I can think of no other system organized by humanity in which everyone involved from the top down looks at the product and is disappointed. This only happens in foster care. No doubt some success stories have emerged from the tepid pool that presents itself as a salvation to children in dire need but those children have overcome adversity by beating the odds, not taking advantage of them. No matter who I talk to everyone is quick to voice their displeasure over a system that seems to have no way out and no solution to the myriad of problems it presents every day. This Gordian knot is so convoluted that in some locations frontline social worker turnover is as high as 90%. Clearly the workers are not happy, the foster parents are unhappy (coming from a former foster parent) and the biological parents are equally as displeased.
So we can easily establish the absurdity of this system, and it would be rather easy to go on and cite the reams of other documents that show length of stay in foster care, aging out #’s, poor adoption rates for the adoptable, etc, etc. The list goes on and on. But why? Why do we allow the list to proceed on? I have heard time and time again that the next bill going through our state’s legislature is the one to bring in the change, and mass celebration occurs when the bill goes through but in the long run it only brings about more red tape and more cooks in your kitchen. How can a society set up to protect its children be this ineffective in doing so?
Many would criticize the work of Charles Loring Brace but when challenges faced him he took action. He didn’t wait to persuade his local senator but instead he got involved. Taking children from the streets of New York and relocating them hundreds of miles away is no easy feat but he believed he was doing something good for these children. And a great many benefitted from his efforts. We can’t even boast that there a few who believe we are doing good things in the current state of foster care. Pick up five books on the topic and each presents the simple fact that no one believes it’s a working system. I am not advocating for a mass relocation program but I want to show you the difficult can be done.
What then shall we do? When Martin Luther King Jr. noticed a movement toward violence from some in the African American community to bring about social change he responded with his letter; “Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom.” In that letter he said something profound “When the idea is a sound one, the cause a just one, and the demonstration a righteous one, change will be forthcoming.” Here, I believe, is our template.
The Sound Idea: I am sure I have complained more than most when it comes to the foster care system. But what am I doing about it? I had a boss tell me once, “don’t bring a bunch of problems to me, bring solutions as well.” This advice has brought me great benefit in life, it pushes me to think, to be creative to break new ground and work in a way that is unrestricted by those telling me “it can’t be done.” So as I am pursuing my ideas, what are yours? We need thinkers and action takers if we want to change the face of American Foster Care. There are so many ways to be involved with the life of a foster child and the studies have shown that all it takes is one caring adult to make a lasting difference. Get a sound idea.
The Just Cause: We know our cause is just because we are reaching out to the youth in our own backyard. But inside that systematic mess is a host of minor details that are not always so clear. Sometimes abuse is hard to define and neglect perhaps even more so. Quite often poverty is mistaken for unfit parents. Not to mention have we asked why blacks are so over represented in the foster care system? As a side note they are also way under adopted out. These issues can be quite discouraging, hence such high turnover rates amongst social workers. Wrap your idea around your cause.
The Righteous Demonstration: Your idea must take shape and that means there must be action to go along with it. If all we have are philosophers we won’t be much of any benefit to children for they really don’t care about your revolutionary theory until it actually takes shape. We have enough talk, we need some action. That action needs to emanate from the idea and the cause. When those pieces have come together the demonstration will be obvious.
The Change is Coming: Perhaps you want to advocate for children in foster care, then do so. Perhaps you want to advocate for families and work with the biological parents to get on their feet and on the right path. Perhaps you want to mentor at risk youth, the point is nothing will change unless you take your idea, wrap it around your cause, and show it by demonstration.
Change won’t start at the top when it comes to foster care, it must start at the bottom, with us.
Contact me for ideas, I got lots of them.