Heads or Tails Tuesdays: The Letter “O”

The many issues related to foster care are frequently on my mind, so the prompt this week fits right in with my current ponderings about the lack of Options and Opportunities for kids in foster care.  Like most foster parents (regardless of how the media portrays us), I tend to worry about the quality of life of the kids in my care, whether they are with me for a long-term placement or just a respite for another foster parent.

The current trend in foster care is to maintain the family.  What a wonderful idea!  Some of us are fortunate enough to belong to a traditional family, one in which you have a loving parent(s), grandparents, aunts & unlces, and lots of cousins to help guide you through your life.  Your physical needs are provided for — you have a clean and furnished home, there is heat and electricity, running, warm water, clean clothes that are appropriate for all your needs, food whenever you are hungry and money to provide for necessities (like school supplies) and fun (toys and recreation).  You have vehicles to provide transportation and gas in those vehicles to get you where you want/need to go.  Your vehicles are insured.  You have good health coverage and medicine is available when you need it.  You go grocery shopping on a regular basis and your diet is varied and balanced.  Your family members are decent problem solvers and teach you the basics from a very young age.  You have someone to help you learn your abc’s and teach you how to count.  There is someone to read you a book.  You have books.  Your family has a definite set of values and they are taught to you through word and deed. Topics such as sex and birth control are discussed at home until your parents are satisfied with your level of understanding.  There is someone in your life to help you with your homework and who keeps in close contact with your teachers.  You get the idea.

Family is a word with a definite political definition and meaning.  The concept of a strong family unit is wonderful, but the reality is that for some people they can’t begin to even conceptualize the idea of family, let alone make a strong family unit.  Foster care tends to be the prison between these two concepts for the kids, which provides no options and few opportunities.

When families are reported to the “system” for abuse or neglect, there is an investigation process.  Usually long.  Then there is the process to “strengthen” the family.  These are families struggling with no money, no familial support system, drugs, alcohol, medical issues, legal problems, and frankly, stupidity.  Many of the people that end up in the system are coming home.  Foster children have a tendency to have kids that end up in the system.   These are the families that we are trying to “strengthen”.   This process is usually long.  We have a tendency to err on the side of the parents, hence we give them many opportunities to make and correct mistakes.

As far as the parents go, this is a great idea.  They are usually people who are stuck and can’t see their way through their problems without help.  I believe they deserve our guidance and help in correcting their poor behavior patterns, but I have an issue with the length of time these efforts take.  We give the parents many opportunities, which is, in effect, stealing time from the children.  Childhood is such a short and significant period of our lives.  We learn an incredible amount in the first five years of our lives.  Yet this is the very critical period of time when children are with parents who are struggling with so many of these problems.  Drugs, alcohol, violence, law breaking, and neglect are what is modeled for these children, at the time when they most need love, comfort and security.

As much as I know it goes against the grain, I have become a strong believer in the need to decide quickly, for the benefit of the children, that they deserve an opportunity.  They are adoptable when they are babies.  Even those children with significant health issues have a better chance of being adopted by a strong family (of all makes, models and cultures) if it happens when they are children.  Giving the parent(s) a chance in the social services system, and then transferring the mess over to the legal system, is stealing the lives of foster kids!

I think it should be a simple formula.  If you are abusing drugs or alcohol when you are pregnant, you can be picked up and hospitalized until the child is born.  The child will then be provided care for the addiction problem you have given it and put up for immediate adoption.  Drug addicts are not good care providers.  Does it take a PhD to figure that out?  There is clear and evident research regarding the damage to the human brain done by chronic drug abuse.  Why do we keep putting kids back in these homes and expect fully functioning adults to be the result?

I believe this is the standard that should be set for violence and kids having kids.  We have to break the cycle and provide our children with options and opportunities for their future.  We are cheating them and weakening our society, and sadly, we do it all in the name of family.

Barb is our lovely host each week for Heads or Tails Tuesdays.  Please visit the other participants.

~ by byrningbunny on July 8, 2008.

One Response to “Heads or Tails Tuesdays: The Letter “O””

  1. Pretty impressive piece. You make a lot of really good points.

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