Good (albeit hard) look at an issue that anyone who cares about child welfare should be concerned about — the wrongful removal of kids from their families primarily due to poverty. This is a difficult issue with no easy solutions because we don’t want children to remain with families who are truly neglecting and abusing them. But we also have to face the fact that removing a child from their family significantly impacts children and should only be done when there is no other option for protecting them.
There’s no denying that some people shouldn’t be in charge of the welfare of any children—theirs or otherwise. But poor parents who are struggling to make ends meet, who overwhelmingly love and take care of their children, and have no history of abusing them should not be penalized for making mistakes that do not warrant removal. This can disrupt the lives of their kids for long periods of time or even permanently. It can also be devastating for parents—who end up spending hours fighting for custody. Even worse, it seems as if several thousand of these families have their children returned to them in a month or less, which means the cases weren’t as dire as the agencies made them out to be.
Vivek Sankaran, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, has examined short-term placements of children in foster care. He learned that in the 2013 federal fiscal year, 25,000 children nationwide were in foster care for 30 days or fewer, about 10 percent of the total removals.
“We’ve inflicted the most devastating remedy we have on these families, then we’re basically saying, within a month, ‘Sorry, our mistake,’” he said. “And these families are left to deal with the consequences.”
The example given in this article is worth reading and thinking about. We must do better.
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