Making excruciating decisions
August 11, 2017 11:21 AM   Subscribe

When Should a Child Be Taken from His Parents? Judges must decide whether the risks at home outweigh the risks of separating a family.
posted by pixlboi (8 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
This article, God, it makes my head want to explode. It's well written and heartbreaking. Such a broken, racist, classist system. I live in Canada, and all the statements in the article about the treatment of black women in the child and family welfare apply in the same way to First Nations women here. So much of whether you'll be reported to child protective services depends on how much money you have, what colour your skin is, where you live, your education level. Is it like this everywhere? I have a sinking feeling it is.

For a long time after she lost her children, Mercedes was homeless....While the case dragged on and Mercedes drifted, the agency was helping the foster mother with housing. “They done moved this lady three times, and every time the apartment’s getting bigger,” Mercedes said bitterly. “But you can’t help the biological mother who’s showing you that she wants her kids? If they would have done that for me in the first place, I wouldn’t be in the situation that I’m in now, and I’d have my kids.”
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:29 PM on August 11 [15 favorites]


What would happen if we took all the money that this court system costs and put it into giving people apartments, food and medical care? What if parents who are bad at getting up on time could work with some kind of concierge service to get daily phone reminders? Even if this didn't make incompetent parents into great parents, it would keep families together and keep everyone housed and fed. People are much worse to each other when they're stressed and isolated and despised.

I really feel for Mercedes. The older I get the more tired some of the casual homophobia/transphobia I encounter makes me feel, and that isn't even too bad compared to how she gets treated, with everyone looking down on her.

Honestly, you can't help but connect some of these systems that programmatically take away children with the residential schools and other genocidal projects used against Native people. Those too were projects intended on a formal level to "save" children.

If we supported parents materially when they needed it - like the welfare system that we used to have until we got rid of it to knife the poor, thanks Bill Clinton* was at least supposed to do - resources for fostering children could be concentrated on the much fewer families that couldn't be fixed through better conditions.

*I am so bitter about this you would not believe. Half the "oh no the family, oh no poverty, oh no deaths from despair" stuff that's going on now would not be happening if we had continued to fund the welfare system at the level that it was funded when it was initially established. And I also feel very strongly that wages would not have stagnated the way they have - welfare used to provide a floor for wages, because if wages were worse than benefits, you could sit out the labor market. As I have often said here, I have a friend who grew up on welfare and struggled really hard to make it on her own as an adult. When she had a bad patch, she couldn't go on welfare - it was gone - and she was couchsurfing-homeless for about a year, completely fucking unneccessarily.
posted by Frowner at 1:26 PM on August 11 [19 favorites]


And I also feel very strongly that wages would not have stagnated the way they have - welfare used to provide a floor for wages, because if wages were worse than benefits, you could sit out the labor market

And why do you suppose welfare was gutted like it was?
posted by Naberius at 1:52 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


And why do you suppose welfare was gutted like it was?

But the point is, lots of Democratic voters who should have known better went right along with it. It took a Democratic president to dismantle welfare - they would have fought a Republican, because they would have distrusted his motives. But slap the Democratic label on it and it must be in people's best interests. I remember this at the time - it was a terrible thing.
posted by Frowner at 2:08 PM on August 11 [13 favorites]


Honestly, you can't help but connect some of these systems that programmatically take away children with the residential schools and other genocidal projects used against Native people. Those too were projects intended on a formal level to "save" children.

Frowner, I totally agree with you...I had a student a couple of years ago who wrote a research paper on how Canada's current foster care system is a continuation of residential schools. Here is a 2016 report by Chief Ed John on the topic. It's well worth reading and although of course much of it is culturally specific to Indigenous people in Canada, it is sobering to see the many, many common denominators of so many child welfare systems in the world.
I was told by the uncle of a young father whose children were apprehended and taken into care by MCFD [Ministry of Children and Family Development] that, despite the best efforts of the father to comply with the MCFD conditions required for his children to be returned to him, including his attendance at a treatment centre on three occasions, this young father was routinely denied access to his children by MCFD officials. MCFD officials, I was advised, had no intention of returning the children. Nowhere to turn, the young father gave up and in the ultimate act of despair, committed suicide.

I spoke with a couple who, struggling with substance abuse, had six of their children removed. The couple explained how they went through mediation and followed up on their commitments to MCFD to have their children returned, but to no avail. The mother emotionally recounted how she had a new baby born in early November 2015 and was invited by MCFD officials to a meeting at the local MCFD office. When she arrived at the office, her newborn with her, the baby was apprehended by a social worker. Desperation in her voice, she pleaded with me, “I want to have hope. I have waited a long time.”
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 2:18 PM on August 11 [5 favorites]


The foster care, juvenile justice and family court systems are all part and parcel of a dysfunctional social order.
When my mother was young, there were visiting nurses who helped new mothers.
By the time I had children this no longer existed, at least where I lived. It's no better now. I think things are worse.
It's not mentioned in the article but many women feel that the foster care system, juvenile justice and family court actually exist to funnel children into the sex trade.
The system *is* bad I don't know that it's deliberately set up to funnel children into the sex trade, but it is certainly rigged against children and mothers. Nothing is done to make things better.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 6:52 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


I'm a mandatory reporter that has called CPS many times and not called CPS many times when I should have. For the fucking life of me, I don't understand why the people who believe with all their heart and will die to prove it that abortion should be outlawed won't advocate just as hard for basic maternal-child welfare, or mandatory birth control until a formal petition for parenthood. Not that I'm proposing mandatory birth control , but how about widely available, and actively promoted and cheap? And then, if you get pregnant, how about some relatively cheap social support to make these kids safe and healthy in their own families before the state comes in and traumatizes everyone forever?

Because conservatives are cheap and stupid and don't even see that a welfare state makes more financial (forget moral!) sense than institutionalization and jail, is why.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:46 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


But the point is, lots of Democratic voters who should have known better went right along with it.
I think this is the foundational rot of the baby boomer generation. Bill & Hill both had their own experiences with family money troubles and now, goshdarnit, they were the Governor and FL of Arkansas! They (and their parents) had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps! They were completely blind to their own privilege as white people. Though Bill and Hill's parents had endured abuse at the hands of parents and spouses and money was tight here and there, they failed to notice that their struggles were nothing compared to the struggles of those in true poverty. My parents, both first-in-their-family white college graduates born in the mid-40's to poor parents, had similar views in the 90s. It's not so much that they thought that poor people didn't deserve help; they were just stunningly paternalistic in their views of how this help should be doled out. "Here, we'll teach these poor folk good values. Teach a man to fish, then they can fish like me!"

I can't think of a single system overhauled by baby boomers that isn't rotten to the core. Including the CPS/family court system described in this article.
posted by xyzzy at 10:43 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


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