Darrell and I have been public parents now going on 17 years. We have adopted 7 kids within the fostering world, with one more waiting an answer to what his fate may be.
I have done support and advocacy for a host of parents, from all spectrums of the system. Bio, foster, adoptive and restricted families, all raising our kids until their fate is determined by the courts.
What does that system look like here in British Columbia? An overburdened court system with judges and lawyers who, for the most part, have not clue what their decisions can or cannot accomplish.
I am so sick and tired of hearing we are just following the law. Where are the million dollar reports that show us what “the unknown” does to a child waiting to find out where they belong? The child who waits for parents not to show up for a visit. Or parents that, say their love their children and then their actions show a totally different side.
Here in Surrey court dates can be up to 2 years just for a court date. Then if the parents are still in a state of unable to function, they can just not show up, or show up and want to postpone the date until they find a new lawyer. This doesn’t sound unreasonable until it heads into its fifth and sixth years that a child is in care, and not the care of a family member.
Our home is a huge support of family preservation, but at what cost, and do we know what the full effects to a child, to long-term have no permanency plan.
I think the system, although not broken, is certainly backward.
Here are the requirements to get a child in care back to their parents.
They have to have a stable environment, often, too often without the proper supports in place or not long enough.
They must be able to show up to regular visits, set out by the courts and the social workers
They must show they are financially able to take care of their kids, yes and being on assistance is ok
You must have a plan of a place big enough to have your kids, not just a bachelor pad.
All of these requirements prior to even thinking of having your kids returned. The vast majority of this they have to do with no to little supports in place.
I am shocked for the most part in how parents who have their kids removed are treated. Oh I know its easy to sit back and judge, “well if they weren’t on drugs”, “if she didn’t get pregnant so young”, “well if he could hold down a job”, “maybe he should not be drinking so much”, maybe she shouldn’t be the town tramp”. All and many more I have heard said about the parents of kids in care.
This is really systemic, and many things could be done better and sooner to help avoid kids coming into care. Further, once they are in care more can be done to try to return our kids to their bio families, more timely and to hopefully to a healthier family.
I can tell you many people are in rougher situations, they just fly under the radar.
The goal should be that we do more support and pre-removal work. We seem to have a knee-jerk reaction to many things, then wonder why it isn’t working out. I also question the decisions whether through the courts or the systems themselves need to be seen through the eyes of a panel. Many eyes helping to make these decisions that can have lifelong consequences for our kids.
The other thing that needs to happen, is a focus on building the family court system so that these horrendous wait times become nonexistent. Family preservation is key but can be achieved in many ways. The whole system from the courts, doctors, lawyers, social workers etc, should be based on a mentoring program. That program should be in the hands of professional caregivers, foster parents, and kinship caregivers.
Those “professionals” making some decisions, should have to mentor with the real professionals. (foster parents, professional caregivers and kinship caregivers) to have a first-hand sense of the damage a bad, or knee-jerk, or uninformed decision can have on our kids in care.
I totally believe in permanency, we work hard to return to a safe environment of family…… but at what cost?