Why “Child Protective Services” are Not

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.

children killed by abusersBe 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.

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Gay Marriage

This past Sunday, a gentleman by the name of David Blankenhorn, an identified liberal Democrat, had his commentary published in the LA Times: Protecting Marriage to Protect Children: you can read the full piece at: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-blankenhorn19-2008sep19,0,2093869.story

As a Boomer (as I believe is he), also a Democrat (albeit a somewhat conservative one…), and someone with a professional background working with highly at-risk children and youth, I have formulated my thoughts on his thoughts (yes, I know….too much thinking…what can I say, that’s what we Dem’s do…).  Here they are.

I would like to help Mr. Blankenhorn with a few of his “facts”:

§    “Marriage is the “primary license to have children” –
this fits very nicely with homosexual unions, as many have children…biologically…

§    “Marriage unites the three  core dimensions of parenthood – biological, social and legal” –
see above for biological, social was resolved in the last century, and I believe it is the legal category that pro-gay marriage legislation is attempting to fix

§    “People wed primarily to reproduce” –
this motive for marriage ended after we ‘won the West’ and no longer needed to populate small towns…

§    “Children have the right…to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into the world…” –
as a Guardian ad Litem and a mental health professional who has worked for over a decade with homeless/runaway youth in two of this
country’s major cities, I have seen more unfit biological parents (heterosexual, by the way) than there are pork barrel projects in Washington,
and it is precisely an emphasis on the “right of the biological parents” vs. the best interest of the child that anyone associated with child
protection will agree stands in the way of getting children moved out of foster care and into stable, permanent homes: which speaks directly to
your assertion that they are indeed “society’s most voiceless and vulnerable group.”

§    “Every child being raised by gay or lesbian couples will be denied his birthright to both parents who made him.” –
see bullet #1, and add to it that many homosexual unions include one or the other partner’s biological child with access to the other biological
parent, no different than in a heterosexual divorce situation

§    “Losing that right will not be a consequence of something…tragic (such as divorce, unexpected pregnancy…)…On the contrary…those
unions…will be explained to everyone as something wonderful (that) has happened!” –
you’re comparing break-ups and unplanned reproduction to a union of two people – apples and oranges – sly…but didn’t get by me…

§    “Legalized same-sex marriage almost certainly benefits those couples as well as the children being raised in those homes.” –
hey…make up your mind…and it doesn’t “almost” benefit those children, it does so absolutely

§    “But changing the meaning of marriage to accommodate homosexual orientation…undermines the gift of birthright…that is marriage’s most
distinctive contribution to human society.” –
it would seem, given all the above, that you’ve actually done a fine job of proving that marriage, regardless of who with whom, is a key
component to the things needed most for the raising of healthy children; stability; access to parents who treasure them; and legal recognition
so they can reap all the benefits therein.

I hope this helps you in future, and oh, by the way, thanks for actually making a fine case for the importance of gay marriage particularly when it comes to the well-being of the children involved!