As many children around the nation are being placed in the Foster Care system, the goal is to keep these children safe and out of harm’s reach. Unfortunately, many children involved in the foster care system are being abused and neglected from either their foster parents or previously from their biological parents. Factors inducing this abuse and neglect include “high rates of family poverty, unemployment, homelessness, involvement in drugs and alcohol, HIV and AIDS, unfair education, violence at home or among their peers, and racism” (Chipungu and Bent-Goodley 74-93). These factors create large unique caseloads for caseworkers and then lead to fewer visits and reviews of the foster parents treatment of the children as social workers are too caught up in each families unique situations. While in the foster care system the ultimate goal is to reattach children with their families and keep them safe while also keeping in mind their well being, but often these children are abused and neglected due to lack of care and attention. The foster care system is neglecting many children nationally of adequate care and safety by placing them in more harm than care which is a main goal of being involved in the system.A child can be placed in the foster care system for two reasons.
The first reason, and the most common reason, is that the child is being neglected in the current home and the second reason is that the parent is experiencing stressors such as an illness, substance abuse, poverty or is being incarcerated and no family is able to take care of the child. The child will then be placed in the foster care system with the ultimate goal to reconnect the child with his/her biological family. While a child is in the system, the biological parents may be offered a series of classes to help them with the current situation they are in to help better not only their lives, but their children’s as well.
“Ricky Powers is one of eleven thousand involved in the foster care system of North Carolina alone” (Barnes, 2017). Ricky was brought into this system four years ago when both of his parents passed away. He now lives in a foster care group home which houses more than 90 children of various ages. As Ricky is an older child in the foster care system, he is most likely to age out rather than being adopted as there is not a very high demand for older children to be adopted. 1/12 foster care children will leave the system with nowhere to go afterwards, no home, no job, and no family to rely on (Barnes 2017). As some of the following statistics may not relate to Ricky, these are the facts of what happens to a child after they age out of the system, “one out of four former foster care children will be in prison two years after aging out of the system, more than a fifth of former foster care children will be homeless, only 58% of foster care children will have a High School degree by the age of nineteen, fewer than 3% of children over twenty five will earn a college degree from formerly being in the foster care system” (Barnes, 2017). Despite all of these statistics of the hard life after foster care, our government still puts children into the system at a very high rate.
Placement in the SystemLegal Timeline”The main goal of foster care is to make sure vulnerable children are kept safe and are well, not being exposed to violence, illegal activity or other instances where parents have created an unsafe environment for a child” (Chipungu and Bent-Goodley 74-93). When parents are deemed unfit to provide care for their child, have exposed a child to violence or an unsafe environment, or are questioned whether or not they can provide adequate care for their child, they are reviewed by caseworkers, taken to family court to determine the future of the child at stake and then are placed in the foster care system in either a home or a group home. Reasons Entering Court and Temporary CustodyWhen a parent is seemed unfit to provide a safe environment for their child, a complaint will be made and taken to court by the child protective services staff for a judge to determine whether or not the child is safe. Reasons impacting parents to be deemed unfit to provide a safe environment for their children include influences such as, “high rates of child and family poverty, homelessness, unemployment, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, unequal education, family and community violence, and racism”(Chipungu and Bent-Goodley 74-93). When it is determined by a court of law that the current living situation for a child is unsafe and the child is at risk for many different reasons, the juvenile court judge of the case will then remove the child from his or her home and put them into the care of child protective services. Once the situation has become serious enough to be brought to court and the judge has made the decision to remove the child from their current home, this is called temporary custody. Reasons a child can be removed from a home are not all dangerous negative reasons such as exposure to drugs and alcohol by the parents, other reasons could include serious family problems such as parents being in the hospital with no place for the child to go. There are many reasons parents can have their child taken away from them but the court is only doing what is best for the child in the long run.
Social workers and parents typically work together to make sure their child returns home, but a child cannot return home until the court determines that it is safe for the return, parents must communicate with social workers and their lawyers to ensure that everything the court wants you to do is checked off. Foster Care Types and OptionsWhen a child is taken from the home of his or her parents, there are multiple places of care the child could be placed in, the first one being Family or Kinship Care. Kinship Care is believed to be the best care for a child as the child is not being placed in a total strangers home; they will be placed in a family member’s home other than their mother/father. When meeting with lawyers and case workers, this will be decided upon whether or not there is a family member who could take care of the child. The next option is foster care. If the child cannot be placed with family, then the child will be placed in a home with people who are foster parents. The third option is a group home, here the child will live with many other children in one home with people who are trained to care for them. The next option is a residential center, if the child needs more care than the average child then they will be placed in a hospital or treatment center to suit them best.
While the child is away and not living with their parents and the court has temporary custody of the child, the child’s biological parent is still their legal parent unless stated otherwise by the courts or stated by the court that parents are not allowed to visit the child, be told about the child’s care, or help make decisions for the child. Parents are still allowed to visit their child unless the court believes it would harm the child to see their parents. (When My Child Is Unable to Remain in My Care: What Happens Next?, 2009)Once the child has been placed in their assigned foster care home, parents must follow their case plan on what the court expects them to do to get the child back in their care and to provide a safe environment for the child again. The main goal is to have the child away for the shortest time possible but still being able to create a safe environment for the child.
(Chipungu & Bent-Goodley, 2004)Court Hearing and Proceedings Throughout this process, parents go to court for many different hearings. Shelter care hearing will decide if the child is in danger and must be removed from a home then deciding which foster care home the child will be sent to. Next is the adjudicatory hearing which is held no later than thirty days after the first hearing, and this is the chance to tell the parents view point or side of the story. From here the judge will determine if it is safe for the child to return home or not and decide if the child has been abused, neglected, or is dependent. If the child was found abused, neglected or dependent, the parent will then go to a dispositional hearing.
At this hearing, the judge has the choice to “return the child home, keep the child in substitute care, give legal custody to a person other than the parent, such as a relative, give permanent custody to the state, or order permanent placement somewhere else”(When My Child Is Unable to Remain in My Care: What Happens Next?, 2009). After this hearing, there will be a dispositional review where the case will be reviewed at least every six months while the child is in foster care. These reviews are used as check ins to ensure the parents are following the case plan. Next, there will be a permanency hearing if the child has been in temporary custody of the state for twelve out of twenty two months.
This hearing will determine the child’s permanent plan of whether the child can return home, whether the state will have permanent custody of the child so he/she can be adopted, give legal custody to someone other than the parent, or to give permanent placement somewhere else such as a group home or residential center. (When My Child Is Unable to Remain in My Care: What Happens Next?, 2009) Throughout the legal timeline of dealing with foster care and the system, parents are allowed to appeal any decision they do not agree with and have a rehearing after consulting with their lawyers. Along with this, parents most likely always work side by side with the case workers to ensure they get their child home as soon as possible and avoid moving the child from home to home.
Case Workers Foster care numbers have greatly increased since the 1990’s due to increased numbers of births, growing numbers of parents becoming incarcerated, and the vulnerability of the child by being exposed to dangerous things such as violence or substance abuse. These factors get children involved in the foster care system and then lead to large, complex caseloads for case workers dealing with the parents and the child. Often families need more than just temporary housing for their child, the more needs the family has, the more complex the case is. As each family has different needs, the child welfare system has established relations with public and private businesses to ensure the family’s address and get all the help they need to get their child back. As the caseworkers have many different cases happening all at once, each case is different and requires many different things differing from home to home. Due to low staffing numbers of case workers this is often a very hard task to keep up with, dealing with each necessary need of the parents and the families rights but also making sure that the child is safe no matter where he or she may be at the moment. A major flaw of the foster care system is in fact the low numbers of staff they employ.
The system cannot keep motivated staff, the workers then fall out leading to high staff turnover, and the current case workers being pile on with more and more cases. The less cases a worker has, the more successful and quickly the parents will get their child back in their home. The process that is currently in place with case workers is very long and complicated leaving the foster families, birth families and case workers very confused and frustrated.
(Chipungu & Bent-Goodley, 2004)Abuse and Neglect Children deemed to be involved in the foster care system by a court of law have been in some way abused or neglected by their parents. When entering the foster care system the goal is to provide a safe environment for these children to make them less vulnerable, but what happens when foster care parents abuse and neglect these children just as badly if not worse than the child’s biological parents? (“Michaels & Smolak,” n.d.) In 2015, four million reported cases of child maltreatment were documented involving more than seven million children with approximately 683,000 children being victims of maltreatment by foster parents. Of these victims seventy five percent suffered from neglect, seventeen suffered from physical abuse and eight percent suffered from sexual assault.
(“Child Abuse and Neglect,” n.d.) All children, particularly young children, are extremely vulnerable. More than three fourths of these children were younger than three years old. One thousand six hundred and seventy children in 2015 died from abuse and neglect, of these children forty nine percent were under the age of one year old.
Although it may be easy to assume that these deaths were the result of physical abuse then later leading to their death, almost three fourths of these deaths were the result of the child being neglected or in a pair with another form of maltreatment with seventy eight percent of abusers of child maltreatment were foster parents acting alone together or with other individuals. (“Child Abuse and Neglect,” n.d.)Foster Care Court Case Six innocent, helpless children in Florida who had previously been taken from their biological mother for being an alcoholic were left in the cruel hands of Jacqueline and Frank Lynch who were collecting $150,000 a year for being foster parents. These children were then placed in this home and left unchecked by the Florida case workers and foster care system for nearly two years violating the mandatory monthly visits. They left these children unseen for two years allowing anything to happen and being completely unaware of their situation.
(Ross, n.d.)When placing the children in the hands of these strangers, the state completely ignored Lynch’s background even though multiple bells went off indicating how dangerous this home was and how unsafe it would be to foster children in. Lynch previously had one of their children taken by the state for allegations of physical and sexual abuse going on in their home and the other two children were under protective supervision of the state. “At one point, Lynch fled the state’s jurisdiction in order to avoid the department.
“There had been a statewide alert put out,” and yet, “when she came back, they licensed her and her husband as foster parents.”” (Ross, n.d.) While placed in the care of Lynch, these children were supposed to be kept safe but instead they got the exact opposite. “I used to think in my mind, ‘I wish I was dead so I didn’t have to be in this stupid place,'” one of the six children said.
(Ross, n.d.) All six of the children lived or to more accurately represent their conditions there, were locked inside of a tiny room in the house together. Most nights the children slept on the floor, constantly waking up shivering because it was so cold but it doesn’t stop there, cockroaches came from out of the floors and vents, the children all kneeled down and ate out of one single bowl, sometimes they were not fed and were forced to eat their own vomit, they were given no access to the bathroom once they were locked in the room and were forced to do so in there, everyday after school this was their world, no furniture, no place to do homework and no toys for the young children to play with. “After the state received reports from school and court-appointed guardian about possible abuse, the caseworkers continued to file reports with “nothing but high praise” for the Lynches, saying they were “excellent foster parents” who provided “a secure, loving home.
“” (Ross, n.d.) Not only were the living conditions extremely poor, Lynch would also abuse the children by hitting them with their hands or with belts saying their reason for doing so was because the children were “retarded”. There were also other punishments the children faced other than being physically abused, once Lynch made Toby, one of the children, eat a whole jar of red hot peppers which then caused him to have blisters all over his mouth in the following days. Jacqueline and Frank Lynch were not the only abusers though, the Lynch’s teenage son would tape the children to large plastic crates and then would dump them into the swimming pool so they were unable to breathe while this was going on, the other children watched helplessly. This same teenage son was also convicted of sex crimes against a minor but yet the Lynch’s still stayed in the good graces of Florida’s system as they were allowed to remain as foster care parents and were later approved for adoption of all six of these children allowing them to continue racking in thousands of dollars from the system.
Thankfully after five years of these children being under Lynch’s care, someone called a child abuse hotline and the police were able to respond. After being in the Lynch’s care for more than five years being abused and neglected, the police finally responded. When doing so, the police found emotionally battered, extremely malnourished children. Susanna who was four years old at the time of her adoption weighed only nineteen pounds in a size 2T dress which completely swallowed her up. Once the police realized the danger these children were in and the inhumane things that they had been living through, the law did very little to Lynch. When on trial for abuse and neglect against these six innocent children, Lynch was told by prosecutors to plead guilty as a no contest plea.
She was then convicted of just one misdemeanor count of child neglect, she faced one year of probation and was ordered to pay court fees of only one hundred forty dollars. “These children were tortured. These children were neglected. These children were abused,” says Howard Talenfeld, a family-rights attorney.
“What happened to these children was inhumane.” (Ross, n.d.) Lynch now runs a restaurant in Alabama and when asked about the case of these six children they say they have nothing to say about the children that were once in their care. Not only was Lynch at fault in this case, the state of Florida was as well. Recently there was an out of court settlement for the state of Florida to pay five million dollars into a trust fund for these children, they also paid over one million dollars in attorney fees as well.
As for the employees handling this case, not a single one of them have been fired or disciplined, at least three of them are still handling foster children even after they put these six in harm for so long. The six children have now been adopted by a very loving family. “When I was in foster care,” says Toby, “I wanted a family that I can have fun with. And I got that family that I wanted.
” (Ross, n.d.). Kathy and Rod Rodriguez adopted all six of these children and said that they have shown incredible strength to overcome what happened in the past. These children are in a much better, more safe place now thanks to their new parents.
This case is one of many that state foster sare systems and parents have been able to abuse and neglect children later with no punishments towards them. Lynch was charged with only one misdemeanor count of child neglect, only faced one year of probation and was ordered to pay court fees after hurting and torturing these children, that was the only punishment she recieved. The case workers who were handling this case at the time did not receive any punishment or were dismissed. Often times caseworkers desperately put children in homes with the hope of preventing them from sleeping with the child in the child welfare office. When a child cannot be placed, the case worker is required to stay with the child in the office in a sleeping bag or on a cot. After a period of time the case worker may give up and put the child in a group home or shelter which is basically a modern day orphanage where they will live until they age out of the system. (Teo, 2015) This is exactly what these children were neglected of when being placed and reevaluated while in the system.
The case workers gave up on these children and desperately put them in a home to get them off their hands. This is not the only case where a child has been abused and neglected by not only their foster parents but their case workers as well. A six year old girl was sent by an adoption agency to live with foster parents