Okay, generally, I think that parental rights over the children’s needs is a huge problem in the child welfare system. However, I recently had an experience that showed me how unfair it is to parents also.
We often hear about how parents are delusional, not taking responsibility, unable to comprehend what they’d done, etc. However, it may be that the system has fed into that a good deal! Here is an example of when this happened to two parents.
Meeting with approximately 23 people, parents included. Caseworker, lawyers, D.A., kinship workers, CASA, supervisors, foster parents, etc are also there. Children have been in care a couple months when this meeting took place. It is not believed these parents will ever get things together enough or keep it together in order to be able to parent. Wording below is not exact. Specific circumstances will be generalized.
Facilitator: What is the date the children were taken into care? Is that the date permanency is based upon?
Caseworker: Date in question. Yes.
Facilitator: What were the circumstances that led the children to be removed from the home?
Caseworker outlines domestic violence, extreme neglect and filth, concerns of specific abuses.
Facilitator: any previous cases with this family?
Caseworker: Yes. There have been X cases including ____. Caseworker outlines number of times children have been in care, kinship, have had home-based services as well as the reasons for these cases.
Facilitator: Have the parents been offered a caseplan?
Caseworker: yes (it is about this time that I wonder why the caseworker pauses three full seconds before answering each time).
Facilitator: Mom, what services have you completed.
Mom lists numerous things she’s taken care of (imo, impressive considering how short children have been in care). Most things have not been finished, but basics have been started. For example, she’s half-way through parenting classes and has gone back to counseling and for medication management.
Facilitator: Is there any services mom is not compliant with?
Caseworker states that she has addressed each item on the caseplan though she states a clarification to one item that seems to me probably doesn’t matter and can’t be held against Mom.
Facilitator asks dad the same question.
Dad is not nearly as concise as mom was, goes off a little in left field, is chastised by mother, does that for each caseplan area.
Facilitator again asks caseworker about compliance and Caseworker confirms he has addressed each thing.
Facilitator asks what the goal is.
Caseworker: Reunification with parents
Caseworker: Adoption by a non-relative
Caseworker briefly discusses the failed kinship placement as well as that grandmother is involved but unable to take the children. Mention is made of DNA testing, a named father for one of the children, no other known possible family members at this time.
Facilitator: any known reasons why RU (reunification) will not occur?
Caseworker: not at this time
Facilitator asks foster parents about each child, basically wanting to know that all are up-t0-date on medical, dental, and immunizations as well as any special needs are being addressed.
Facilitator: When is the next court date?
And that was that. Discussion afterward among the parties is about how useless the meeting was. They also discuss how that meeting makes it sound like there is no reason the children wouldn’t be returned shortly. No wonder Mom thought it was possible before the end of the year! She was redirected to think no sooner than Spring, but still! I mean, if a parent thinks, “a case plan is a list of the things I must do adequately in order to have my children returned to me,” there is no wonder the parents may think they are getting their kids back sooner than possible!
Why would there not be things on their caseplan that detail what else they will be judged upon so they can try to address those things as well as have a more realistic view of why the children are not being returned at any given time (possibly ever).
I have had several cases that this has happened with now, including my children’s. CPS had NO intention on working with the parents another time after the history. They didn’t meet the requirements not to receive a caseplan. The caseplan included the basics they had done several times and didn’t include anything else the parents needed to prove. In their case, what really happened was that family quit enabling them and they were incapable of following through with the caseplan on their own in part due to poor choices. But what if they had done it all (with or without help)?
I absolutely think parents should be given a chance or two. It is best for children to be raised by their parents when possible. However, multiple chances, case plans that aren’t realistic, etc seems like it just sets kids up to not have permanency year after year. My kids had nine homes, eight cases, over five years before TPR (termination of parental rights). Most kids I’ve had who have had TPR or headed that direction have either had extreme circumstances which suggested strongly that the parents would not be able to do enough or keep it up or multiple cases which backs that idea up. And yet each has had a basic caseplan and official goal of RU.
Again, I just think it is unfair for the children to be in limbo and with the issues that come with it. And I think it is unfair to the parents to have it suggested they just need to do XYZ to get their kids back when that obviously isn’t (and can’t be!) the case. I also think that the options available to the department as well as the parents should be covered with the family occasionally. But again, I think they need to have a fair case plan in the first place so they can more accurately see what is going on in the case in order to evaluate the options.
Just weird and in my opinion, wrong.