I hear mean things said about foster & adoptive parents, social workers, educators, and guardian ad-Litems too often.
Many people involved in child protection are receiving unfair treatment. This is why I became a guardian – a friend’s adoption problems prompted me to act). Now, as funding drys up and services are restricted or eliminated, results are worsening and more and more people are being mistreated by service providers.
It is easy to blame the teachers, social workers, and guardians ad-litem and argue for the dissolution of the system when we are mistreated by it.
How simple the solution; fire them all, kill the programs, and everything will be improved.
After working with service providers over a twelve year period as a volunteer guardian ad-litem, and knowing how impossible their tasks are, with the training they receive (and don’t receive), the resources they have (and don’t have) and the overwhelming amount of work they are burdened with each day, I know that the rest of us are missing a VERY BIG point.
America’s institutions need support and improvement and not destructive criticism*.
It is because programs are underfunded and and under-supported that training and standards are lower than they should be, which puts under-trained and under-qualified people into high stress positions without adequate training or tools to do the work.
NO, it is we the people that have voted to underfund our schools and social programs (and 35W bridge maintenance) that have created the painful failure we are living with today. The bridge fell in the river for the same reason our schools, jails, and child protection systems are struggling so mightily-we failed to maintain it.
It’s not the lack of commitment from the people that go to work every day trying hard to make a difference in their community and the lives of the children in their classrooms or caseloads (I’m really convinced of this).
It is America’s inability to face the fact that we have created monster problems that will continue to worsen until we support solutions that will fix them (and not just hate on the people doing the work).
Over my twelve twelve years in the system, I have found the teachers, social workers, and guardians, to be a very committed bunch of people. It is hard work and they are attacked from most sectors (troubled parents, the public, the media, and not much support back at the office). Art teachers have wept as they have told me their stories. Social workers on the east and west coast have it really hard when it comes to bad press and not much help back at the office (from comments made to me after the United Nations talk and my research).
I have experienced and written about the huge mistakes made and the great pain to all involved because of our failing institutions, but to listen to people demanding the destruction of the guardian ad-litem program instead of improving it, would leave children with absolutely no voice in an already cold and overwhelming system.
Foster and adoptive parents face a complicated system with unpredictable results due to the institutions we continue to band aid together to cope with the growing problems we are facing. The people I’ve met are sincere, many of them poor and trying to help children and their community with very limited resources and very troubled children. Many communities are barely able to make life tolerable for foster children. This may explain the recent statistic that 80% of youth aging out of foster care are leading dysfunctional lives.
To blame social workers when a baby is found in a dumpster is wrong. The case loads the American public demands social workers carry and the scarce resources that are available for struggling families and children explains why the vast majority of violent crime committed by youth came out of under 4% of Ramsey county family (A.C.E. study) and 90 percent of the youth in juvenile justice have come through the child protection system (according to former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz). It also explains why American girls have among the highest STD and preteen pregnancy rates in the world.
Blaming Teachers for failed schools in like holding police officers accountable for the criminal in the squad car. Until children are ready to learn, we are making educators managers of out of control children, not teachers. The amount of Prozac, Ritalin, and other psychotropic medications proscribed to American youth (without therapy) is astronomical. Teachers would be astounded if they knew the data.
It is up to us who are working for positive change that we recognize who are friends are and quit throwing rocks at them.
Here are some positive suggestions, please add more through the comment section;
1) Program accountability (make programs measurable) I have suggested the highly successful Social Solutions program that has been required by Kaiser Permanente and is getting a foothold at CASA California. It was invented by a social worker that wanted service providers to be paid like baseball players. And it works incredibly well to track all the changes in outcomes based measurements. It should be used everywhere.
2) Legislation in all states is 20 years behind the problem. We the people are the only ones that can change this. Reaching out to progressive states for the types of legislation being proposed is my suggestion. Keep in mind, this nation tries 150,000 youth as adults each year, just quit executing juveniles (those who committed crimes as juveniles) and locking up juveniles for life).
3) How are judges trained to handle child protection cases in your community? Is there an understanding of how this court needs to work (it is not traffic court).
4) Are services coordinated in your community, or are they a jumble of people that don’t talk to each other providing a mismash of poorly defined resources to very troubled people?
5) Raise the level of understanding and attention to the issues; speaking/writing/media. Do something to alert people to the issues. No change can come until people understand more and see a need for change.
6) Better models for adoption and foster care (let’s make a list; https://www.invisiblechildren.org/2010/04/11/adoptees-have-answers-and-lots-of-questons/
*This is what hate radio does (there is nothing constructive about it – all about tearing down, and no ideas for making things better) please don’t get in the habit, this is destroying our nation.