We Need to Rethink ‘Bad’ Parents

Kids who are neglected may be better off remaining with their families with additional support than put into foster care

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We all make mistakes while parenting. We try to be a friend rather than a parent, or we are too strict when comfort is needed. We sometimes scold or hit when exasperation takes over, or we are negligent when depression creeps in. Imagine what our parenting would be like without resources to fall back on — like money, family, friends and connections — and what might be revealed if our lives were constantly scrutinized in public housing, in public hospitals, in public child care and at our child’s public school.

This is the situation for many low-income parents, often single mothers of color, whose children come to the attention of the child-welfare system. Granted, there are horrible situations of abuse, but those are relatively infrequent cases. A recent study in California of all children born there in 1999 found that by the age of 7, 19.8% of them had been reported to the state central registry. That is a strikingly high number, but research from 2011 shows that children nationwide are found to have been abused or neglected in only 18.5% of reported cases. A great majority of cases involve neglect, not abuse — for example by leaving a child home alone, not making sure a child attends school or not having adequate housing.

(MORE: Parents With Disabilities Losing Custody of Their Kids)

But in many cities across the country, the main response by public agencies when parents have these types of problems is to place the child in long-term foster care, even though as Steve Cohen, a child-welfare expert working with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, says, “[M]ost of the families involved with the child-welfare system are committed to their kids and are torn up by not being able to raise their kids safely.” The parents become the enemy, as opposed to an essential partner in bettering the life of the child.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In the mid-1990s, New York City had one of the worst child-welfare systems in the country, with almost 50,000 children in foster care. Today fewer than 13,000 are in foster care, with many more children remaining safely in their families with additional support to ensure that the children are well cared for, including day care, homemakers to assist with family chores, counseling and anger management for the parents, legal representation and better housing. These changes came about a few years ago after mothers whose children had been in foster care put pressure on the city administration to change. Parents who had changed their lives and were able to reunite with their children became advocates in helping other parents who were struggling as they had. They led parent-support groups in foster-care agencies, advised commissioners on advisory panels and testified in city-council hearings. And when policymakers wouldn’t listen, they demonstrated in the streets against child-welfare agencies’ practices.

(MORE: Childism: The Unacknowledged Prejudice Against Kids)

In the next few months, the commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services, Ronald Richter, will implement a historic change that many parents have wanted. Every time there is a decision on whether to remove a child from his or her family, a parent advocate or community member will be present to ensure that parents’ needs are met and their rights are respected. But a new model that involves and supports parents needs to be adapted across the country. Most parents want to help their children, but at times they need the resources to do so. Involving and supporting parents is the best way to strengthen families. As an African proverb says, “Until lions have their historians, the tale of the hunt will only glorify the hunter.”

18 comments
aunt2one
aunt2one

All of these comments and none about the children who are left in abusive homes by social workers and the courts. I know a little girl that is terrified of her father, he has threatened to kill her, and tried to throw her through a window (a relatve luckily stopped him). He's a drug addict that sells his kid's clothes and toys to buy more drugs. The child has been removed from his home several times, but is always returned. She is 9 years old and has been in 6 different schools in the past 2 years because he won't pay his rent and leaves in the middle of the night. She has begged DSS to stay with her grandparents, but she was put in foster care so that her low life father (who had SIX children of his removed from his care previously) can visit her (foster care is closer and this loser can't drive because of all of his DUI's). Where are the people who are supposed to be protecting this child? She cooks, cleans and takes care of this "man" who only keeps her around because of the social security benefits she gets (her mother died 2 years ago). It's a sick world all the way around when a truly abusive person gets to keep a child because they're a paycheck and the "system" is trying so damn hard to keep her there. 

VictimsofSocialServiceUnite!
VictimsofSocialServiceUnite!

We are inspired by the message this article gives to parents worldwide.  Concentrated activism CAN make changes in the status quo!  If only more, not just parents severely wronged by this tyranny, could write and speak out about this massive problem!  Write letters, petitions, phone calls and active protests to FORCE the system to reform!   We need the influential constituency to do this!But, one big problem we have to overcome is rife, CORRUPTION through every aspect of this flawed system.  Corruption is fueled by Title IV-D funding, FEDERAL tax dollars which REWARD agencies for legally "kidnapping" and trafficking "adoptable" children through the foster care system.  Every child adopted from foster care profits someone $4000. - $8000.   So, obviously, there is NO "incentive" for workers, motivated by this bonus system, to work to find creative services or funding to keep kids with their family.  

We all must care about this and work to bring about reform of these systems.  Increasing services to low income families is a definite solution to remedy the situational problems which bring about the actions.  However, we believe that only the tip of the iceberg!  We also must work to reform how these cases are handled.   Currently, parents brought under child protection actions have NO constitutional protections!  They are expected to open their homes to search and seizure, without adequate cause or warrant.  They must allow their children to be subjected to interrogation and physical examination, without their presence, knowledge and consent.  They are brought into courts, facing bully tactics and emotional blackmail forcing them to make admissions of "neglect" without adequate counsel or clear legal advice. 

They are forced to submit to court ordered services, many of which are completely unnecessary and place an undue burden on them as parents and their ability to support their family.  These court services can include unwarranted drug testing, without any evidence of drug or alcohol use.  Or, parents are forced to undergo psychological evaluations which amount to character assignations because providers are also PAID by the state and say what profits them to say: usually agreeing with social workers assessments.  Even those service providers involved with cases that are assumed to remain "partial" still report to the court exactly what child protection expects or that which PROFITS them to say.  So, many times NO clear TRUTH is a part of a court record.  And the standard of evidence in these cases is NON-existent!  Social workers can make up stuff as they go along; saying anything they think will sway the courts, without any burden of PROOF.  Parents are essentially assumed GUILTY and forced to PROVE their innocence in a circus-like court atmosphere that, for any well-educated layman, is hard enough to navigate.  For these parents, lacking full education or awareness, this is nearly impossible.  IF parents know enough to fight for their rights, many times they are held accountable for their obstreperousness with retaliation by the powers that be.   

These cases MUST be taken OUT of juvenile venues!  IF child "protectors" can PROVE actual abuse: sexual, physical or emotional, let them work with law enforcement to PROVE this in criminal courts, where the standards of evidence are upheld, as well as the rights of the accused.  IF there is NO proof of anything of this nature, NO court action should be involved.  Children thought to be "neglected" could be thoughtfully, carefully evaluated by workers, with a parent's cooperation.   A workable plan for remedying the situation devised and social workers OBLIGATED to keep kids in the home and provide said services.  

 Let’s take the bonuses OFF the table and force social workers to do the WORK we pay them for.  Social assistance and community support.  Instead of rewarding them for NAZI -- nanny state tactics and continuing this corrupt, INDUSTRY we now misname as "child protection".   This is one of the greatest misnomers of our time: as children seized by the "protectors" are statistically, in every area, more likely to be REALLY abused by their care providers!   Six times more likely to end up DEAD! Unfortunately, the public doesn't care to know that the parents of children made the subject of CPS scrutiny are NOT "monsters" who abuse or terrible neglectful parents.  Most are POOR, dirt poor, struggling to survive and care for families in a failing economy, with little or NO familial support or community resources, and have been thrust into further abject poverty by welfare reform!  No, to the public they are just "those terrible abusive parents" who deserve to lose their kids to this abusive system!

America, WAKE UP!  Stop drinking the "kool aide"!   EVERYONE in our community needs our support, no matter what!  Instead of picking up the phone to make that call because the single mom next door doesn't parent in the way you believe she should, reach out!  Talk to HER, not to social workers!  Offer a hand or to be a good neighbor, instead of "big brother".  Offer to help!  If we would commit ourselves to taking personal responsibility for the condition of everyone in our community, and be human beings who CARE for one another, instead of passing the buck to our government, we can improve our communities and improve the lives of our citizens AND children! 

https://www.facebook.com/notes/ruth-chichester/all-you-need-is-love/10150265326908634


lazarus00000
lazarus00000

As usual these types of stories only report the bare minimum of the real problem and that is the system is flawed. What has happened is the Child welfare system is an INDUSTRY where people actually make a great deal of money off of the misery of these children. I was a social worker in Texas and identified many problems in the system and tried to raise awareness of my bosses and of the Governor's office. I was told that the most important resource in the system is the foster home. As I see it, the foster home earns money from the state and are thus employed and not a resource because 90 percent of them work solely for profit. to help you to better understand my point, I will give one set of facts as there are too many to list here.

The state uses a system of Level of Care(LOC) and the highter the LOC, the more money the foster homes make per child. so as a result , some unscrupulous Foster homes actually force the children to act out through abuse or neglect, get them to react violently, get them perscribed psychotropic drugs and often commited to an institution in ored tho get the LOC raised.

The meat of the article is to discuss whether a child is better off with neglectful parents or in the system. My opinion is that the children are most often ALWAYS better off to remain with the parents. I have seen numerous cases where a child was forced into state care where they were drugged, abused and continulally moved around because they wanted to be witht he abusive parents. When they turn 18, they always went right back to the abusers, even if the abuse was rape, incest or worse.

The state cannot replace the only thing resembling love the child has ever known. To a "normal" person  the idea of incest is appaling, but to an abused child it is the closest thing to love they know. The irony is that most often the abusers will remain in society to continue to plauge humanity. I know of one such case where the abuser had molested his wife as a child, she gave him 8 children whom he abused , but worst is that he trainded his children to bring him more kids from school and church. He was very active in Church as were his children. On my last knowledge of him he was still free even though I personally went to the local PD to share my case information with them.

Would his kids be better off with him? absolutely not, but when the legal system cannot lock a monster up for the rest of his life, something is wrong with the system.

Lazarus

RozMcAllister
RozMcAllister

Teaching people to be good parents takes more than a once a week class for 8 weeks.  It is much more effective if it is practiced daily.  The vast majority of children are removed from the home not for abuse nor neglect.  We really need to focus on in-home help.  It's better for the children, as they have extended family, neighborhood friends, school and all that remains the same.  Taking a child from his/her home from parents that he/she loves, and from school, neighbors and church is very traumatic for the kids!  And THAT IS emotional abuse!  Two wrongs don't make a right.

Chiroderma
Chiroderma

Can a foster-care family make profit or take advantage of the system? I know a person that has a few foster kids (to be honest I don't know how many are her own kids) all men around 14-17  years old. She owns and rents several houses in town and I always see the kids mowing the lawns of these houses, anything that needs to be moved around the house or repaired, she calls them. Maybe I'm judging her without knowing the real situation....Also, if the kids want to go to school, who pays the tuition and fees?

vestafaire
vestafaire

It seems to me, in cases of neglect, that it is cheaper, preferable and most certainly in the welfare of the child to be able to offer support to parents for proper child care, then place them in foster care at an average of $1200 a MONTH. What if that money could go to the single mom who had her kids taken away because they were latchkey kids? 

ToughLoveDoc
ToughLoveDoc

For the past 2.5 years we've been filming the lives and cases of two families caught in the child welfare system for a new documentary called Tough Love. In this film we discuss this exact issue, what can we be doing to help these at-risk families stay together and how do we help these parents parent better? By focusing on prevention services and by giving these families access to effective services and support systems, we can keep more kids out of the foster care system. You can learn more and support the film here: http://kck.st/174Amzh

CrossWinds
CrossWinds

This is the Best Recipe for raising your Child...............

Proverbs 22:6.........

Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it........

Ephesians 6:4.........

4 Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.

2 Timothy 3:15..........

15 And how from your childhood you have had a knowledge of and been acquainted with the sacred Writings, which are able to instruct you and give you the understanding for salvation which comes through faith in Christ Jesus [through the leaning of the entire human personality on God in Christ Jesus in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness].

hummingbird
hummingbird

It's great that changes are being made. I know that parents are tired of being suspects once their child shows up at the ER with an injury. It's scary how someone at the hospital is always casting a suspecting glance at you. They seem to have forgotten that kids do fall off their bikes or bump into things. I know we need to protect children who are definitely being abused but it's wrong to go overboard and remove every child based on the least little thing. We also have seen how some foster homes are horrible and that the child would have been better off remaining in his home.

bluweege
bluweege

Child protectors gain funding by 2 main corropt methods....1- taking children from homes without good justification....2- leaving/returning kids to extreme harmfull homes......its for the stat building that brings in funding and then fed match funds.......2/3 of all cases are subjective. 1/3 of all cases are objective......when cps leaves kids in homes where extreme danger is present, it is likely to produce a objective case........cps corruption needs mas many objective cases they can get....even if they have to facilitate a victim, by putting a child in a dangerous situation......

KristinaMa'autseshatWeiss
KristinaMa'autseshatWeiss

@aunt2oneThis opinion piece shows an appalling lack of knowledge about child abuse. The problem with our child welfare system is not that it is too easy to put children in foster care. No mention of the number of children known to Child Protective Services who are left in the home and killed by abusive parents. What about sexual abuse? Do you blame pedophilia and incest on low-income families targeted unfairly by the child welfare system? Neglect is brushed aside as "not abuse". You might want to consider how neglect affects children. If you did, you might realize that neglect is abuse if you bother to look at it from the child's point of view rather than the poor parent who is just frustrated or depressed. You really think parents who neglect their kids are just well meaning people without the resources to take care of them? I think you are mistaking poverty and neglect. Being poor doesn't mean you think it's okay to not provide your kids with basic care. Do you really think it is a normal, harmless reaction to frustration is to hit your kids? Do you have any idea what it is like to grow up fearing a parent and having to develop extraordinary coping mechanisms to survive an environment where you fear for your life from the person or people who are supposed to protect you? The photo that accompanies this piece even shows a screaming child clinging to an adult's legs, as if abused children cause the abuse by being bratty or difficult. The reality is that children who grow up in abusive homes could hardly be classified as problem children. If you were beaten or verbally threatened and belittled by someone much larger than you, who you depend on for care, who you love regardless of how much they mistreat you, when you are too young to know how to defend yourself, do you think you would be "provoking" the rage of adults, or focusing all your efforts on making that adult happy so they don't hurt you? 

KristinaMa'autseshatWeiss
KristinaMa'autseshatWeiss

@aunt2one I made a comment about that and it was deleted without any notification. Pathetic. I'll re-post it but we'll see how long it lasts this time. 

Greenwood
Greenwood

@lazarus00000 Thanks for sharing your insight and experience.  I'm very interested in social justice for families and children and related issues but literally never see anything in the media about the many mercenary foster families and the foster care industry.

KarenMarieVela
KarenMarieVela

@Chiroderma yes they can. The typical foster family makes 4-5 times MORE per child than the child's mother or father on welfare for the same child. PLUS fosters get MANY amenities as well that normal parents on welfare do not get. Including the right to pick and choose a doctor they want instead of using the doctors that cps says to use.

RozMcAllister
RozMcAllister

@vestafaire Exactly!  And the state is federally mandated to rehabilitate the family in place and only remove the children if there is imminent danger. 

MistStilipec
MistStilipec

@hummingbird And doctors have sworn an oath to do no harm, and yet by making calls under false pretenses they are doing a great deal of harm.