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Monday, April 12, 2010

National Child Abuse Propoganda

Child Abuse Prevention Month bothers me.  I walked into the mall with Topher this weekend, and there were cutouts of kids from infants to toddlers to teenagers standing in the walkway.  Each had a sad story taped to its chest explaining what had happened to the child that that particular cutout represented.  Honestly, it was heart wrenching.  And we can all agree that child abuse is heart wrenching.  In an ideal world, it would be preventable.

We don't live in an ideal world.  Many, many of us were abused as children in some way.  Depending on what statistics you believe the overwhelming majority of us were abused in some way, shape, or form.  Those of us that weren't should consider ourselves lucky to not have those scars.

That's likely true on the surface.  But not as scary as the alternatives.  Depending on the study, as many as 80% of children removed from their homes and placed into foster care fail when it comes to adulthood.  Additionally, they are twice as likely to have PTSD as war veterans.  If the first set of scary statistics is to be believed, this all means that children left in any but the worst of those abusive homes still fare better than the vast majority of those taken out and placed into foster care.  Add to that the statistics on how many children are abused within the system, and the results are staggeringly obvious:

Our foster care system is failing the very people it's intended to protect.  BADLY!

People become social workers and foster parents with good intentions.  It is too easy, however, to get caught up in the system and lose sight of what you're there for.  Too many children are wrongly removed from their homes while too many children that are truly in danger are left.

The system, as it stands today, is broken.

I don't claim to know how to fix it.  But these people do.  While I don't necessarily agree with every bullet point they have to offer, I think they're on the right track.  In all but the most extreme cases, families should be kept together and taught new skills.  Children should be given every opportunity to thrive where they are.  Train social workers to work with families, not intimidate them and scare them with losing their kids.

SO ... what can a mere mortal do?
  • Foster a child.  Do it not for the money the state gives you, but for the sake of the child.  I started this journey into chaos to support one child. He's doing much better after just over 2 months.
  • If you don't have the means or the mentality to foster, reach out to help those who do.  Maybe cook a meal for a local foster family so they can have a night off after a long day of school, marathon therapy sessions, and running around.  Maybe offer to carpool their kids to school.  Maybe just a "Thanks for taking care of the kids" ... it doesn't take much to go a long way.
  • DON'T report every little thing you see.  When you see someone having issues with misbehaving kids, try and give them the benefit of the doubt.  Have you behaved badly when your child was melting down?  Would it have hurt you to have some stranger report that as abusive?  Case workers are overloaded with investigations, and adding to that weight makes it harder to see the real cases when they come up.
  • DO report when the behavior is so over the top that you can honestly say "I'd never, in my worst moments, treat my kid like that."  Report when you have reasonable expectation that an abusive situation is occuring.
  • If nothing else, donate to NCCPR.  They've got a plan on how to help families.  It may not be perfect, but it seems to be working.  That's better than we can say for the current system.
Reach out.  Perhaps you can help someone else survive.  The rewards are incredible!

        aka: goofdad

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