March 28th, 2012 by Robert Franklin, Esq.
In California, a foster mother allegedly left a four-year-old child with special needs alone and her swimming pool unattended. The boy fell in and almost drowned; he was discovered with neither pulse nor respiration. He remained in a coma for a time but has since recovered although with some brain damage. The foster mother is charged with child endangerment. Read about it here (Merced Sun Star, 3/23/12).
In Arizona, foster mother, Angelica Jimenez was sentenced to 10 years probation for her part in the severe beating of a four-month-old girl in her “care.” Her boyfriend, Steven Saldana, will be sentenced shortly. Jimenez brought the little girl to the emergency room not breathing and with 14 separate fractures. Read about the sentencing here (WAVE 3/22/12).
Those were just two of the cases that came across my screen in a single day late last week. Sadly, there are more very much like them, every day of every week. So, as devastating as they are to the children and all who love them, the two cases are not outstanding. They should be, but they aren’t.
Except in one way. I’ve commented a lot about the tendency of various news organizations to seize on every case in which a child is injured or killed by a parent to call for ever more takings of children from parents by child welfare agencies. What’s remarkable about the two cases I mentioned is that there have been no such calls by any newspaper, magazine, ezine, radio or television network. Indeed, I can’t recall ever seeing such a call when a child was injured by a foster parent. The incident is reported, the grisly details spelled out, the charges revealed. Child injury is horrific and thus, big news.
But what we don’t hear are the impassioned pleas for radical change to the system of child welfare. When a parent injures a child, we’ve heard cries of righteous indignation from the likes of the Arizona Republic and the Boston Globe. Each calls for greater intrusion into family life and parental decision-making. And who could argue when little children are terribly injured or killed?
But those very things happened to the children I mentioned earlier, and not a peep from the MSM. Why not? After all, the writers who follow child welfare agencies surely know the data on foster care; it’s far more dangerous to children than parental care, even when the parents are known to be somewhat abusive or neglectful of their children.
Into the bargain, unlike parent/child relationships, the relationship between foster parents and their children ends when the child becomes 18. Certainly some foster parents continue to care for their foster children after that time, but most of the kids “age out” of the system. That means that at age 18, ready or not, they’re on their own.
But despite all its drawbacks, the news media seem to embrace foster care at the expense of parental care. When a parent harms a child we hear only “CPS should take more children into foster care.” When a foster parent does the same, silence.
It’s true that parents injure more children than anyone else, but that’s just because they provide far more care than anyone else. It’s also true that, compared with foster care, parental care is, on average, far superior. Of course some children need to be in foster care; their parents just aren’t capable of caring for them properly.
But moves to increase the rate at which children are taken into care, based on a few egregious examples, are steps in the wrong direction. As most child welfare agencies already so, children should be kept with parents if possible. If that means providing parenting courses, so be it. If it means providing special services for special situations, so be it.
And of course, when children are taken from single mothers, child welfare agencies routinely ignore the fathers as possible placements for the children. That disgraceful, expensive practice needs to change.
Whatever the case, it is beyond disingenuous for news organizations to criticize child welfare agencies when a parent harms a child but turn a blind eye to the same misdeeds done by foster parents. Sauce for the goose.
And if those same news organizations simply prefer foster care to parental care, they need to explain why. The breakdown of the family is one of the most destructive phenomena American society faces. Promotion of that process by the press is unacceptable.