Poverty’s Link to Foster Care Removals? It’s in The Eyes Of The Workers

In his recent post about financing child welfare, Sean Hughes implied that it is an exaggeration to say that children are removed from their families solely due to poverty. I suppose that depends on what one means by “due to poverty.”

Here’s what I know about some of the children placed with me when I was a foster parent.

One was removed due to a spanking which turned out to be the first time her father ever hit her. Another was removed after “rough handling” on the way to the car as she was being suspended from school. Another was hit by the aunt she lived with after the child threw a bottle that hit her aunt in the temple.

So yes, the label placed on most of these children was “abused,” rather than “neglected.” For a long time, I assumed these incidents were just the tip of the iceberg, and that I would be more shocked if I knew the whole story. After a while, I realized that was the whole story.

I didn’t get it. I started asking the workers why they were removed over things so minor. I pointed out that I spanked my own kids, and “roughly” seems like a pretty human response when finding out your child has been suspended from school. Plus, I don’t know what I would do if a child threw a bottle and hit me in the temple. I doubt if we would sit down and have a talk about making good choices.

One worker said, “There’s a difference between them and us,” as if that explained anything. Another said, “Don’t worry about it. Those parents are the dregs of humanity.” As I started meeting the parents, I actually liked most of them. I didn’t find them to be the dregs of humanity. The biggest difference I found between them and me was that they were poor. So, it seemed to me, the children were taken because of poverty.

I eventually became active in trying to reform our system so kids like these could stay home with the families they loved. I testified at a public hearing. The next week, the state Department of Human Services, as it was called then, told “the other side of the story,” bringing with them kids who said they were appreciative of what the state did for them in putting them in foster care.

I’ll never forget one of them. He was a young man in his twenties, twitching and staring at his hands as he talked. He said the state saved his life by removing him. When asked about his experience in foster care, he said he had been in 20 different placements, 21 if you counted the month he lived in a cardboard box after running away from his foster home.

He must have come from really awful parents if that life was a step up from what he would have had. And yes, some children are taken from really awful parents and some children need to be in foster care.

But it crossed my mind, if my home wasn’t full of kids who didn’t need to be there, that young man might have come to me and maybe I would have been his last placement.

Mary Callahan is a registered nurse and organizer for the Maine Alliance for DHS Accountability and Reform, and the author of the 2003 book Memoirs of a Baby Stealer: Lessons I’ve Learned as a Foster Mother.

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10 Comments

  1. All parents need to file complaint on state workers the supervisors for misappropriation of state funds. The workers involved in malicious prosecution on case where the state seeks to terminate parental rights on false allegations, proceeding case without merit. The state can fraudulently obtain federal funds for these children placed in state custody, or obtain funds through administrative child support orders from working families. Actions of malicious prosecution , denial of due process parents provide the name of the state office, provide the name of the case worker , provide the name of the workers supervisor.Include the details of the case the court case the location ,the allegations , provide the detail that the child and or children were removed before allegations were ruled substantiated or unsubstantiated. Civil right violations of due process, Obstruction of justice by state official.Misuse of state official authority, court and state records, state official intent to defraud the federal government.

    I ____________________ am writing this letter to request a former investigation for criminal activity by the following state agency being______________________. The state worker name involved in said criminal activity is ______________________. That individuals supervisor through said agency of ___________________, located at the address off __________________ in the state of __________________, in the county of _____________, supervisor name being ,__________________. The laws and criminal activity involved is of the following starting with Misappropriation of state funds of the state of ____________. Funds being misappropriated by this worker are fund applied to court cost in the following court case / cases being _________________, held at the following court ______________, at the address of ______________, in the state of ________________. I the parent of ______________, have / have not been accused of neglect, abuse , child endangerment. There has / hasn’t been any rulings on said allegations so by proceeding with said case this is Misappropriation of state and county resources being the local justice system. and courts. This also is clear violation of civil rights in the area of Malicious prosecution occurring in the court of _____________ with the case being ______________________. The following is the name of the judge or judges involved in the case ____________. The attorneys involved in the case are_________________ for the defendant being the parents of _______________ and the parents name are ____________ and ____________. The attorneys for the plaintiffs being _________________ and the plaintiffs in the case are ____________. Again the criminal activity is Misappropriation of state funds by state workers accused, Misappropriation of state resources being the courts , Civil right violation by case workers being Malicious prosecution, False pretense in court case, Misappropriation of Federal funds obtained for child involved in said allegations , intent to defraud the federal government by illegal placement of child in state custody and other civil right violation of Denial of due process in court case involving said state worker

    For complants on civil right violations this same form may be used but sent it to this address for civl right violations, request of investigation Assistant Attorney General Civil Rights Division Criminal Section 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest Washington, DC 20530
    HHS Chief Financial Officers and Services Contacts HHS Heads of Contracting Activity and Key Managers HHS Operating and Staff Division Grant Officials Mailing Address and Phone Information
    Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources Room 514-G, Hubert H. Humphrey Building 200 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20201 Telephone: 202-690-6396 Fax: 202-690-540

  2. Wish I had someone to help me fight for my babies after they were wrongfully snatched from me. Now my daughter (7yrs. Old) has been in going on 5 different foster homes because she is suffering horribly from separation anxiety and many other problems this has caused.

  3. this happened to me. I was running from an abusive husbans when social services stepped in and made my already living hell even worse. they ripped both my boys away and adopted them out. my youngest was forced to sleep on his adoptives back porch for 2 years before I found hum. my oldest was verbally abused, but also never shown what responsibility was.
    thankfully I was able to find them both. one at 19 and one at the tail end of 17 through facebook. we have been working to get them both where they need to be in life, and over the drugging they were put through

  4. Thank you for getting the truth out there, we moms robbed by the system appreciate your voice because many are discrediting or disbelieving our story
    I am a parent with a mental and physical disability my kids were eventually removed based on a presumption of future harm. I fought as valliantly as I COULD with my husband by my side for my son Nicholas while attempting to raise his sister Destiny. Jumped through every hoop, counseling, parenting classes, submitted to two psychological evaluations against my better judgment. In the end the psychological evaluations which themselves by that time were two years old were used as weapons of character assassination and to rob me of my parental rights. I enlisted the help of my father himself a licensed foster care provider in case my babies would get lost in the system. In the beginning they did everything to discourage my dad from having custody of his grandchildren but eventually they buckled to the pressure knowing that I knew they were violating the law. The system needs to be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up in my opinion they are currently doing far more harm than good by taking cases where parents just have a few problems and need support. It is leaving children in truly abusive situations to suffer and sometimes even die because the system lets them “fall through the cracks “because Social workers are overloaded with cases that really aren’t “substantial ”

    • “because the system lets them “fall through the cracks “because Social workers
      are overloaded with cases that really aren’t “substantial ” Is that why? Or, do they leave a few kids in what they know are dangerous situations, so that if something bad happens, it serves to prove the need for CPS?

  5. I know of more than 1 case in which an abused woman fled the situation. They found themsleves homeless and hungry while trying to work things through the social system. Child Services rushed in and took the children. It would have been kinder and supportive had they found temporary housing, a hotel maybe and emergency vouchers for food rather than removing the children Then making Mom find housing, daycare, and food on her own prior to reuniting

    • It’s messed up because the law actually states that they are supposed to help with housing first as part of their “reasonable efforts “but they do what they can get away with.

    • It’s all about funding. Offering assistance is largely burdensome overhead to social “services.” But they glean per-head reimbursement for CPS pulls, and also generate a revenue stream for the departments as well as foster payees.
      It’s a cash for kids deal. Of course, bureaucrats follow the money. This will continue until the funding scheme is changed…..

  6. I know of a child who was SEVERELY damaged by the foster system. Why? Because of separation from the family who ADORED HER! It was sick what happened. I am telling you, change has to be made with the legal system, starting with the third branch. They have set up a not so just justice system in which incompetence goes unpunished and they were smart enough to build lack of accountability in and then it was built in to the child welfare system. Try complaining about a judge some time and see what happens! Nothing, MOST of the time. And then, we have a system in Ohio where if you aren’t part of the kinship program, you can’t even file a formal grievance against a county employee, and if you aren’t part of the case plan, you can’t file a formal grievance against the county agency with the state of Ohio! Legislation can change it all. Time for all these smart educated people in our nation (who used to be in the minority back when the legal brains figured out how to get away with unethical criminal behavior) get together and demand change. Our legal system is archaic, and stinks like the monarchical mentality it came from! And what our legal system is has directly impacted with our child system is. Corrupt, unaccountable, and resistance to ANY real and logical and realistic criticism. Facts, science? What do they have to do with it when egos reign? I am posting this again because it applies to both posts I answered.

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