October 30, 2017 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Yesterday’s post was about the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s order to the state’s child protective agency to hold two separate court hearings before taking a child into state care. The Court did so because the Department of Children and Families too readily takes children from their parents. The case in question involved parents whose “abuse and neglect” of their child consisted solely of a messy house and the odor of pot in the air.
As I’ve said many times, CPS agencies across the country are well-known for too easily taking children from their parents. That has at least something to do with federal law, including the misnamed Adoption and Safe Families Act, that offers states financial incentives to do so.
So this matter is entirely apropos (Time, 10/11/17). It seems the Kansas Department of Children and Families has simply no idea of the whereabouts of more than 70 kids who were placed in foster care by the agency. Remarkably, when questioned by state lawmakers on the subject, an agency spokesperson said the number is right in line with the national average. Apparently, about 1% of kids who are supposed to be in foster care aren’t and no one knows where they are. There are about 428,000 kids in foster care nationwide, meaning that about 4,280 are missing. Amazing.
It further appears that, in Kansas at least, authorities don’t much care about the fact. The state relies on two private contractors to provide foster homes to kids in need and, once a child is handed over to a contractor, DCF loses interest altogether.
Rep. Steve Alford, a Ulysses Republican who chairs the task force, said after the meeting he wasn’t really surprised.
“There’s a break between DCF and the contracting,” he said. “Once the children … (go from the court) into the possession of the secretary, she hands them off to the contractors and it’s their responsibility, you know, it’s kind of like out of sight, out of mind in a lot of aspects.”
That seems to mean that, if a child goes missing, there’s no obligation on the part of the contractor to tell DCF. That’s quite strange, given that the contractors are paid in part based on the number of children in their care. A missing child would therefore seem to be a matter of fraud if the contractor doesn’t inform DCF who can then discontinue payment.
Do foster families have an obligation to inform either the contractor or DCF if a child runs away? One would assume they do, but, in a situation as dysfunctional as the one in Kansas, you never know. Just consider:
Foster care contractors provided the information during a meeting of an oversight panel Tuesday at the Statehouse in response to questions about the disappearance of three sisters from a northeast Kansas foster home, The Kansas City Star reports. Police believe the missing girls — ages 15, 14 and 12 — ran away in August.
Hmm. So the girls ran away from foster care, perhaps in August, but the police don’t know for sure. Now, you’d think they could just ask the foster parents, but suffice it to say that, for at least two months, the girls have been missing, but apparently no one told anyone else about it.
To ignorant souls like me, it would seem to be an iron-clad requirement of foster parents and contractors to inform DCF when kids run away. Again, Kansas seems to be paying taxpayers’ money to foster families and contractors for kids who are no longer in foster care. That there is no such requirement and no way for DCF to know whether it’s paying for the correct number of children or not is, needless to say, incompetence writ large.
Which brings me to the agency’s “excuse.”
The agency’s chief, Phyllis Gilmore, said after the meeting that she can’t discuss the missing sisters. She said that in many cases, children seeking to get out of foster care go back to their biological families or other people with whom they have a relationship.
Yes, countless studies of foster care reveal kids preferring their biological parents to foster care. That’s no surprise. Even moderately abusive parents are known and loved by their kids. Their home is familiar to them as are their grandparents, siblings and other relatives. Child welfare officials will never admit it, but it frankly takes a pretty bad family situation to make living with strangers preferable.
That’s doubly true given that, again as many studies demonstrate, foster care is, on average, more abusive and/or neglectful than the care given by biological parents. That, plus the initial trauma of being taken from their parents, mean foster kids suffer, across the board, more psychological deficits than do other kids. They’re more likely to do poorly in school, abuse drugs and alcohol, commit crimes, etc.
So the ruling by the Massachusetts court makes sense. We should keep children out of foster care if possible. Taking them out of their homes should be viewed for what it is – a huge step that potentially condemns the kids to a life worse than before.
After all, what does it say about an agency that it simply loses track of many of its charges and has no system in place for even finding out about the fact?
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