Do not see what I say? Say what others see.
FOSTER CARE, CHILD WELFARE REFORM IN REVIEW
THE LEGAL ORPHANS
- child welfare policy, embodied in the Adoption and Safe Families Act
(ASFA) statutory scheme, is flawed in two significant ways. First, it
fails to recognize the socioeconomic factors underlying most child
maltreatment and instead defines maltreatment primarily based upon
normative parental behavior standards unrelated to child safety. It
relies upon a very small number of extreme abuse cases to define the
problem and any proposed solutions. This results in the legal system
addressing child maltreatment in an ineffective post hoc triage fashion
in stark contrast to the medical community‟s preventive approach to the
problem. Second, it ignores the real ties that exist between parents and
children even after children have been removed from their parents‟
care. As a result, interventions at all stages of the child welfare
process are misguided: before children are removed from their parents‟
care, while they are in foster care but the state still seeks
reunification of the family, and after parental rights are terminated.
The devaluation of the parent-child relationship after termination has
led to perhaps ASFA‟s most disturbing legacy—over a hundred thousand
- Several states allow a mother and child to be permanently separated
for something the mother did before the child was born; these states
have made the use of illegal drugs while pregnant a ground for
terminating a mother’s parental rights. The intuition motivating such a
policy is that drug users are bad parents, and the state protects
children by removing them from such parents. This presumption in favor
of termination is fundamentally ill conceived. Termination of parental
rights is a drastic and unwise response to the public health problems
caused by illegal drug use: drug use or addiction does not, ipso facto,
make someone unfit to care for a child, although it may cause behaviors
which constitute bad parenting. If those behaviors do emerge and they
rise to the level of abuse or neglect, they would be sufficient legal
ground for government intervention to protect the child in every state
in the nation. So, making drug use itself a ground for breaking up a
family is unnecessary. Given that it also has various negative effects,
including trammeling the constitutional rights of mothers and creating
legal orphans, the policy should be abandoned.
- Advocates drummed up support for ASFA by pointing to cases where
family preservation failed miserably. They recounted tragic stories of
children who were killed after caseworkers returned them to blatantly
dangerous parents. They passed around photographs of abused children to
members of Congress. Perhaps the most effective rallying tool was The Book of David: How Preserving Families Can Cost Children’s Lives by prominent family violence scholar Richard Gelles. The Book of David
reported the events surrounding the suffocation of a little boy by his
abusive mother after caseworkers sent him home from foster care. Gelles
attributed this tragic lapse in judgment to the priority policy makers
placed on families, rather than children. According to Gelles,
caseworkers were interpreting the requirement to use “reasonable
efforts” to preserve families to dictate reunification at all costs.
Family preservation policies were a license to risk children’s safety.
Gelles argued that “the basic flaw of the child protection system is
that it has two inherently contradictory goals: protecting children and
preserving families.” He advocated reinventing the child welfare system
“so that it places children first.”
- Many concerns have been raised about the use of guardians ad litem.
Most complaints have centered on guardian actions in family court cases,
primarily in contested divorce actions. Complaints have focused on
guardian bias, lack of oversight and accountability, inadequate
training, and inappropriate communication between guardians and judges.
Parents have also complained that there is no place to seek relief if
they have a problem with a guardian.
See also: Reprise: The Ominous Parallels
Rewarding States for Adoptions Part of the Problem, Rather Than a Solution
The Indian Child Welfare Act: Where Are We Today?
Adoption bonuses doled out, providing states with additional revenue maximization opportunities
Efforts at Reform: 2010 – Where Are We Today?
*The posts made in this blog are of our opinion only* Without Prejudice UCC 1-207