Friday, December 19, 2008

Why Do I Care So Much?

Anyone who has read my stuff either here or at folkbum's already knows that I have written lots and lots about the child welfare system. Probably more than any other blogger. Maybe more than all of the other bloggers combined.

I do this for a few reasons. One is that I am more than passingly familiar with the system, having worked in it for almost seven years. I feel that I can bring an insight that few others can.

Some may say that I do so much on the subject because I am bitter about getting forced out of the system. To be perfectly honest, there would be some merit to that train of thought.

But for me, the main reason is that having had been part of the system, I know what it means to the kids that are served by the system. And frankly, it pisses me off to no end to see what has become of the system after society decided that the illusion of saving tax money is more important that giving a kid a chance at a decent life.

When I was a worker in child welfare, I had one case in which the mother eventually had 16 children, all of whom were in foster care at one time or another. Many of the kids had aged out of the system by the time I joined the county and took over the case, but there were still a handful of kids still in foster homes and the mother was still to give birth to three more kids.

Child #15 was a boy that I detained directly from the hospital and placed him with a foster family that would eventually adopt him. Child #16 was a girl that I again detained directly from the hospital and placed in the same home as her older brother.

After going through the obligatory hoops of trying to provide services that I already knew the mother didn't want and wouldn't take advantage of, I recommended that the court order an adoption study with the foster family as the adoptive resource. The court agreed and issued such an order.

After the foster family was approved, we proceeded to terminate the parental rights of the biological parents and the children were adopted by their new family. I was there for that day, when the adoption occurred. I remember the boy dressed up in a little suit and the girl in a little dress and ribbons in her hair. I remember how happy the children were knowing that this family loved them enough to publicly commit themselves to them, even though they had four children of their own already.

As I watched this new family walk out of the court center together, I was amazed at how natural they all seemed. It was then that I realized I had given these children a chance at a life they would never have had otherwise known.

I attended the adoption party thrown by the family. They rented a park pavilion for the occasion and they had extended family members and friends come in from all over the country, just for this occasion. I felt very humbled when I had several people I had never met come up to me, shake my hand and thank me for what I did.

After the adoption was complete, my formal role in this family ended. But like they did with these two children, the family enveloped me and adopted me as one of their own, only as a friend instead of a worker.

Every year I receive a Christmas card from the family with a picture of the kids.

The boy that I took from the hospital, that I kiddingly said would grow up to play professional football, will be starting high school next year, and already has talked to the coach about trying out for the football team. Coincidentally, over the years, the family has moved and the boy will be attending my alma mater. He is also in the National Junior Honor Society, which means his grades must be exemplary.

The young girl, who was born with development issues due to being exposed to alcohol while she was a fetus, is also on the honor roll at her school. She is learning to cook and is involved with swimming and cross country.

Every year, when I received their Christmas card, I actually sit down and study the picture, smiling. I know that their lives would not nearly be as good as they are if I or one of my former colleagues, had not stepped in to give them that chance and to protect them from much worse.

I also realize how lucky they are, and I am, that their adoption happened when it did. A few years later and, who knows, they might have ended up in tragedy, like young Christopher Thomas.

And that is why, even when I am soul weary from the apparent futility of my "crusade," I cannot and will not let go of it. It may not be as sexy as griping about taxes or having a moment of faux outrage, but it is a helluva lot more important.


  1. When I was a worker in child welfare, I had one case in which the mother eventually had 16 children, all of whom were in foster care at one time or another.

    This doesn't make any sense at all. Does anyone know what reasoning process led her to decide to do this? Seems inexplicable.

  2. That is a beautiful story capper. You certainly did make a difference in the lives of those two children.

    We have friends who are foster parents and have adopted two of the children that had been placed in their care. One they received when he was 10 months old. Today, almost a decade later, he still has emotional problems because his "mother" never held him for those 10 months. Never.

    My wish for the system would be to make it faster and more efficient to terminate the parental rights of parents like this. The sooner these kids get removed from sperm and egg donors like her the better the chance they have.

    In the case you describe, it had to have been known by the system many children earlier than 15 or 16 that this woman was incapable of getting it together. One of the "services offered" to her should have been sterilization.

    I may not always agree with your proposed solution, but I completely agree with your crusade.


  3. Beige,

    There was no reasoning process with the mother. She was an alcoholic and didn't think of ramifications, only what she was willing to do to get another drink.


    Actually, she was repeatedly encouraged to go to public health services to get birth control shots, but she never would go.

  4. I treasure posts like this one.

    The political and sport posts are a bit too racy for my pure almost virgin like brain to handle... And I'm sure I have ADD which makes it really hard to focus ;-) Anyhoo...

    Capper I was speaking with a child care worker, she is a client of mine, and every year I get "this" much closer to becoming a foster mom. Honestly, I just don't know if I can handle - not the responsibility - but the sadness.

    I know I must sound so selfish. However, in the past, raising four kidlettes on my own, being a single mom was one of the HARDEST things I have ever done, and I DID IT. *shrugs with a BIG smile*

    So, maybe I'm just not giving myself enough credit, perhaps I could do it. Show some little people how wonderful and special they really are. Hugs, and listening, and safety...

    See, I even tear up now..AND I DON'T CRY DAMMIT!

    It pisses me off that people don't take the "giving of a ife" more seriously. A child deserves a childhood. They NEED to be loved and safe.

    I'm rambling, I apologize :)