How in the world could anything so simple and, potentially, so good, turn out so bad?
Not just once. But . . . over and over. And over again. And . . . no relief in sight.
What’s in a word? “Foster.” According to the dictionary, to foster is to encourage or promote something—or someone. Typically, fostering is meant to be a good thing.
Ignoring those who are motivated by the opportunity to glam onto some public funds, and to whom the word “foster” can’t fairly be applied, what can be grander than taking a young child, down and out, and in need, and breathing sustenance and substance back into that child’s life? What could be more selfless and a greater sacrifice than the foster parents knowing that it will only be short-lived until the subject of their affection leaves their nest. Only with them until the child is returned to . . . ah, but isn’t that the question? To whom? And why? And how soon?
Consider the story of six-year-old “Baby X” that has recently gone viral, moving across the country from its Santa Clarita, California epicenter. Ironically, as will become clear momentarily, Baby X’s name has been withheld for her well-being. That’s the only thing about this story that is for Baby X’s well-being.
Shortly after her birth, Baby X was taken from her drug addicted father, whose time in a jail cell called into question his ability to properly care for and raise Baby X. And the mother was MIA. A foster family was obviously needed.
Federal and state laws, in the infinite wisdom of our lawmakers, legislate a presumption in favor of blood or geographic nexus. Not a common sense rebuttable presumption mind you, but an absolute presumption. So, a marginally rehabilitated, at best a nominally employable drug addict father, or some other marginal candidate from the “hood,” would have priority over an economically more secure couple willing to take on the task.
Do I sound biased? Politically incorrect? You bet I am! When, as here, it comes to the welfare of the only one who should count. The child. The one who must depend on society to do the right and safe thing by her when those closest to her have let her down. Zero tolerance, baby. Blow it once, that’s it. Says who? Says me. The problem is that our political leaders are the ones doing the legislating. And they don’t see it the way I do. And they’re much smarter than I am. Right? Let’s see. Back to Baby X.
Six years ago, Baby X was “temporarily” placed with a foster couple in Santa Clarita while supposedly more suitable “family nexus” foster parents were sought to take Baby X. For six painful years, regulators and courts, purportedly “doing their job,” for Baby X, made one blunder after another. They erred and they erred. Meanwhile the clock kept ticking. For six years, the Santa Clarita foster parents clothed, sheltered, fed and loved Baby X. And Baby X loved her “foster” parents back. These weren’t foster parents. They were parents. Period. Baby X knew nothing about all those regulators and courts. Or her supposedly more suitable “family nexus potential foster parents. She didn’t care one whit about them. Nor should she have. She had no reason to.
For a year or so, Baby X’s biological father fought to legally win back Baby X. No doubt he loved her and wanted to do right by her. For about a year. And then he tossed in the towel. Do you care about the biological father? I don’t!
As the biological father exited stage left (it certainly couldn’t be referred to as stage “right”), enter the nephew and niece of the step-grandfather of Baby X. Sound like more suitable “family nexus” foster parents to you? Turns out they wanted Baby X. For all the right reasons? Right? Maybe someone would think so. But not me. How could anyone want to take a six-year-old child from the only parents she had ever known for her entire life? Anyone who could think that was even close to the right thing to do to or with that innocent child—potential foster parents, regulators, courts, or lawmakers—has NO business parenting any child—or deciding who should.
After six long and arduous years, in which the foster parents fought every which way they could, some court finally decided this drawn out custody battle—against the foster parents. Oh yeah, and against Baby X. The only one the court should have been protecting, like the law that holds Baby X’s real name in confidence. So Baby X will now spend how many years wondering why her parents abandoned her, what it was she did “wrong,” and trying, maybe successfully, and maybe not, to get over all of that. And her anger and frustration. Just think about how much we can spend on social workers and shrinks for Baby X.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, this kind of story is on the rise. More and more compelling cases and less and less resources are resulting in more and more delays—often five or six years or even more. And the need for more social workers and shrinks.
All while the solution is so simple. Tweak the existing laws to change the absolute “family nexus” presumption to a rebuttable presumption in favor of the child and the foster parents who want to continue raising the child as their own after one year of foster parenting and who demonstrate the social and economic stability and resources to do so. More precisely, for less than one year, the “family nexus” candidates should have a rebuttable but not absolute presumption (cutting a little slack for those softer than I who would favor zero tolerance as stated above). After that, the rebuttable presumption should shift in favor of the foster parents. And the child. Yes, please, let’s not forget the child in all this. After two years, the rebuttable presumption in favor of the foster parents should become absolute (absent a list of obvious exceptions such as abuse, abandonment, endangerment). Because “justice delayed is justice denied” and the collateral damage to our youth is simply too great, too sad, and too foolish to abide.
Who in the world, other than the foster parents, is truly—and competently—looking out for these children? 🙁
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