Sunday, October 26, 2014

Practical Solutions for Saving Children

Image result for happy children image

This week I read a couple of articles about children and foster care that really disturbed me:

Scary Mommy shared a story about the heartbreak a foster child feels, not understanding why no one will ever love him. It does not end well. Articles rarely make me cry but this one affected me for a few days.

Children's Rights posted an LA Times article about the effects of the latest recession on impoverished children. The statistics are incredibly depressing. Did you know that:

  • Five children die every day from gun violence
  • One child dies every seven hours from abuse or negect
  • Child poverty is at its highest level in the last 20 years
I also learned about the death of 2-year-old Colton Turner. This was a little boy well known to Texas Child Protective Services. Several complaints of abuse had been lodged against the mother. Family and friends said the child was being abused by the boyfriend. There were photos posted to Facebook that were apparently very disturbing. CPS talked to the mother each time but said they didn't see any examples of abuse even though there were photographic examples of bruising on social media. So life goes on until finally the boyfriend kills the child and buries his tiny body in the woods. Only then does the police department jump into action and launch an investigation.'s a little late now don't ya think?

It makes me so sad that I keep having to read stories like this over and over and over again but nothing ever seems to change. The thing is, there are some really practical things we could do to protect children but no one ever wants to change the status quo because of "parent rights". Instead we just keep reading these stories of horrific abuse and terrible heartbreak and then go on about our day until the next story comes along. What about children's rights??? This is SO not the way things should be!

I've thought about it a lot and I think there are some pretty easy ways that we could improve childhood safety. Here are some examples.
  1. Adequately staff DCF so that there are enough resources to follow up on all accusations of abuse and neglect. Yes I know that would cost taxpayer money but this is a subject definitely worth the investment
  2. Change the laws so that a bio parent has a finite amount of time to get his/her act together. I say 18 months tops. Bouncing children back and forth for years on end only causes further trauma. Then by the time the state finally releases the child for adoption, the child is too old and very difficult to place. I am sure that's what happened in the case of poor young Steven in the Scary Mommy article and that's just sad. There are too many children out there like Steven.
  3. Parental probation: When parents regain custody of their child(ren) the foster care system should require probation for the parents. The parents had to follow a service plan in order to regain custody so we need to make sure they are following it by staying away from people they need to be staying away from, remaining employed and drug free. There should be inspections of the home, employment checks and random drug tests. Someone convicted of stealing a candy bar from the grocery store will get probation but abusive and neglectful parents have no such requirements. That's just crazy.
  4. Create a Big Brother/Big Sister program specifically for foster kids. These kids need someone stable and caring in their lives because everything and everyone else around them creates total chaos for their lives. This would also help DCF keep tabs on children who might be falling through the cracks now.
These are just a few of the way that we could do a better job of protecting and caring for at risk children in our country. It's an election year so how about we decide to hold our elected officials accountable for the children of our state? I know I am going to email this story to both Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker, who are the gubernatorial candidates for Massachusetts. What will you do???

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Please Say a Prayer for a Child

There are very few times that I've asked someone to send a prayer. I'm just really not the praying type. I prefer to act than to pray but there have been a few instances where I've felt I needed the collective help of the community to solve a problem.

The first time I sent out a prayer request was when I was trying to become a mom and I asked friends and family to pray that an angel would bring me a little boy or girl to love...and believe it or not, just a few months later it happened, and very quickly at that. The Universe heard our prayers apparently.

Three years later I am sending a prayer request for my friend Mama B. She and her husband have been foster parents to "Mickey" since he was 10 months old. They wanted to adopt a baby and when they found out about Mickey, everyone was thrilled beyond belief. He wasn't free yet but at their disclosure meeting, they were told that Mickey was low legal risk and would be available for adoption soon.

Unfortunately, the courts didn't agree and have dragged out the process for over two years now. Bio mom wanted him back and it didn't matter that she was a homeless, drug-addicted prostitute who disappeared for months at a time. The courts decided to give her a chance. Again.

Then last year, bio dad appeared out of nowhere and decided he wanted custody of little Mickey too. Bio Dad was abusive to bio mom. He was also in prison awaiting trial for murder. Not a good guy.

A few months ago, Bio Dad escaped from prison and he's now on the run, living who knows where. My friends found this out when a local police officer knocked on their door and told them to be careful. Apparently Bio Dad had seen some paperwork at the DCF office he wasn't supposed to see and now had the names and address of my friends. They were told Bio Dad was armed and dangerous and could very well be on his way to their house. Of course they packed up their belongings and went to a hotel to be safe, at their own expense, I might add.

They have since gone home and there is no sign of Bio Dad thankfully. However now Bio Dad's Sister has appeared out of the woodwork saying she wants custody of Mickey! Of course Mickey has no idea who she is, as this woman has had no interest in him for the last two years. Also Bio Dad apparently used to store his illegal guns at his sister's house. She's clearly no law abiding citizen here.

The reason I'm asking for prayers now though is because Mickey's trial is next week. If the judge decides to, he will remove Mickey from the only home he's ever known, taken away from parents who love and adore him, to live with complete strangers, just like that.

My friends are scared they will lose the toddler they love with all their heart. We are all also scared for Mickey's safety. He would be leaving a warm, loving home to live in squalor with complete strangers who simply will not love him the way Mama B and her husband do. Mickey hasn't been traumatized by foster care yet but my friends won't be able to protect him any longer from the harsh realities of the world if the courts take him away. And this child so desperately deserves to be protected. He's only 2 years old!

By the way, while all this is going on, my friend Mama B's own father is dying of Cancer. She can't go visit him two states away though because she wants to spend as much time as she can with Mickey in case she loses him next week. The whole story is just too heartbreaking.

That said, I am hoping this story is worthy of a few prayers and all I ask is that you take a moment to pray for the safety of little Mickey and for a positive outcome to this difficult situation.

Thank you very much.