The first steps in fixing the foster care system
- Treat good foster parents better
- Provide better training, resources and support to good foster parents
It seems that every time I turn on the news, there is another scandal about a child being mistreated – or ignored – in a foster home.
Or a family that was investigated, but the children were not removed from relatives who ultimately hurt them.
Both of these very real issues in the child welfare system can be addressed by recruiting and ***retaining*** quality foster families. Inferior foster homes are frequently allowed to keep their licenses – even when their agencies don’t consider them good placement options – because even counting the bad homes, there still aren’t enough foster beds – even with the people that are in it for the money, or for easy access to children – there are still children in group homes that shouldn’t be.
Disclaimer: Some children SHOULD be in group homes or residential facilities. Some children have been so traumatized that a family setting is not the best place for them. I’m not not talking about those kids. I’m talking about the ones who would likely thrive in a family environment if given the chance. The kids who don’t get that chance because there are no beds available in family settings.
I imagine that it’s very hard to justify closing a foster home when there is already an extreme shortage of beds.
The best way to eliminate the “bad” foster homes is to recruit and retain enough “good” homes so that closing a bad one won’t send kids to a shelter or group home.
Imagine being a child welfare investigator and having to make the decision between leaving a child in a questionable situation or sending them to a group home – possibly with kids who’ve already abused other children.
Consider having to choose whether a child will be better off with an alcoholic, drug-addicted mother who forgets to feed them – or with the only open foster home in the area, where the father may or may not have behaved inappropriately with a previous foster child. How do you make that call? And if you really care about kids (which you do or you wouldn’t be in this field), how do you live with having to make that decision over and over?It’s fairly common knowledge within fostering circles – quality foster parents get soured on being abused by the system, great case workers and protective investigators get burnt out from being overloaded and having to choose between two evils day-in and day-out.I just read another article from a former foster child about how much harder it should be to become and remain a foster parent. Many states continue to increase the hoops foster parents have to jump through and most child welfare systems continue to treat foster parents as glorified babysitters, at best, and as self-centered-money-hungry-baby-snatchers, at worst.
Since I started blogging, I’ve come into contact with foster parents all over the country. I’m really glad that’s happened, because it has made me see just how good I have it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some bad experiences – a case manager that didn’t think I needed to know when she ^randomly^ picked up my son at daycare for visits; a case manager who lied in court and coordinated with bio-mom’s attorney to accuse me of medical neglect (twice), two GALs who are incapable of looking at their calendars and repeatedly realize 3 days before court that they MUST see the child NO LATER THAN TOMORROW (^does 2pm today or 3:15pm tomorrow work better for me^) and forget that both SuperDad and I work full-time.
My grandfather was an epic jackass. Seriously. The guy was the biggest jerk you’ll ever meet.
But that doesn’t mean he was always wrong. He always told me to find a way be part of the solution, rather than one of the masses just complaining about the problem. I won’t promise to stop being negative or snarky (^have you met me?^). But I do want to be part of the solution. (^hell, maybe I’ll even manage to convince the old asshat that I am worth something^)
My CBC is on the forefront of changing the way foster care works. I know some of it (maybe all of it?) is based on the Quality Parenting Initiative, but I’m certain that the success with which it has been implemented, is due to the dedicated social workers and administrators who truly are committed to improving the lives of foster children and their families (both biological AND foster families!)
I’m going to be talking more about how we do things around here – in the hopes that maybe you’ll be able to take some of our processes to your agencies and work to improve foster care from the inside out.
Hint: It has recently come to my attention that not all of my readers can easily tell when I’m being sarcastic. That is truly unfortunate, so finding a solution was imperative. ^Obviously, the easiest answer is to assume that if something can be read with sarcasm, it should be;^; but that’s not really workable, I guess. After reviewing several options for a “sarcasm font”, I’ve come up up with my own system. Whenever you see italics inside carrots (^snark^), that is my “sarcasm font”.