Showing posts from February, 2019

Unseen and Unheard

My 16-year old client – a young woman who had already spent several years in foster care – just wanted to share her story in court. She hoped to tell the judge the ways in which group home staff were mistreating her. She wanted an outlet to share her dreams about what she was going to accomplish after exiting the system.

She craved the opportunity to hear – firsthand – what was happening in her case. Her case was about her. She desired to be a part of it.

Yet, hearing after hearing, the judge refused to let her in. He didn’t want her to miss school. He was worried that the hearings would upset her.  He didn’t think it was appropriate for a child to hear adults talking about sensitive issues. He couldn’t be bothered to make sure that someone would bring her to court. So for years, he shut her out of the most important thing happening in her life.

The old English proverb states “children should be seen and not heard.”  My case illustrates how the foster care system often takes this one…

Beds for Grandma

In 2003, I was assigned to represent five young children in foster care, who had been placed in a group home in Maryland. During my first visit with them, they told me how much they wanted to live with their grandmother, a delightful, gregarious woman with a big smile who was deemed appropriate by everyone who met her.

Yet for weeks, the kids languished in a strange, unfamiliar facility simply because she didn’t have the money to buy them beds. The child welfare agency claimed it would take up to a month for them to process a payment to buy the beds. Until then, they said, nothing could be done.

Variations of this story are repeatedly heard across the country. When a child must enter foster care, the system rightfully looks to relatives to care for their kin. Yet, these relatives might lack the resources to take on additional children, particularly when large sibling groups are involved. Without financial support, they might be unable to care for the kids.

After kids are placed with …

Diagnosis: Poverty, Prognosis: Poor

I have heard it said many times that we – “we” being the child welfare system – do not remove children because their parents are poor. I have heard it at conferences, at stakeholder meetings and in conversations with colleagues. But I think it’s time we get one thing straight: we do most definitely remove children because their parents are poor.
Both as a society and as a system, we dislike poor people and we especially dislike poor parents. We blame them for not only living in poverty but for choosing to parent under these conditions. We are skeptical of their motives, of their parenting choices and of the people they choose to have in their lives (think “paramour”). And we are scared they will invite violence and disordernot only into the lives of their children but alsointo the lives of foster parents, case managers and service providers. These biases are pervasive in child welfare and are exemplified in its systems, approaches and attitudes. In my experience, there are three ways …