Saturday, November 18, 2006

Concerns about foster parents who are in it for the wrong reasons

Current foster care system fails to put children's needs first
Greenberg, Doni. November 17, 2006.

Editor's note: Doni Greenberg is on vacation. In her absence we are running "Best of Doni," columns culled from years past. This column originally appeared Nov. 4, 2005.

Where is a good orphanage when you need one?

This occurred to me again this week as I drove to work and saw a woman sitting on the sidewalk with a young boy tucked beside her. Her cardboard sign said she was homeless. A Redding Police Department car was parked nearby. An officer spoke to her. The boy kept petting the woman's back, like he was the one comforting her, instead of the other way around.

Orphanages came to mind after I interviewed a homeless family a few years ago. The mother and father slept with their five kids in a beat-up station wagon. The mother was pregnant with twins. She shared this information with breath that reeked of alcohol. Her husband was drunk, too. I looked at the kids as they fought over a 2-liter bottle of tepid Pepsi. Those kids did not have a prayer.

Actually, I didn't hatch this orphanage concept alone. A colleague, Maline Hazle, and I came up with it a few years ago, somewhat in jest. It was a way to cope with story upon heartbreaking story about children of deadbeat, abusive, neglectful parents.

Those kids can come to Maline and Doni's orphanage, we'd say. We said our orphanage would be a place where kids' health, safety and welfare pulled more weight than the desires -- and yikes, maybe even rights -- of their very rotten parents.

Our orphanage wouldn't pretend to be a real mom and dad.

It would be a safe, clean, nurturing place with lots of kids in the same boat, run by kind, well-adjusted, well-equipped people.

Our orphanage would be light, immaculate and airy. It would have fresh linens and bedding. Kids would wear shoes and clothing that fit. They'd eat nutritious food, some of which was grown on the premises. Each child would receive a top-notch education that covered the gamut of academia and personal finance to auto repair and cooking.

Children's lives would be enriched by extracurricular activities, like sports, music and art. Our orphanage would have volunteer grandparents and mentors, people who passed background checks and were there for no other reason than to give of themselves.

Upon high school graduation, each child would have a college education available. Most important, the orphanage would be operated by compassionate professionals, not lay foster parents with ulterior motives. Or foster parents who have their own kids at home, because no way, no how can even the most well-intended parent treat foster kids and biological kids equally.

Hold the tomatoes, long-suffering foster parents. I'm sure there are countless examples of genuine, unselfish, loving foster homes. And I'm sure those people went into foster care because they had a burning desire to help a needy child. No strings attached. God bless those people. Every one.

But ideal and reality are miles apart. Recurring newspaper ads that beg for foster parents tell me there's a shortage. This deficiency leaves the field wide open for mediocre foster parents with potentially murky motives.

Maybe they're attracted to foster care because, what the hell, Mabel, we've got a spare room and could sure use the cash. (And by the way, generally speaking, the more screwed up the kid, the higher the payment.) Maybe they're attracted to foster care because they could use a hand around the house, and their flesh-and-blood lawn mowers, dishwashers and pot-scrubbers flew the coop. Maybe they're attracted to foster care to deal with a lifetime of emotional baggage tied up with insecurity and unfulfilled love.

And we haven't even mentioned the kids' issues, from anger and attachment disorders to learning disabilities and depression.

Just a thought.

Doni Greenberg's opinion columns appear Friday and Sunday on the Local page. Her cooking column appears Wednesday in the Food section. She can be reached at 225-8237 or


Anonymous Candi Middleton/ illinois said...

Hello, My name is Candi Middleton, I came across your website today looking for anything that ties DCFS into other cases of similar nature. Being a Mother of 4 Beautiful baby girls, I did have drug & alcohol issues long ago.I have been clean from both drugs & alcohol for going on 6 years now. Back while I was having my issues I decided it was in the best interest of my 4 children to be placed with my Mother. I later signed them over to my Mother and she adopted them because while I was doing everything I had to do to get dcfs out of our life, nothing was good enough for that Judge.All my drug & alcohol classes were clean, I had a job, Supported my kids, did everything right. DCFS basically talked me into the adoption because then I didnt have to do this anymore, no dcfs no court, can see girls anytime, at the time it sounded like the best thing to do, I later got married and we all moved into a big house after my father was diagnosed with lung cancer that later spread to his liver brain , spine, and bones.February 11, 2012 my Mother passed unexpectedly from spinal menanjitis and streptocauccus pneumonia. 2 days later dcfs is at my door because a family member called in and told them he was the Executor of the will and was left the kids in the will.Even though he knew my Mother was about to get her will changed he called DCFS and they came out. They came out but did not take the kids that day. They didnt see a reason to since they came out and had me do drug testing and looked throughout my whole house and at the same time i was taking care of bed ridden Father. 2 days later they came and placed them with a different uncle since the kids were not wanting to go with the uncle in the will. my Father died 20 days after my Mother died and my Children were there and witnessed both deaths and was taken away from their Mother once again and away from their school, family, friends, support system.I been fighting for my children back since then but my kids are being passed from one foster home to another because nobody wants them. My oldest is a runaway once again for the 8th time but DCFS does not do anything about this. All they want is to come home.My chikdren are 15,13,12, and 11.Come on Now, DCFS IS DOING MORE HARM THAN GOOD IN THIS SITUATION!! I really want to know who really has the right morally to even take ones child from them.Then place them with one person after another and allow all their stuff to always be stolen, taken away or whatever the case is. My kids have had more problems in their life since DCFS is involved than they have ever had in their whole life. One worker specifically told me he would pay a million dollars to get the F*** AWAY FROM MY CRAZY FAMILY. Confused. if they know how crazy my family is why do you keep screwing my kids life up more. they have not offfered them counseling or anything they really need. which really makes me mad because i had a year of in home family counseling set up with hospice after my family died. Anybody have any information that may help get my babies home.Please help. ANYTHING APPRECIATED!!!

1:25 PM  
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7:24 PM  

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