Thursday, January 08, 2004

There are no more excuses.

Each and every one of us knows that the current child protection system does not work. Children are not safer. This fact is proven day after day.

Without much effort, you can find horror stories of abuse on the news, in the paper, or on the net. Whether it's children being left to die at the hands of their abusers, or children who are lost, victimized, or killed in state care, far too many children are "slipping through the cracks." One is too many.

In case you are cynical, I'll refresh your memory. Even though you probably weren't looking for such stories, you must have heard about little Rilya Wilson. She still hasn't been found. The only "good" thing to come from her story, is the fact that once it was exposed, Florida's system finally noticed that its "protectors" weren't doing their jobs. Unfortunately, they also learned that at least 400 more children were missing. Other states were looked into, and many had hundreds of missing children. What a travesty.
These people are trained and paid to take over where parents supposedly failed.

And, what about Logan Marr of Maine? (See PBS Frontline for more information) This beautiful little girl was taken from her mother, even though she was never abused or neglected. The system claimed that her mother, Christy, "failed to protect" her. She had left her little girl with her mom, but a man that wasn't supposed to be there showed up. Even though Christy had no way of knowing this man would show up, and even though no harm came to the child, Logan was taken. When Christy gave birth to a second daughter, they came and took that child as well. Then, when a social worker turned foster parent decided she would like to adopt these beautiful little girls, the agency cut back mom's services. They began cancelling her visits, stopped providing transportation to the visits, and cut her off from her own support system by forcing her to leave her husband and stop all contact with her own mother... under threat of losing her children permanently of course. But, before they could terminate Christy's rights and give her children away, little Logan lay dead on a cold basement floor, killed by the woman that was supposedly "protecting" her from her own mother.

Then there's tiny Dominic James of Missouri. His mom apparently had a few too many one night and began arguing loudly with Dad. The neighbors called the police, who came out and decided this situation was not healthy for Dominic. Rather than taking the mother to jail overnight and letting her sleep it off, they actually woke little Dominic from a sound sleep, took him from his bed, and then from his home. That would be the last time he slept in his own bed.

If this baby was sleeping so soundly that he had to be awakened, he was obviously not being traumatized by the incident in any way. If the police truly feared for his safety and felt they had no choice but to take him, it should have at least been temporary. He should have been returned the next day when things had calmed down. Perhaps supportive services should have been offered the family. Instead, Dominic was kept in foster care for five months, even though there were telltale signs that he was being abused in the foster home. He died there, the medical examiners report says, from shaken baby syndrome. The foster father has been charged with second degree murder.

What about the two starving and beaten Williams boys found in a basement in New Jersey? Sadly, the third little boy, Faheem, did not live. When the surviving boys were discovered they voiced concern over not having seen their brother in quite some time. He was discovered in the next room, dead, and stuffed into a plastic storage container like so much trash. Complaints were made against the aunt that was supposedly fostering these children, but the case was closed without there ever having been a face to face meeting with the boys, or with their so-called caretaker. This case spawned closer inspection of the New Jersey system, which is said to be one of the worst in the nation.

There are far too many horror stories to cover them all here, but the fact is, children are not being protected by the protection system. These are not isolated incidents. They happen frequently, in every state. The fact that every agency in this country (and in other countries, as they are all similarly modeled) faces the same dilemmas, should show any reasonable person that there is a problem with the very foundation of this system. Even though ever increasing millions are continuously funneled into these agencies through block grants and federal funding streams, including Social Security, the quality of the service is not improving. Even though these agencies are continually re-named and restructured more and more children are dying, and those that do manage to survive their protection are scarred and damaged for life.

By percentage, more children are harmed and killed in state "care" than are harmed and killed in the general population. What's wrong with this picture?

Workers in these kinds of cases are rarely even reprimanded, let alone fired or criminally charged. Children who were taken from loving parents for non-serious, vague excuses are neglected, tortured, and killed in state "care." Families are being destroyed. And, while precious resources are being wasted on families who do not neglect or abuse their children, other children that really need help are left suffering. Children who are actually removed for abuse are re-victimized instead of being kept safe.

It's time to demand accountability. The old saying goes, "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." Will you be part of the solution?

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