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Can We Walk You Home?

Throughout the evening, the three brothers described to me the years of abuse they experienced in foster care. They were made to stand in the corner of rooms for hours. They were forced to clean every dish in the house, if one was dirty. One brother didn’t go to college after his foster mother ripped up a college scholarship letter he had received to play football. Another was assaulted in his group home.

As our dinner went on, these kids kept sharing stories of hurt. After leaving foster care, all three children had been incarcerated, one spending several years in prison. They had a lot to be angry about. 

Yet, even when recounting years of pain, they didn’t seem mad. Instead, they were smiling and joking around. They took pictures of their tacos. They invited me to a party at their house. When I asked whether they were angry at their foster parent or their mother – whose drug use led to their entry into foster care – they looked surprised. They resisted my bait, arguing that anger…

Why I Became A Family Defense Lawyer

Homeless While in State Custody

“If they were going to treat me like this, why didn’t they just leave me at home?”
That question was posed to me by my twelve-year-old client after being taken from his parents and moved through several foster homes, only to find himself without any home at all.Instead, he was spending his days sitting in a chair next to the desk of his caseworker – missing school to do so – and then spending each night and each weekend in a different emergency foster home.My client needed to be in foster care.Unlike the vast majority of cases that involve neglect, his was the unusual case where there had been serious abuse.I knew he did not want to go home to his parents – he knew it was not safe for him – which made his question to me all the more chilling.
As a young lawyer, I was horrified by my client’s treatment, but even more so by the response of the child welfare agency to the motion I filed to bring them into court to address his situation.They argued that foster care was by definition imperm…

While We Celebrate, Some Children Grieve

Your Crisis Can Wait Until Noon

Rethinking Relationships

At a recent meeting I attended, a foster parent described her role as being a “co-parent” with the birth parent to raise a child in foster care. That is, she envisioned that her job was to temporarily help care for the child – with the birth parent – while doing everything in her power to support efforts to reunify the family.

This philosophy accords with the work of the Quality Parenting Initiative – organized by the Youth Law Center – which has “caregivers, agency staff and birth parents work as a team to support children and youth.”  Consistent with this, across the country, foster parents are leading a revolution to encourage birth parents – by supervising visits, bringing them to doctor’s appointments and school meetings, and helping them with their treatment plan.

The foster care system needs an overhaul. But to do this, we must rethink our unproductive ways of conceptualizing relationships, particularly those that we have construed as necessarily adversarial. Foster parents an…