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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Family Reunification A Misguided Policy

RE: Widespread News Reports of a Foster Child Committing Suicide.

I for one am not at all surprised to hear a 14 year old girl hung herself after being repeatedly returned to her family home by child welfare authorities.
While I sort of understand why child welfare might want to return children, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, to their family homes, I think the notion is entirely misguided. Children need stability and consistency more than they need to be reunited with their parents.
I know because I was one of those kids. From the time I was three until I turned fourteen I was moved from one home to another. In most cases I went from my family home to a foster home and then back again. The end result was that I attended 21 different public schools, never learned how to make long term friends, was subjected to numerous abuses, both at the hands of my biological parents and my foster parents, and have experienced serious life long issues as a result of this notion that kids belong with their biological parents.
News Flash: Just because a person can plant a sperm or push a baby from between their thighs does not qualify them to be a parent!
As a survivor of this misguided policy, of returning children to their natural parents wherever and whenever possible, I think it is imperative that this policy be discarded.
In my opinion parents should get but one chance. If children are apprehended once for child abuse, returned, then apprehended again, they should never be returned! I'm not saying they should not see or know their parents, but they should not have to live with them.
At age nine I was given an option by the Childrens Aid Society in Brantford Ontario. It was at the end of my fourth or fifth apprehension. We’d gone into care, my five siblings and I, after my Dad, in a violent rage, had whipped me 21 times with an electrical extension chord. The option I was given was to either return to my family or stay in the custody of the Children’s Aid.
Before making my decision I asked the Childrens Aid: Are my brothers and sisters going home?
I was told that my brothers and sisters were going home to my parents. As the oldest, I felt it was my responsibility to go home too, because someone would have to be there to protect them, and they were, after all, my family. It was an awful burden to place on a nine year old!
Three months later we were back in care. My Dad, in a drunken rage, had once again taken an extension chord to me!
It is all very fine to have alturistic ideals about how children should be returned to their biological families, and to their original cultural environment, but at some point reality has to set in. Kids can be returned to their cultural origins without being sent to their biological parents. But more importantly, kids need to go to safe homes where they will be cared for, loved, and supported, whether its with their biological parents and original culture or not. Better to be loved and cared for than to be stuck with people who hurt and abuse.
As I see it, part of the problem is that child welfare agencies are full of people who mean well, but have absolutely no clue what it is like to be constantly moved around, or stuck with people who hurt you. There are simply not enough system survivors working with child welfare. The reason for this is: Survivors of the child welfare system, as it now stands, do not grow up to be healthy enough to take jobs in the child welfare system. Most often, they become grown-up clients of the welfare system, and this happens because the child welfare system is more concerned with family reunification than the best interests of the child.
The notion that family reunification is in the best interests of the child is pure nonsense, and the child welfare agencies in this country need to get that, before more children meet unnecessarily tragic ends, like this 14 year old girl.

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