The Stinger

Inside the foster care system: The good, the bad, and the ugly

U.S.+Air+Force+photo%2FStaff+Sgt.+Stacy+D.+Foster
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stacy D. Foster

U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stacy D. Foster

U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Stacy D. Foster

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Though it’s not something that many people wish to discuss, many of our students here at Rockwall High School have spent some time in the foster care system. One RHS student has decided to tackle the issue head-on by sharing his personal experience in the hopes that it can be used to affect change.

The Good:

CPS, or Child Protective Services, is a government organisation that looks after the wellbeing of minors in the U.S. One of their most well-known services includes house visits in the event that they are informed of the possibility that a child is being mistreated or their needs are not being met. They send someone to investigate and interview the people in the house, and check the environment to see if it’s safe for the child. If, for whatever reason, the house/guardians are deemed unsafe for the child, they will be taken from the home and brought to a foster home or a group home.

Evaluations will be done, and therapy and monthly visits with a case manager for the particular house and agency they are under are required .

The case manager’s job is to ensure the child’s needs are being met, the foster parent(s) are treating them well, and that the environment is still safe.

The child will also be appointed a caseworker, who will work with the court to help formulate a plan and a long term goal for the child. The caseworker will keep in close contact with the foster parent(s) and the case manager to ensure all is well. They are able to be reached at any reasonable hour and the foster parent(s) are required to allow the child to call.

Additionally, the child will be appointed a lawyer to oversee all legal representation and meetings.

The child will be placed in a home, whether it be a group home or a foster home. The foster home will be investigated and strict procedures will be followed to ensure that the home is safe for the child and the people in the home are able to be around the child.

The long process includes many trainings, home inspections, and background checks.

When the child is placed, it is the foster parent(s)’ job to treat the child with respect and love. They must care for them and help with any issues they may have. They aren’t paid all that well for the work and often have jobs of their own alongside being a foster parent. They put their energy and love into this child.

However, the government does offer some financial help. For example, the student will be placed in the free lunch program at school, and in Texas, if they get accepted, the state will pay for college. Things like this are really helpful. They can help get a foster child on their feet even after they age out of care.

The Bad:

Like with anything else, the system isn’t all good, and has its share of flaws. First of all, there are a lot of foster kids. There are so many, in fact, that there often aren’t enough foster homes for the foster kids. They can be put into group homes, which are supposed to be temporary, but they usually stay for longer. The child can be shipped out to the middle of nowhere for months on end with no clue when they’re getting out.

Another thing, CPS is abused. It’s become an escape for parents. I was in the system for over 3 years because my cousin, whom I had lived with for 3 years, couldn’t “deal with me”.  She kicked me out and into care, I got shipped to Lometa,Texas, for months. This kind of an occurrence isn’t uncommon nowadays. Any guardian can put their child into foster care with no retribution. This is particularly harmful for the child because it leaves a sense of abandonment and betrayal, the constant feeling of, what could I have done better? Where did I go wrong? Why me?

These questions can lead to self-loathing and depression, and even suicide. It isn’t uncommon for foster children to be diagnosed with depression and put on antidepressants because of this.

Another thing, foster kids are ridiculed in many schools, jabbed and bullied because their parents either didn’t want them or died. These jests and attacks can go on for years, worsening the symptoms of depression.

Furthermore, because there are so many foster children, there can be many errors in files, paperwork, and placement. I was put into care at ten years of age. Not even three hours after being picked up by my caseworker, there was a mistake in paperwork and I had to sit in an office until 3 am while they tried to find me a placement since my age had been mistaken during the filing. I was almost put into a home for 18 year olds due to the carelessness of the people.handling paperwork.

Another time I was mistaken as a 10-year-old when I was 12. This happened all the time and not only to me. These kind of mistakes and errors happen often.

There are also many restrictions for foster children. They aren’t supposed to go anywhere that isn’t within eyesight of the foster parent. This inhibits every day activities most kids take for granted: sleepovers, going to friend’s houses, going to a different church than the foster parents, or anything of the sort. This can be detrimental for the child’s social skills and coping abilities in the real world.

The Ugly:

Although there are many foster parents who care about the children and want to give them a good home, there are just as many who simply do not and are just trying to make some extra cash.

One of my foster parents made good money and his wife was able to stay at home. While they, along with their son, ate well and stayed in the main house on ten acres of land, we were required to do all of their lawn chores and spend the days in small shed-sized mini houses in the backyard during the days. While they were eating full meals we were given dry rice and beans, salty spaghetti, or bologna sandwiches. It got to the point that school food actually started tasting good.

There were fights and the foster dad did nothing. We never got new clothes, we never went shopping, and there was no food variety. We weren’t allowed to go the church right next door to the home or go anywhere except school.

There was another home I was in that seemed generous. They fed me well and were generally nice people. However, after a year of being with them, they kicked me out and used the money they made taking care of me to take a trip home to Africa.

I’m not the only one who’s dealt with bad homes. There was a group of foster parents who would get young teens and older teens. Instead of caring for them, they would pay the older kids to beat up the younger kids for fun and to keep them quiet. This kind of thing happens all around.

CPS is required to give a child a 10-30 day notice before they move homes. This has not once been the case with me. I was always told, “pack your bags, you’re leaving tomorrow,” or, “You’re leaving day after tomorrow.” I was never warned or informed of my departure beforehand. This kind of a thing just happens, they never tell the foster care child anything.

CPS has an obsession with reuniting families. I found out while I was in care that my biological mother who had given me up as a child, was out of prison and looking for me. During my weekly therapy sessions, my therapist was being forced to ask me when I wanted to meet her and my half brothers. Week after week I had to tell him “never.”

CPS may claim to listen to the child, but they don’t always. They just assume they know what’s right even when they’re wrong.

Often times, Foster children whom the foster parents don’t want to deal with on short notice are put in mental hospitals. If a foster parent is having issues with the child and they don’t have the time to contact a caseworker and wait for a home change, they can drop the child and their belongings off at the nearest mental hospital and never see them again.

 

I think we can all agree that the idea of foster care and child protective services is a noble and necessary one, yet those who have experience with it see a dark, ugly side that others may never see. By bringing awareness to these issues, however, perhaps we can help create the necessary changes needed to improve the system and better protect our children.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Inside the foster care system: The good, the bad, and the ugly”

  1. Leigh on January 25th, 2018 8:39 am

    You are so incredibly brave for telling your story! Your strength is admirable <3

    [Reply]

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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