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PARENT-CHILD REUNIFICATION

May 29, 2013
Foster Child

Foster Child

According to the AFCARS Report released for last year by the US Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau; more than 650,000 children under the age of 18, required out of home placement.

Most of these children were placed in homes with foster families. Some were placed with other family members who were able to demonstrate a desire and an ability to meet the standards of their state’s child protective agencies.

Approximately 15% of the children in foster care display behaviors disturbing enough to require they be placed in a more intensive setting such as a group home or RTF (residential treatment facility) or some other type of institutionalized setting.

Based on the testimony of Laurel K. Leslie, MD MPH FAAP on behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics at the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support Hearing on the Utilization of psychotropic Medication for Children in Foster Care in May of 2008, (yes not only does such a committee exist but we can only try and imagine the time and cost involved in funding these types of research and committees); it was determined that:

Poverty

Poverty

Roughly half the children in foster care suffer from chronic medical problems, including heart disease, tobacco use, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies, delinquency, obesity and work absenteeism.

Roughly half the children under the age of five in foster care have developmental delays.

Up to 80% of the children in foster care have serious emotional problems. This involved children being six times more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, four times more likely to turn to substance abuse, twice as likely to experience depression and more than two-and-a-half times more likely to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

I’m a foster mom. Currently we have three children living with us, the most recent placement was just a few weeks prior to last Christmas. We make sure that we keep up with all their health care needs. We also are extremely involved in their mental health care – with us being very strong advocates for services that help both the child and us in making their stay with us a successful, productive one.

Seeking Foster Parents

Seeking Foster Parents

The challenges these children face are mind-boggling. The challenges the schools that deal with these children face are mind-boggling; so are the challenges the families who open the doors of their homes and hearts and attempt to step in as interim parents to these children.

I believe all these outcome studies will continue to show more of the same. Granted there is some very slow, small movement toward reform in the way we deal with this problem and the horrific systematic web we all seem to be trapped inside of. But when all is said and done, in my opinion we are going in the wrong direction.

When training hours for foster parents are increased ad-nauseum, when more forms are required to be completed by physicians and educators, when we worry about files look nice and full for the yearly review by the state, the focus is on the wrong thing. We keep putting more regulations in place for everybody except the biological parents. These people need to change the environment of abuse and neglect that the children were exposed to in the first place before all else. Without that, we are absolutely missing the boat!

How many times do we have to see that parental problems such as substance abuse, non-compliance with service plans, problematic parenting skill and hostility toward the children don’t often disappear when children are removed from the home? Single parenthood and financial or housing difficulties very often are major contributing causes to the need to remove children from the home and these structural concerns are still right where they were at the time the child was taken from the home. But that doesn’t change our legislative goal from being reunification. If I were to tell you how many of these children are returned back to their biological parents, due to the “prime directive” being that of reunification, without any significant demonstration of change in the conditions and environment they were taken from, you would certainly think I were mistaken.

Here’s the most significant outcome I have found to date: The Multistate Foster Care Data Archive concludes that one out of every four children who is returned home to their biological parents returns back into foster care. And they do so, to yet ANOTHER home and ANOTHER placement – school – caseworker (in most cases), etc.

I don’t understand. So often when there is a formal agreement between people, attorneys add disclaimers and exclusionary clauses because we all know that not everything works well for everybody. But it seems that the foster-care system and the body that governs it has not yet found the need to provide any individualized or exceptional consideration for the lives and future of these young people or their biological parents.

Being a parent means more than having a child – what’s so hard to understand about that?

ABOUT ME

I’m a licensed clinical social worker and have worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. I combine professional experience in the mental health field along with my love of writing to provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. I hope my down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life is easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

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One Comment
  1. I would like to say that I enjoyed reading throughout your blog post. Furthermore, as a student graduating from Arizona State University from the School of Social Work Admin as well as Law school (Social Justice & Family Law). I strongly believe that reunification is highly detrimental and is completely unsatisfactory to any child’s overall wellbeing in multiple ways. As a former child who once lived throughout the social services system and transported from children’s home to another and last but not least placed into foster care best exemplifies my supporting argument. For instance, the majority of children who enter the social services system etc come from homes in which they unfortunately encountered abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, child maltreatment, and so on is enough said making it never so easy to come to the greater understanding how dangerous and unsuccessful reunification turns out.

    Moreover, such abuse that so many children and other victims of abuse and substance abuse encounter doesn’t take a person a short amount of time to recover and or come clean. Situations and the numerous countless conflicts victims of abuse experience in one way or another takes a long time if not it takes a person years and years to fully overcome one’s illness, addiction, and violence acts of behavior. I am blessed for the life I have been given and my ultimate goal in life is to give back to those who are in the same need of assistance and or guidance as I once was in need of before as a child. In addiction there are multiple other accomplishments I wish to someday achieve for the wellbeing and empowerment to the community. I am grateful for the faster parents I was first placed with because they are the very reason and explanation towards why and how I have developed and matured as a young adult. The number one thing I always go by whenever it comes towards such a controversial topic such as reunification is to think about the child’s safety, wellbeing, health, and stability. By doing so, I recommend for those to think how much more a child would appreciate and or be grateful towards their social worker’s and case manager’s who didn’t think about what they may have wished or wanted as a child at that point and time but instead how they would respond to the decisions that were made to protect them and their overall wellbeing in the long run.

    Remember the most important thing is not the parent. In addition the parent(s) made bad decisions & mistakes that negatively effected their child’s life. That being said explains how vital it is for all helping professionals to think about the child NOT THE PARENT! They made the mistakes that negatively affected their children at a much higher rate as compared to themselves. The parents aren’t the one’s who are transported from one home to another, placed in one or multiple foster homes, and six bed children’s homes. However, the parents definitely don’t face the consequences and or experiences all the children within the system face such as, the feeling of separation, neglect, loss, constant change, and fear.

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