Problem 2 – the system hurts kids

(2) Whatever damage is done to their innocence in their original home is compounded by the lesson that they can’t trust us to care for them either.  Their “placements” are temporary, their relationships transitory.  They are moved physically from month to month and year to year and so learn quickly that there is no genuine opportunity to bond with a caring adult who will be there for them after the next move.  They are isolated from their sisters and brothers, extended family members, friends, classmates and community.   Consequently, the system itself causes damage to them, perhaps the worst damage of all. 

One response to “Problem 2 – the system hurts kids

  1. There is an almost young man who will reach 18 in a few months that has been in the system for close to twelve years now. As a small child he was loved and loving and extremely active. When his parents split up and things got ugly between them allegations were flying rapidly at each other and him and his toddler and infant siblings were removed from both parents. His younger siblings were placed together in one foster home and he in another. Parental visitations limited, siblings gone, as well as the family pets that had been part of his life he was confused and yes angry, he got into a fight with another child in kindergarten. He started wetting his bed something he hadn’t done for over 2 years. All this was reported to his state case worker. His well meaning foster parent bought a parakeet into the home probably trying to ease the pain of losing his pet a large dog he was used to rough housing with. A few days later this child was found crying holding a dead bird, when asked what had happened the 5 year old just sobbed and said “I killed it”. Did he really kill it? Was it an accident? Was it intentional? I don’t know but the three strike rule seems to apply to small children as well next I heard was that he was in a different home and on medication to “calm” him down. I kept in touch with his parents throughout the months that followed and learned that the younger children had been returned to live with their mother. Because of the dead bird the state felt it was risky to let him be around the younger children and because his father had protested when he learned about his son being medicated the state did not trust his father to continue the medication and decided to keep him in foster care awhile longer.

    Four years later and multiple foster homes later I received calls from multiple people in charge of deciding this child’s fate because both parents were trying to gain custody of him and both had listed me as a personal reference. At that time I learned that he was still being medicated and in fact in increasingly larger doses. While there had been no violence there had been an incident where he slammed a door and told a foster parent that he hated them. (Is there a parent that hasn’t heard that?) Neither parent was successful in regaining custody, my personal opinion either one of them would have done a fine job of raising this child. But by this time I’m sure the amounts of medication would have made the transition rough but surely “the system” should have been able to help with that. While both parents would have liked to have had custody both were also willing to step aside to let the other parent have custody if it would have gotten him back to a family that loved him. Perhaps if I’d taken a strong stand in favor of one parent over the other he would have gotten to go home with one of them. Thousands of dollars spent on attorney’s later and repeated efforts that increased visitation rights but never got their son back the parents both surrendered to the system.

    I fast forward to current time although for this child soon to be man I am sure it has been anything but fast forward. He has now spent 12 years in foster care and probably only the state knows how many different homes. He has not seen his brother and sister in all that time and according to his parents seems to be medicated to a robotic zombie stage. He will not graduate from high school he is at least 2 years behind in all subjects. In a few months though he will graduate from the foster care program and will be out on his own. It is highly doubtful that he will return home to his either of his parents because he doesn’t think they wanted him after all they got his siblings back and left him. He cannot possibly know the pain of his parents knowing that their fighting with each other resulted in him paying the ultimate penalty. And how will he support himself, how will he deal with the fact that he only recalls life through a medicated blur? Who will supply his medication, who will teach him to function without it? Will his most permanent home end up being back in “the system”? Will his next home be the prison system? If he does become a parent has he learned how to be a good one?

    We as a society must continue to support a system that wants to help our children, our citizens but we need to make sure we don’t create a monster that is so rigid that it deals with our children as case numbers and forgets to look them in the eyes. We need to see them and deal with them as individuals. Policies when rigidly applied create some of the cracks that our children fall through.

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