“Kyle” has an unusual story. He was only in foster care for one year and had only one placement during that time. He didn’t describe how he and siblings ended up in care, but did say that his family was working class at the time. He was reunited with his family at the end of that year. Not only is his story unusual, but it is disturbing—Kyle described significant abuse while in that foster home.
“My siblings and I were almost never allowed to see my parents. We were being horribly abused and when we told our parents, the visitations almost dropped to zero. [The system failed me] in every way possible. I was physically, sexually, and mentally abused while in foster care. CPS responded by covering it up and denying it happened. Furthermore, they tried to use the situation to coax me into telling them, while being recorded, that my parents were doing it.” For him, the only good thing about foster care was “Going home and leaving those people behind. I’ve become stronger as well as a hardcore advocate against the DHS system.” He tries to help people who get involved with the system now defend themselves against it.
Reflecting on the impact his time in foster care had on him, he said, “I still have nightmares about the abuse the foster family put me through. Avoid CPS at all costs, tell them nothing. They are not your friends. They are not there to you better yourself. They will rip your children from you, causing them emotional trauma that they will never get over. I know this first hand.” He compared CPS to Hitler’s Gestapo. “It is used to control parents through fear, blackmail, and extortion tactics. They will lie to you every chance they get. They will do everything in within their power to ensure you never see your child again. They are domestic terrorists paid and sanctioned by the United States government.” When asked what he thought the purpose of the foster care system was, Kyle responded, “To destroy families who did nothing to deserve it.”
Again, I have to reiterate that by no means is Kyle experience of abuse representative of foster parents generally. However, he is not the first to suggest that CPS would have it in their best interest to cover up any actual incidences. While the NCANDS system reports very low numbers for incidents of abuse or neglect in foster homes, other studies suggests underreporting is ubiquitous. (For example, check out these articles by the National Center for Youth Law: http://www.youthlaw.org/fileadmin/ncyl/youthlaw/publications/yln/2005/issue_3/05_yln_3_grimm_darwall.pdf and http://www.youthlaw.org/fileadmin/ncyl/youthlaw/publications/yln/2005/issue_4/05_yln_4_grimm_darwell.pdf )
Nonetheless, I think we need to take Kyle at his word. His terrible experience with CPS have had long lasting effects and has resulted in his decision work proactively helping families combat CPS injustices even today.
One of the many problems of a government agency doing the work of parenting is how to manage surveillance. In other words, how invasive should the state be with foster parents? How much invasion of privacy will foster parents tolerate before they quit altogether? Considering his experiences, how do we recruit foster parents less likely to take advantage of children and social work professionals who are less likely to abuse their power? I’ve often wondered what would happen if foster parents were treated like other professionals who care for children, like licensed child care providers and teachers. Study after study has already revealed that foster parents aren’t “in it” for the money because they don’t make enough. These some studies show most foster parents come up short on expenses when it comes to their foster children. They get into fostering because they love children and feel compelled to help, but the money makes it possible for them to cover most of the costs of an additional child. But what if they were paid for the 24-hour a day, 7-day-a-week job that they do? (There are very few daycare facilities and babysitters who can legally watch fostered children.) If the licensing were more selective, but it was treated more like a job – like the professionals who work in the facilities that fostered children live in treat it like a job – maybe the quality of foster families would increase even more. Now, I can’t begin to guess where the money to pay for such an idea would come from. But I can’t see anything wrong with professional foster parenting. If we have parents out there that are that great (and we do), why not pay them for their skills?