This month marks H’s one year anniversary in the Florida Foster Care system. Child Protective Services removed H on August 8, 2018. Since then, he lived with a family in Panama City for a month. After that, he moved to Tallahassee, where he lived with a new family for 3 months. Then he came to us, where he has been for 8 months.
One year. 3 families. 2 new schools. 100 different rules.
The most frustrating — no, INFURIATING, part about this is, H has grandparents in Georgia who want him. From the day they found out he was in foster care, they started the process to become primary caregivers for their grandson. H knows them both. He’s been up for visits from the time he was a baby.
But the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) has a million hoops they must jump through first…
They started this “process” in October 2018. They submitted their paperwork in December 2018. It got “lost”. For 3 months. To this day, no one will own up to the mistake. I talked to his grandmother on Friday. They’re still waiting on approval.
If only H’s grandparents lived in south Florida instead of north Georgia. The ICPC paperwork wouldn’t be required. So much of the trauma he’s experienced could have been avoided. No strange families. No new schools. The same consistent set of rules from day one.
Trauma in the Foster Care System
There’s a lot of talk about reducing trauma in the foster care system. In our foster parenting classes, teachers devoted hours to discussing the sexual assault and abuse that 90% of kids in foster care deal with. What is NOT discussed is the additional trauma that these kids endure because of the structure of the system.
Even the words they use downplay it. Behavioral issues. Self-harm tendencies. Aggression.
You take a dog to behavioral classes. There’s a whole movement out there that classifies tattoos as a form of self harm. And aggression? That’s a word my dad uses to PROUDLY describe my actions on the soccer field.
It wasn’t until I started specifically detailing the exact behaviors taking place that people finally got serious about getting H help. He’s hitting himself. He’s biting. He’s pulling out his hair. For 5 months, the “behavioral issues” went ignored, despite my requests for a behavioral therapist.
In other words, that’s 5 months of trauma that could have been avoided, had we got the help we needed when we first asked.
Then there’s visits. Every week, he, along with hundreds of other kids across the state, get carted 3, 4 & 5 hours away for a visit with their parent. At the end of the visit, they are literally ripped out of their parents arms and put, crying, into a mini-van with ONE adult driver, to go back to their foster families.
I guess they just process that trauma every week, on their own, in their carseats?
The Blame Game
“But it’s not my fault” everyone is quick to point out. The reason the ICPC paperwork is held up is because of Georgia. The reason H can’t get medical services is because of funding. The reason case management can’t respond to an email is because they’re in court all day.
Every single person has an excuse on why they can’t do their job. And they aren’t wrong. Yet everyone continues to operate in a system that is clearly broken.
My husband and I became foster parents to do good. To help these kids. But to be honest, every day we continue to work within the confines of this broken organization, we hurt thousands of children. Every time we follow a ludicrous rule we are in effect saying “it’s ok to operate in this manner”.
And it’s not ok.
None of this is ok. I keep thinking, we need a movement. People need to rise up. March on Washington. Storm the capitol. Change must happen. But how do you unite 443,000 oppressed minors*? How do case managers, who barely make enough to survive, strike for better wages? How can this broken system get lobbyists as good as the NRA?
I don’t have these answers. So instead my alarm goes off. We wake up. And we teach H how to brush his teeth. And how to pronounce the letter “P” and we tell him he only has one brain, and he must protect it. And we live to fight another day.
*On any given day, there are nearly 443,000 children in foster care in the United States. In 2017, more than 690,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.
There are about 19,000 children in foster care in Florida. About 600 children waiting for permanent placement are without identified families. There are about 340 foster children in the Tallahassee area.