after foster parents being denied the ability to adopt youth in their care while the youth languishes in the system supposedly temporary becomes a permanent pawn of the system until they age out.

 

We continued to see youth experience move after move of one foster home to another though it has been well documented that with each move a youth will suffer damage.

 

I could go on and on about the failure of our foster care system in 2008 but hopefully this gives you a picture. The unfortunate thing is 2008 is not a new failure. The failures of today are in many cases the same failures I faced while in the system 50 years ago.

 

Prospects for 2009:

 

You would think with so many years of failures being the history of our foster care system that I would think 2009 would be just another year of such failure.

 

However I am optimistic about 2009.  What gives me reason for this optimism?

 

In the spring of 2007 I wrote a letter to each of the candidates for President of the United States whether they be Democrat or Republican. Though I have never been a one issue voter the plight of youth in foster care is a vital one to me. I wanted to know where each candidate stood on the issue and what they would do if nominated by their respective party and ultimately elected.

 

Sixteen letters were written. Here is the text of that letter:

 Dear _______________:

 

There are thousands of American children who are in desperate need for our leaders to “defend their lives”. Over 500,000 currently reside in our nation’s foster care system…123,000 languish in the system while currently eligible for adoption.

 

There is also an alumnus from the foster care system of over 12 million men/women today.

 

American children are being abused and neglected in record numbers. It is outrageously despicable that in a great country such as ours these innocent lives are not being protected. There are American children who are suffering abuse repeatedly. It appears that “parental rights” gives someone the right to abuse, neglect, and molest our littlest victims.

Many of these children are placed in foster homes to have their broken bodies, minds and hearts mended by loving foster parents, only to be returned over and over again to their abusers. Some are eventually murdered.

 

It is time a fierce stand is taken to protect these innocent lives. Current laws are not effective in preventing violence against children. Current laws do not give children in foster care the stability and permanency they so deserve. Current laws do not do what our children need them to do, protect them and consider their best interest. There is a need for laws and regulations to provide safe, loving, nurturing environments for our children to live and thrive in.

 

Many, many foster care children are never adopted, many of them age out of the system. They age out of the foster care system into our prison systems, homeless etc. This is because after being repeatedly abused, neglected, and reunited with their perpetrators they are so severely traumatized that they become mentally ill.

 

The federal government has in the past used incentives such as bonuses to the states for the adoption of foster children over the age of nine. These children need adopted in their early years. They are hardened by the very system set-up to protect them. By the time these children are nine years old it is hard to find families willing to adopt a child who has numerous behaviors issues. Issues that they developed by the trauma they suffered while in the “system”.

 

Over the years there have been token changes to the laws, regulations, and other governmental acts that were suppose to protect abused and neglected children. None of these have made a meaningful or useful change for the children. Children are still languishing in foster care. Children are still being reunited with their abusers only to be returned to the broken foster care system, time and time again. When are we going to “defend their lives”?

 

I the undersigned had my life touched forever by the foster care system. I was thrust into on the day of my birth and remained until I aged out. I went through sixteen moves, sexual abuse and other humiliations during those years. The last move was being thrust onto the streets to fend for myself when I reached eighteen.

 

I am one of the lucky ones who survived the system and have made something of my life.

 

I am not a one issue voter. However, this is one of the main issues I am concerned about. I don’t want the usual political spinning, more studies or commissions. I want proposals with action to correct what I consider to be a national crisis.

 

I urge you to consider legislation, if nominated or elected, to our Representatives and our Senators to make unprecedented changes that are “in the child’s best interest”. The current system of “state run systems” has failed these youth. I believe that if the foster care system was a federally ran system there would be more consistency and uniformity in the protection of the United States foster children. We need action now, before more innocent lives are lost.

 

I have contact with several thousand former foster youth as well as foster/adoptive parents I wish to possibly garner their support for you from. There first question is “What does he/she plan on doing about the foster care system problem?” I want to be able to answer that question but I do not have an answer to date.

 

Will you please “stand on OUR side” as I and others “defend” these little lives we so desperately want to protect and stand by “your” side?

 

Sincerely,

 

 

I received only one response. It was not your typical form letter reply thanking me for writing about an issue. It was obvious a letter than had been very carefully considered as it addressed not only the issue but responded to the things I had experienced as a youth in foster care. One could tell this candidate had read my letter personally and responded to it in the same manner.

 

This candidate was Senator Barack Obama. He showed he cared about me as an individual, as an American as well as the issue. He was not the typical politician just looking for votes.

 

I became an immediate supporter of Senator Barack Obama for President.

 

 

He made two promises in his letter to me:

 

  1. He would clearly state on his web site his position for child advocacy
  2. He would establish a specific office in the White House if elected for children & youth issues

 

He followed through with this statement of advocacy on his web site:

 

Child Advocacy:

 

Barack Obama is a committed advocate for children. He will make sure that every child has health insurance, expand educational opportunities for low-income children, extend resources for low-income families, support and supplement our struggling foster care system, and protect children from violence and neglect.

 

On December 9, 2008, just a month after his election as President he carried through with his second promise.

 

President elect Obama and his transition team are requesting feedback from the general public on the issue and what we would like to see be done.

 

Never before in my memory has a President asked we the public to be part of establishing policy.

 

Whether you voted for President elect Obama or not it is time for each of us to not only complain about problems but to offer potential solutions to a person who has promised to listen to us.

 

It is time for each of us to let our voices be heard on the issue of our broken foster care system and the damage it causes.

 

Below is the link where you are able to do so. You will be required to sign up but then you can speak to this issue or other issues that may be of interest to you.

 

http://change.gov/open_government/entry/establishing_the_white_house_office_on_children_and_youth/

 

This is not the end but only the beginning. We must hold President Obama’s feet to the fire. We must let him know when we agree with him on this issue and when we disagree. We must let him know we will not continue to allow our current system of foster care to destroy another generation of youth.

 

He has kept his first two promises to me and now I want to see change!

 

Knowing what the President will have on his plate day one of his presidency I do not expect immediate solutions to the problem but I do expect the beginning of the process within 2009.

 

To those reading this please do your part’ go to the link above and be heard!

 

Reform needs to begin and it needs to begin NOW!!

10 Responses

  1. Larry,
    What a great blog. I will post to my facebook so my friends who are foster parents and caseworkers can go to the link and respond! I hope the New Year is a new start for these kids!

  2. Wow Larry!!! I wish we could vote YOU into this new position in Obama’s leadership…..

    We NEED children to have more rights than our pets, and currently they do NOT! God bless you for fighting for the rights of our children!

    There are a few bad apples out there in the land of foster parenting, but for those of us who do our best for these vulnerable souls, thank you!!!!

  3. I have also posted this on my Facebook page as well as other groups I belong to. Need to get the word out to anyone who is interested in changing our foster care system.

  4. It seems like the new laws only made it easier for the adoptive parents to adopt toddlers instead from fostercare and leave older children ect.. in fostercare I know so many of my fellow foster parents who only take babies and toddlers in and hope to adopt them. I hate to think this has made it worse for the ones who truely need a home, but I have witnessed it firsthand. I have seen foster parents fight reunification in court and win when it is a young toddler. They become “party to the case” and retain an attorney.

  5. I have posted this to my foster parent support group also. We as foster parents need to speak up about the failing of the foster system and the children being the victims of the system.

  6. MY PARTNER AND I COULD NOT HAVE CHILDREN, AND WE WANTED TO HAVE A CHILD TO SHARE OUR LIFE AND HOME. WE BOTH HAD A CHILDHOOD THAT WAS PRETTY BAD, AND WE KNEW THAT THERE WERE CHILDREN WHO ALSO NEEDED HELP. WE WERE NAIVE ENOUGH TO THINK THAT WITH OUR PAST EXPERIENCE, LOVE, SUPPORT AND A DESIRE TO HELP A CHILD – IT WOULD BE EASY TO BE ADOPTIVE PARENTS.

    I WANTED TO WAIT UNTIL WE OWNED A HOME BEFORE WE PERSUED OUR DESIRE. TWO YEARS LATER, WE BOUGHT OUR HOME AND WANTED TO BRING A CHILD INTO OUR BEAUTIFUL HOME FILLED WITH LOVE. SO, I LOOKED INTO GAY ADOPTION. IT TURNED OUT THE ONLY WAY WE COULD BECOME PARENTS WAS TO GO THRU OUR LOCAL DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES. NONE OF THE PRIVATE AGENCIES WANTED TO WORK WITH A LESBIAN COUPLE.

    I WAS THRILLED WHEN I CALLED OUR LOCAL DSS AND WAS ADVISED THAT WE COULD BECOME ADOPTIVE PARENTS THRU OUR STATE. WE RECEIVED A BROCURE WITH THE DATE OF THE FIRST OF MANY MEETINGS WITH DSS TO START THE PROCESS. AT THIS MEETING, WE WERE ADVISED THE BEST WAY TO ADOPT WAS TO BECOME A FOSTER PARENT. SO WE SAID OK, THAT WAS FINE. WE KNOW THAT IT WAS A CHANCE – BUT, WE WANTED TO HELP CHILDREN.

    I WAS SO SURPRISED THAT NOT EVEN BEFORE WE WERE THRU OUR INITIAL CLASSES, WE RECEIVED A CALL FOR A F/C THAT WAS A PRETEEN. OUR BOBO IS A GREAT CHILD, THAT HAS HAD SOME AWFUL THINGS OCCUR IN HER LIFE. BOBO HAD A SPARK ABOUT HER THAT MADE YOU LOVE HER INSTANTLY. I HAVE NEVER HAD A PERSON WHO COULD EFFECT SO MANY OF MY EMOTIONS. I WAS NO WHERE NEAR READY TO DEAL OR POSITIVELY HELP HER WITH HER ISSUES. NO MATTER HOW MUCH I LOVED HER, I THOUGHT IF SHE WAS MOVED TO A MORE EXPERIENCED HOUSE SHE WOULD GET THE HELP SHE NEEDED IN A THERAPUTIC FOSTER HOME.

    BOBO WAS MOVED TO A THEREAPUTIC HOME, BUT IT WAS A HOME THAT WAS NOT FIT FOR BOBO. THE CASE WORKERS DID NOT LISTEN TO A WORD WE TOLD THEM ABOUT HER OR HER PERSONALITY. I THINK IF DSS DID A BETTER JOB PLACING CHILDREN IN HOMES THAT COULD HANDLE THE SPECIFIC ISSUES THAT RELATE TO THAT SPECIFIC CHILD.

    WE NEED TO BE TRAINED – PAID TRAINING LIKE CASEWORKERS, ON WAYS TO WORK WITH FOSTER CHILDREN. TOO LEARN WHAT ISSUES FOSTER CHILDREN HAVE TO DEAL WITH, AND HOW TO EFFECTIVELY WORK WITH THOSE ISSUES.

    THE CHILDREN THAT COME INTO CARE NEED TO BE PROPERLY EVALUATED TO KNOW WHAT SOME OF THE ISSUES THAT CHILD WITH BE DEALING WITH WHEN THEY COME INTO CARE. THEN PLACE THEM IN A TRAINED FOSTER HOME. THEN MAYBE CHILDREN WON’T BE MOVED SO MUCH, THEY WILL BE IN A HOME THAT CAN HELP THEM

  7. While I agree that children are abused repeatedly, I disagree with it being strictly at the hands of their parents. I have lived on both sides of the foster care issue.

    I spent 10 years of my childhood in foster care before aging out of the system and returning to my biological family that had been chased, threatened, and plain pushed out of my life while I was growing up. I watched my mother be accused of failing to protect my sister and myself, yet being fit to retain full custody of my brother. Our family was torn apart, literally and figuratively, for over 10 years, while the real perpetrator, received a 3 year sentence and went on with his life to repeat what he had already served two separate sentences on three convictions.

    As an adult, I lost parental rights to my two boys after a 5 year battle that started with the allegations of neglect because my children were with licensed daycare more hours then with me. I was given family service plan after family service plan as I would complete all objectives of the previous one. I would required to have parenting classes, anger management classes, money management classes, individual therapy (that I should have been in while in foster care), family therapy, and required to meet with the case worker 3 times a week with 2 hour visits once a week with my boys. In addition to all these nice requirements, I was require to maintain full time employment and a home. After completing each and every requirement set by the Court, my parental rights were terminated for “Due to Ms. Gabel’s being raised in foster care, she is unable to meet the Court’s Standards of parenting in a timely manner.” I did not lose my rights because of abusing my children or for neglecting my children due to drug or alcohol addiction, but because I had tried to provide for my children without receiving assistance and because I was raised in foster care.

    I moved to another State in 97 after my rights were terminated to start over. In 99 I gave birth to my third child, a little girl with special medical and physical needs. In November 2005, I separated from my current husband, who continued to live in the marital home until the divorce was finalized. Everything moved along, with my daughter’s developmental services, school services, and medical services until 2 social workers showed up at our home on October 16, 2006 just before my daughter turned 7 years old.

    After disclosing they had spent 4 days going door to door in my neighborhood looking for a home with a step parent they dropped the bomb on me that allegations had been made that my estranged husband had molested my daughter. My daughter was with her paraprofessional service provider and my estranged husband was at his job so their request to interview both could not be accommodated at that time. They gave me their card to call when my daughter was available and left.

    I contacted my daughter’s case manager, who immediately contacted her service provider and we set out to have my daughter examined by her pediatrician. This was denied by CPS, as was our attempt to have her examined by 2 other doctors certified to preform CSME. CPS told all three doctors that CPS was not requiring a physical examine as that was not the nature of the reported allegations.

    I had contacted my neighbor, who was a detective with the local sheriff’s department and asked him what I should do next and was told to contact the head detective of the juvenile. I got the name and number, which I proceeded to call. The Head detective put me through to the detective that was assigned the case. An appointment to interview my daughter was scheduled for two days later.

    In the mean time, My daughter’s case manager and I continued to try and work with the CPS worker, who schedule and canceled FOUR meetings to interview my child. At the time she canceled the last meeting she demanded that my daughter be brought to her office, that my child be interviewed by herself in a locked room. Neither my daughter’s case manager nor myself felt this was a good idea because of my daughter’s special needs and communication difficulties. At this disclosure to the CPS worker, she stated she was turning the case over to the police. I informed her we already had an interview set up with the police for the 18 of October. My daughter, her case manager, and myself went to the Sheriff’s department and my daughter was interviewed. The detective suggested I place my daughter with a family member until their investigation could be completed so there would be no contact with the alleged perpetrator. I explained all of my family lived out of State and that I did not want CPS using that against me. The detective stated this was their advice and it could not be used against me as I was doing what I was advised to protect my daughter.

    Upon this advice I placed my daughter in the guardianship of my brother and sister in LA as my sister and I met in GA that night .We heard nothing more from anyone at either the Sheriff’s department or CPS until November 3, 2006. At that point I was served with a petition for Obstruction of an Investigation. I went to Court, told the Judge I wanted legal representation, was told the judge would determine if I qualified for legal representation AFTER the hearing was concluded. Without legal representation, the hearing was conducted, ordering me to return my child to the State of North Carolina and turning my child over to CPS by November 7, or go to jail. I tried to explain to the judge that my daughter was placed in my Sister and brother’s guardianship and that they were refusing to return her because they felt CPS would use our family’s previous history to take custody of my child. I was order to do the above regardless. Additionally, I was ordered to return to Court on November 9, 2006, at which time I was placed in jail under civil contempt and non-secured custody of my daughter was ordered to CPS. I was held in jail for 6 days before CPS was able to go to LA, take my child from my sister and brother, placed in a temp foster home in LA, and then brought back to North Carolina and placed in yet another foster home. These were the first of 8 placements in two years.

    To make a longer story short, the allegations were against my estranged husband, who was charged and arrested by January 21, 2007, but CPS civilly charged me with failing to protect my daughter because I should have known what was happening. None of my daughter’s paraprofessional service providers were charge criminally or civilly, nor were any of her 27 doctors, her case manager, her therapist, her psychiatrist, or the reporter who told CPS she had know of the sexual abuse since July of 2006 failing to report it until October 12, 2006 or giving out the wrong names and address. The reporter even told CPS that she had not told me of what was happening because she feared I would attempt to kill my estranged husband if she had told me.

    I have fought since that time to regain custody of my child. I completed all required services by September 2, 2007, but did not regain physical custody of my daughter until April 13, 2009 as CPS and GAL felt my daughter should not be returned to my custody. It took over a year for a best interest study to be completed after it was ordered by the Court because CPS delayed making the referral, forwarding the case records, and granting funding. Once the best interest study was completed with a favorable decision that my child should never have been removed from my custody and should be returned to my custody as soon as possible, it still took another 6 months for this too occur.

    Now, a month after the fact, we are still under the legal custody of CPS, with the worker and GAL interfering and disrupting our schedules and lives at their whim.

    I did nothing wrong, I had every possible safety measure in place that could be in place, those that are trained to report abuse and neglect never suspected either was occurring, yet my daughter is the one to pay the price on both sides of this issue the same I have through out my life because of insensitive, over reacting, power hungry people who have a God complex.

    There needs to be a balance between protecting children, children rights, parents rights, and accountability of a system that does not control or hold responsible over zealous power hungry workers.

    My daughter suffered undue damage because of a system that saw a history, but not the people behind the one sided records they had. At the end of all this, my daughter has revealed to her new therapist that it was not her step father, but her bio-logical father that had touched her after she was placed with him by CPS. No one has apologized for their actions, my name has been added to the national registry as a person responsible for serous child abuse, which has affected my ability to maintain employment at my degree level, we have lost our home, our vehicles, our life’s savings, and checking accounts. We have been forced to start over with renting a small trailer, 3 part time, dead end low paying job, and barely making ends meet, as well as receiving State aid of food stamps, free school lunches, and medicaid, with a used vehicle that needs repairs that can’t be afforded.

    It is difficult to go from making a $170,000.00 a year, owning your own home, having a brand new vehicle, taking Disney world trips once a year, and having over $50,000.00 in the savings account, and five checking accounts with between $500.00 and $2500.00 to having nothing and being told you cannot support your child. To add insult to injury, this system then uses your changed circumstances in Court reports as reasons why they need to continue supervising your family once you do finally regain custody of your child.

    These things should not be allowed to happen. It should not take 2 1/2 years to regain custody of your child when you should have never lost custody in the first place.

  8. Hello. I recently helped with the intervention of a child which I truly felt was the right thing to do. Since then, I’ve been recieving this ‘backlash’ from people who read this story on my blog yoy50.wordpress.com. Not everyone felt this was a bad choice, but I am very perplexed by the ones who did feel that way. What I’m being told is that Foster care is horrible in practically every sense of the word. What I’d like to know is really, just how bad is Foster Care and CPS for that matter? You mentioned that it’s just as bad as it was 50 years ago. While my eyes have been opened on just what truly corrupt systems this country does have– how can Foster Care and CPS go largely unnoticed for so long? I’m not implying that this report is false, but it really does seem odd that there isn’t any real attention drawn to this issue. When I felt really pleased that the system seem to finally work for this child, now I’m wondering, did I just “sentence” this child to more misery or worse? HELP!!!

  9. this is so sad why are there so many people that arent willing to adopt those childern in fostercare need a home just like us who do i am fifteen i was in foster care at the age of 3 i hated it thank god my mom changed her mind or i might just be living whith a couple of strangers but in this case these childern need a couple of strangers to live a healthy happy life if my mom had not got me back or didnt whant me then i would have begged for someone to take me as their little girl so we need to go get these childern some homes and flipping stop complaning about what the economy is like if you dont enjoy working with this kind of thing then dont do it

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