Neglect Is The Reason

75 % of the cases where children are removed from their parents and home are for the broad term “neglect”. These children are then placed into foster care where the care may not be very loving and the foster parents may be simply in the system for the tax free monthly payments directly into their bank account with no accountability required about how they spend this money.

We do not need foster care. We need better programs to address mental health and drug addiction.

Neglect is an outcome of poverty, drug addiction and mental health issues. It does not usually stem from crappy people that just don’t care about their kids and so they neglect them. Sexual or physical abuse is not considered neglect.

Just a thought – what if we put the billions of dollars spent on foster care into drug prevention programs, mental health screening, preventive care? Would neglect be reduced?

Wonder just who reports this neglect? The highest percentage are teachers. What qualifies for a teacher to report neglect? Kid being dirty? Wearing the same clothes? Not having lunch? Why are these things reportable to Child Protective Services vs reporting a genuine need for the intervention of a program that could help families overcome these challenges?

If you don’t see something wrong with this system as it currently exists, maybe you are part of the problem in your complacency.

There’s a huge problem when society thinks they are “helping” children but are actually damaging them more. People do not understand how these systems actually work but they still trust them. We need to educate teachers and the public about their poverty bias and on what causes actual trauma.

In effect, everyday children are kidnapped because of a belief they are at risk of possible future harm. Many have experienced corruption in the family court system. In reality, most children never were harmed or neglected at all but people’s judgements of them made it so.

In one case, someone shared their family came under investigation by Child Protective Services because a doctor reported the husband when he went to that doctor with symptoms of a paranoid personality disorder due to PTSD. The “potential harm” was nothing more than thoughts at the time. But the experience was an absolute nightmare for the family. Thankfully it ended up being only an investigation and not a removal.

When my young sons were acting up in public – I used to caution them that they really needed to behave better because someone might not understand what our family was really like 99.9% of the time and take them away from us believing that we were abusing them, when we were only gently disciplining them in such a way so as to get their attention long enough to get them to stop. It is a fine and scary line that parents have to balance. One mother shared that her son’s principal at his school reported her to Child Protective Services – twice – just because she didn’t like her.

During the pandemic, there has been almost a 50% decrease in CPS reports from mandated reporters. While some cities did report an increase in child visits to the emergency room, possibly due to physical abuse, the cause may have simply been the shut down of conventional medical offices. There has been no documented increase in emergency room visits or fatalities related to abuse or neglect. Obviously mandated reporters are significantly over reporting.

When my mother in law was in the prime of her career as a social worker, she worked within the low income Black community to make certain that whatever was keeping the child out of school was provided to the family to ameliorate that lack. Here’s what one teacher said about their school’s social worker –

I am a teacher in a low income area. When we see poverty related issues we go to the school social worker first, who contacts the family to offer resources. Usually our family resource center can offer things like coats, shoes or snow boots, school supplies, food and clothing. Some schools I’ve worked at even carry clothes for adults in their “caring closet” for families in need. School social workers will also coordinate with outside agencies to help families get situated with housing or any other needs they may have.

This teacher defends neglect calls from her own experiences. Like when the parents don’t seem to be making an effort or don’t seem to care. There may be a lot of reasons why they are coming off as not caring, but situations where a child is sick and throwing up or injured and the parent can’t be reached for hours and when they are reached they don’t show up to pick up their kid and this happens every time their kid gets sick. There are kids who get returned to school on the bus because they’re 4 or 5 years old and there was no one at the bus stop and it’s hours before the parent can be reached and they didn’t even realize their kid was missing when the social worker is knocking at their door at 6pm trying to track them down, and again it’s not the first time.

Kids with obvious medical concerns that have been brought to the parents attention repeatedly and the parent does not take them to a doctor. Once we had a kid transported to the hospital via ambulance with the parent completely unreachable. When the parent was finally reached they said they weren’t going to meet their child at the hospital because they were in the middle of cooking dinner. The parent never showed up. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) was eventually called and a worker had to come out and go find the parent to take them to the hospital. It was like 9pm and the parent was just refusing to go get their kid.

Sometimes neglect is a symptom of something far worse. A child can be removed for neglect initially and get bounced in and out of foster care for neglect, only to find out years down the line that there was severe physical and sexual abuse that was occurring.

This teacher did agree that providing resources should be the first line of intervention, when dealing with neglect issues. Yet it is her perspective that when a family is being offered resources and the issues continue, it’s important to dig down deeper because kids are not going to come right out and tell non-family adults about abuse that may be happening. Kids can show up to school with marks and bruises but so long as they deny abuse, nothing will be done about it. They can even initially report abuse and then. will take it back when DCF shows up or after the parent threatens them. Parents will tell kids that foster care is so much worse than what they’re living with now in an attempt to scare them into keeping quiet. They will tell kids that in foster homes, kids are starved and fed nothing but bread and water- all sorts of stories to keep them quiet. Fear of the unknown, shame, and the desire to protect their parents are all powerful tools that keep kids in abusive situations silent.

As I read all of that, I personally had reservations about the teacher’s perspective. Someone else responded as I had been thinking – did you ever consider that poor parents who have jobs don’t have the ability or privilege to take off work every-time they need to take a kid to the doctor, pick them up when the school calls or even answer the phone? Why assume they just don’t give a shit? Some people have to take whatever job they can find and some jobs, more specifically low wage jobs aren’t often very understanding. So if parents are having to leave work, they may lose their job and then you’re calling Child Protective Services ? Now they can’t pay rent and are homeless because public housing often has wait lists 8 years long and most women and children’s shelters have long wait lists too and stay full. I worked in a school. Maybe where you worked school social workers were “helpful” but that’s not always the case. Your school doesn’t seem like a low income school because low income schools don’t typically have all of those resources to offer the student’s families. And maybe a parent refusing to go get their kid is in the middle of a mental crisis and needed immediate HELP and that is not having their child removed. Most parents are not just assholes who don’t give a damn. There is always something more going on. Rather than removing kids, let’s fund families better, make even more services available to them. Let’s stop making assumptions about why things are happening and work with families to get to the bottom of their very real problems. Remember, a struggling parent isn’t going to be very trusting because they know how the system works. So when they act like they don’t want to take your help, maybe it’s because they don’t trust you.

I believe a lot of what this person shared below, also happens in my rural community where the median household income is $43,636 annually and for a single wage earner only $23,587.

The school in my town (rural/low income) has washers and dryers and people donate laundry supplies to them. The kids themselves or their parents that aren’t able to clean their clothes at home can take them to school to have them washed, so that the kids have clean school clothes to wear. They have a clothes closet where people can donate shoes or clothes for kids in the school that need them. They have a big coat and shoe drive every Christmas and give hundreds of kids in our community a new coat, a new pair of shoes and toys. We have a huge school supply giveaway every year before school starts where they give everyone a backpack full of school supplies, free haircuts, a new outfit, socks, underwear and pair of shoes. This year our county Board of Education is providing every student all of their school supplies free. They give kids a bag full of food every Friday, so they know they’ll have food when they’re out of school over the weekend and every child at our school gets free breakfast and lunch. I think all of these are great ideas that could help a lot of low income communities. It is well known that one reason families get reported for neglect is because the kids are dirty or wearing dirty or out of season (no coat or shorts in winter) clothes.

Low income families often just need a little extra help. Our society can and should do better !! But I need to end this with just one more because there are multiple sides to every story. This one is sad and regrettable.

One of my friend’s family was reported by a teacher to Child Protective Services (CPS) for bruises but by the time they actually responded, his mother had broken his arm. I was repeatedly physically abused as a child and I even threatened to call CPS myself. My mother told me I would be abused even worse in a foster home and the trauma she had caused made me actually believe it. If your position on a subject is firmly entrenched due to a negative experience, then nothing anyone else says will change your mind. If we didn’t have the Child Protective Services system and there were reports of children dying from neglect and abuse on the news every night, people would demand something to be done to protect innocent children. In my case, I was never taken from my biological family, but I should’ve been. I suffered extreme amounts of trauma and have had counseling multiple times to try and help me deal with the aftermath.

A Necessity ?

Over time, I have come to understand that there are so many problems with adoption that generally speaking I am not in favor of the practice. I am pro-family preservation and anti-unnecessary adoption. I believe that most adoptions are not necessary.

What are the answers to such questions as – “what would happen if there weren’t adoptive parents?” and “what if no one adopted.”

Babies are highly in demand and sought after. There are 40 waiting hopeful adoptive parents to every ONE expectant mother/baby.

Looking at it as a business person, I know the dynamics of supply vs demand. This is real reason a domestic infant costs so much to adopt. This is why, if you are wanting to adopt, you often have to wait YEARS for a baby.

The honest truth is – these babies aren’t “in need.” They won’t age out of foster care. They won’t grow up with “nowhere to go.”

Adopting these babies isn’t helping anyone except the couple wanting a baby to adopt. Seeking to adopt an infant in the United States is always a 100% selfish desire.

Most of these original mothers relinquish their babies for purely FINANCIAL reasons. If they had more money/support/resources they would keep their child.

A woman who simply doesn’t want her baby is RARE.

The babies you are seeking to “save” don’t need to be adopted. They have a mom and extended family. These family only need financial support (and sometimes treatment for emotional issues and even professional services) and they could stay together.

Most newborns end up placed for adoption because of a TEMPORARY situation that feels like a permanent obstacle.

In Australia, where women (and families generally) are supported. Overall adoption numbers have declined 50% over the past 25 years— from 668 in 1995–96 to 334 in 2019–20. Adoption rates have steadily declined since 2004–05, with 2019–20 marking the 15th consecutive year of decline.

Compare this to adoption in the US where it is a major industry. About 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year.  62% of babies in domestic infant adoptions were placed with their adoptive families within a month of birth.

While there truly isn’t a shortage of children to adopt (if someone is determined to do so), there is an acknowledged shortage of babies/toddlers available for adoption. With reproductive freedom for women (yes, the availability of birth control and abortion) and the end of social stigma for single mothers (I know more than one), this is the cause of a shortage of infants available for adoption. A large supply is never coming back. When I was seeking to know more about my dad’s adoption, the Salvation Army told me they had closed their unwed mother’s homes because there wasn’t enough demand to sustain them.

There are over 100,000 children currently in foster care right now, who are available for adoption. Their parents’ rights have already been terminated. Those kids NEED homes but many will age out of foster care because most prospective adoptive parents want babies. Many children in foster care actually do WANT to be adopted. They seek stability, which they will never have in foster care.

Infertility and Adoption

Erin Brockovich has an op-ed in The Guardian about this book by Shanna Swan with the alarming prediction that by 2045 her research suggests sperm counts could reach zero. Though I have known for a very long time what an awful influence the chemical industry has and that the pervasive chemicals in our environment are not good for reproduction in general, my thoughts after reading this article, went in the direction of this blog where I consider issues related to adoption.

I realized that increasing infertility will put increasing pressure on the availability of adoptable babies. This is not a happy thought for me. From personal experience, I know that medical science has the ability of offset fertility deficiencies with assisted reproductive techniques, so there is that as a natural counter for decreasing reproduction among humans without tearing babies away from the mothers who conceive easily.

I remember my own science experiment with our aquarium. The snail population had spiraled into filling the entire space with snails. I didn’t take any actions but to my utter surprise, the snails quit reproducing and eventually there were none, their dying bodies happily goggled up by our albino catfish who yet lives solitarily now in our aquarium. So could a major die-off of humanity simply be a natural event, much like there are no dinosaurs left on the earth today ?

Of course, we do need to care about our environment !! The truth of the matter is – the Earth does not need saving but humanity might. However, I also happen to believe there are more than enough people, as regards sustainability and resources, and that is why I am in favor of allowing any woman who does not want to commit herself to 9 months of pregnancy to have an abortion. Not that women should be coerced to have abortions and any woman who wants to carry, birth and then give her baby up for adoption will find an eager and more the willing market to accommodate her. Not that I am in favor of adoption as I have expressed in this blog many many times.

Swan’s book includes statistics such as these – “In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35.” and “A man today will have half of the sperm his grandfather had.” Swan’s research finds that these chemicals are also shrinking penis size and volume in the testes.

And of course, aggressive regulation is lacking in the United States in no small part due to lobbying by chemical industry giants. Chemicals are killing us, literally, but also by harming and attacking the very source of life: our reproductive capacities. And not only are they doing that but this will likely guarantee there will be more couples looking for that baby to love that they can’t birth themselves. So that is the relationship between chemicals, infertility and ultimately adoption.

Mentoring

Just today, learned about this organization. Many youth in foster care remain there if not adopted at a relatively young age until they “age out” as it is called. Are forced out on their own. I first discovered the Atlanta Angels whose Mission Statement reads – to walk alongside children, youth, and families in the foster care community by offering consistent support through intentional giving, relationship building, and mentorship.

They go on to define these 3 aspects – Intentional Giving is the giving of thoughtful and personal resources, gifts, and care packages that meet the real needs of the child and their entire family. Relationship Building is devoting time and energy to fostering healthy relationships that promote healing through connections and interpersonal bonding. And finally, Mentorship is equipping and empowering the youth in their program to be prepared for independent living and to reach their fullest potential.

The Atlanta Angels are a chapter of a national organization – the National Angels – which seems to have grown out of another more local organization – the Austin Angels. I’m glad to know there are other similar organizations across the United States. This program created the Dare to Dream (for youth ages 15-22) and Dare to Dream Jr (for youth ages 11-14) outreach efforts. These are intended to provide one-on-one mentorship to youth in foster care. Their mentors are advocates, guides, role models, valued friends, and available resources who guide youth that they may successfully accomplishment their developmental milestones.

Young people who have grown up within the foster care system have experienced instability in their lives and often disproportionately suffer with learning disabilities, limited life skills, health issues, and emotional and behavioral struggles that lead to negative developmental outcomes. Youth who age out of foster care without having been adopted or reunified with their families have less financial, emotional, and social support than their peers, yet they are often expected to be as self-sufficient as those who have familial support and guidance. This lack of assistance and resources combined with the various traumas these youth have experienced negatively affects their success and overall well being. As a result of having to overcome a childhood of abuse and neglect, removal from their parents, unstable living arrangements, multiple foster placements, and weak support systems, youth who age out of care enter young adulthood without a healthy foundation upon which they can build their futures and work to break the generational cycles that affect youth in care. 

Mentors provide the wisdom, advice, encouragement, and community that these youth need to thrive later on in life. A mentor involved in this program commits to meeting with the youth every other week to set goals and help them achieve their dreams. The organization hopes these relationships will last a lifetime, but the program only asks for a year’s commitment in some cases. Mentors matched with a high school student are strongly encouraged to stay with the youth until high school graduation. The simple act of a mentor telling their youth “I believe in you,” “You are special,” and “You are going to do great things” can change their path completely.

#whatabouts=derailment

In The Simpsons animated series, Helen Lovejoy often exclaims, “Ohhh, won’t somebody please think of the children!”

Something like this happens in broadly represented adoption groups (adoptees, original parents, adoptive parents and foster caregivers). “What about . . . ?” statements regarding kids being abused when issues of adoption and foster care are discussed, especially when the overall goal is to encourage family preservation only derail the effort to put forth viable solutions.

To assume any thoughtful, caring adult is seeking to justify kids being abused by impassioned support for the well-being of the whole biological family is abhorrent. I do not and never have advocated for allowing the abuse of children. What I seek to discuss through this blog in a variety of ways is how abuse and neglect stem from other factors in a person’s life. Being more pro-active on the side of helping families (and people in general) find the support they need can actually help stop abuse and neglect from ever occurring.

If you don’t believe that is possible, then maybe you are not doing enough in your own life to be part of the solution. Maybe you need to open your eyes to the simple truth of what is actually going on. You may need to stop sitting in your bubble of privileged judging of other people’s challenges.

I do believe that no one is born a terrible person. Life happens and sometimes it is a person’s path forward that results in inconvenient truths about the lack of support in our society for marginalized people. Not everyone is fortunate enough to always have goods choices that help them along on one of those better paths in life.

However, allowing people to have better choices CAN lead to a better life, a better person and a healthier, more stable family. This is not Utopian ideals. This is the honest truth derived from being open to learning about a diversity of challenges and experiences as well as the outcomes of those for many different people.

To that question, will there always be children that need someone else to care for them? Sadly Yes, of course there will.

Another question, is there an over-abundance of foster care necessitated by child removals and adoptions taking place in our country today? Maybe, maybe not. These are complex situations that deserve intelligent, nuanced thinking.

The goal of this blog is to help in educating people who may not have as broad of an access to all things adoption and foster care thinking, nor the attention that captures for me many of the stories I feel are worth sharing here.

Eye Of The Beholder

We need to talk to each other more.  We each have a perspective but it is not the whole picture.  We need to be able to hear the sadness, grief and anger.  We need to be able to hear the needs and good intentions.  We need to be able to hear the frustration of a young parent not receiving enough support to do what it is they were assigned to do when they conceived a child.

Perspective is everything but it need not be fixed in a rigid position.  We can expand upon what we are able to understand by seeking to hear from those others with a different view on a situation.

Money tends to rule too much of what is considered the right perspective in this country.  For too long, the rules have sided quite strongly with the perspective of those people with the money who desire for their position in the adoption triad to be inviolate.  We’ve allowed the legal system to put up walls to deny 2/3s of the triad any kind of rights in the circumstances.

Maybe I don’t have all of the answers to how we go about providing for the welfare of children in our society but I do believe that denying people their right to know where they came from or what became of a child they gave birth to and then lost – often for no better reason than poverty – can’t be the best answer.

Adoptees are speaking out.  Original parents who gave birth and then lost a child who is yet alive and living elsewhere are speaking out.  And the motivations and needs for security by people who are investing their time and resources to provide a stable and secure home for a child should be heard as well – but not to the degree that we deny the needs of other two limbs of this triad of persons.