When the System Sucks
No doubt, the foster care system could definitely use some tweaking, possibly a full-on overhaul. That may be something a majority of us can agree on. Depending on the city, county, state, or even country you live in the rules are different. Some are better than others, but on a high-level view, it's hard.
Kids go back to bio families who may not yet, or ever be, ready. They get moved to another home adding a layer of trauma to their lives. A grandma comes out of the woodwork last minute, and even though they know they can't care for the child, they get custody because they are blood.
You get where I'm going?
This blog post is not meant to be a vent session...that's what our Facebook page is for. But I've seen a constant stream of what I would consider "mishandling" of cases on our page lately. Instead of adding fuel to the fire (come to think of it, I may have just done that above), let's look at action steps we can take to help improve our system.
Write to Your Representative. Yes, I know. I'm pulling out the big guns first. But if a government run system is going to change, you have to go the government to change it. The key to this action step is to come with solutions. They won't even consider your letter, phone call, or email if it is just a bunch of complaining. You can certainly share your story, but offer a solution(s). A larger than life example of this is when Dr. John Degarmo (a foster care advocate) and Hallmark actress Jen Lilley flew together to Washington, D.C. and met with legislators to put an end to pre-mature reunification. You can do the same thing in your county and state offices.
Become a GAL. Oh boy, another acronym. Am I right? I also know what else your thinking because I'm thinking it too. When am I going to have time? Let's start with the basics. What is a GAL? GAL stands for Guardian ad Litem. In a nusthell GAL's are community volunteers who serve abused and neglected children by advocating for their best interests in court. That's right. You meet with the child and their family and are able to speak up for them at court. You get trained and get help throughout the process. Now, this doesn't mean that your word is the final word, but it could help in making a better decision for that child(ren) and their well-being.
Ask to Speak in Court. This one is more than likely the hardest out of all of them. Why? A couple reasons. One, you want to consult with your case worker to see if that would be a smart move or not. Second, you need to keep your emotions at bay. Third, it's really hard to put together a testimony without wanting to slam the bio family if they are not doing what they are supposed to. If this is an option for you, keep it positive and about the child. Share the strides the child has made since being in your care. Share cognitive and behavioral challenges they have overcome since being in your care. DO NOT mention the bio family if you are going to speak negatively about them. That is never and will never help your case. Make it all about the child.
The system is indeed broken, but it will stay broken if we don't act. Change takes a lot of work, but it can be accomplished. It just takes one to strike the match and then the fire will grow.
Do you believe the system is broken? What are you going to do about it? Let's work together to make change happen!