Prior to focusing my professional attention to advising my generation, I ran programs in NYC for homeless/runaway youth many of whom were in the child protection system at some point (drug addicted/AIDs infected/imprisoned parents) or had their own children in the system. I’ve been a Guardian ad Litem here in FL. I’ve been a foster parent (of a teen) in New Jersey. I know first hand what’s needed to vastly improve the safety of children removed from their home due to abuse/neglect.
Be warned, it is a solution historically ignored as it unpegs our blind devotion to keeping children with (clearly dysfunctional) biological parents, no matter how incapacitated those people are as individuals let alone parents; our culture’s foundation for failure.
As obvious as this faulty reasoning is in the aggregate (recent series by the Tampa Bay Times & Miami Herald here in Florida as example), when it comes time to set, by law, extreme limits for such people to have the children returned to them, we simply don’t do it. Biology trumps proven incapacity to parent.
Although some parts of the country are ahead of the curve by ensuring quality/innovative solutions to their child protection problems (some major cities like L.A., others less so like Omaha, Nebraska) through the adoption of models that emphasize the child’s well-being over the “rights of the parents,” unfortunately most States, including Florida, currently hold parents’ rights, no matter how unearned, to be paramount.
So to start, we must accept two painful realities: 1) that the ability to procreate does not automatically make someone fit to parent, and numerous attempts to “rehabilitate” a parent while the children continue to suffer is not an approach worth keeping; 2) the systems are grossly underfunded and the funding they have poorly utilized.
Then, we must call for proven alternatives to the current system that fails children miserably. That means passing laws that use added protective services dollars to make adoption far more desirable and affordable (as do programs like New Life Village in Tampa), and fund highly successful, well researched models of community care that provide safety, professional care, emotional and peer support, and an environment in which children can thrive, such as Girls & Boys Town in Nebraska (you may remember the 1938 movie, Boys Town, starring Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy) and SOS Children’s Villages.
We Boomers must no longer be party to embracing mid-20th century solutions to 21st century problems. And as a member of the most influential cohort in America, you can insist on far better for these hurting children in your State.
Only then will we be able to pick up a newspaper and not read of horrific deeds by disturbed individuals who have been given the State’s sanction to continue abusing their offspring.
I’m glad you wrote about this. I agree that these programs are not well run, and I’d like to see them get more money if they use it the ways you suggest.