Second-Time Foster ChildToni Hoy
|PHOTO: US Army Africa|
A child is bruised and battered. He is hungry and cold, lacking such basic necessities as safety and nurturing. However, all is not lost. Hope lurks around the corner when a loving foster family feels a connection to one such child. The family brings the child home, first as a foster child, and some time after, makes a forever commitment to the child through adoption. Years later, generally at or just before the onset of puberty, the same child is once again facing foster care re-entry. If it was bad enough being a “first time foster child,” it really stinks to be a “second time foster child.”
During the early 90s, state child welfare agencies were taking children away from parents in alarming numbers. Once a child received the foster care sentence, he never seemed to get out, at least until he became an adult. Foster care rolls swelled to the highest levels in history shorty before President Clinton signed the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) into law in 1997. How did so many children end up in the foster care system anyway?
The feminist movement, widespread drug abuse, health hazards, and media pressure contributed to increasing foster care rolls. The role of women in society changed drastically during the 1970s. Women spent less time at home and more in the workplace. The crack cocaine epidemic created a population of addicted mothers who were unable to properly care for their children, landing their children in foster care. The crack cocaine epidemic was followed by the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, landing even more children in foster care, as mothers became severely ill or deceased. About the same time, several children “known to the system” died at the hands of their birth parents due to severe neglect and abuse. Across the nation, child protective services caved to media pressure to remove children from their families. State agencies agreed to “err on the side of the child.” In Illinois, the foster care rolls ballooned to 52,000 state wards, while parents were haphazardly blasted with false allegations.
Teachers and other professionals involved in childcare-related careers lost their jobs over rampant false allegations. In 1994, in an Illinois class action suit, 150,000 parents filed DuPuy v. Samuels, alleging that child protective services were taking too many children away from their parents for too little reason. The landmark case, which settled in favor of the parents, resulted in new rules that expedite hearings for parents and workers in childcare-related fields. Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer referred to it as “…a staggering risk of error…” What were states to do with tens of thousands of children languishing in foster care?
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