It Takes a Village to Save a Child
Foster children are victims/survivors of the crime of child abuse. They have been removed from parental custody because while they were living with their parents they were neglected, abused, molested and/or abandoned. Sadly, these children are in need of protection and counties all over the country are ready to take the appropriate steps to protect children who are living in unsafe situations. So you see, foster kids are not orphans; they have parents, but their parents were not able to care for them or protect them. Oftentimes, parents of foster children have problems with drugs or alcohol, mental illness or extensive criminal history. Because of these factors, they cannot focus on parenting their children.
When a child is found to be a victim of child abuse, a social worker is assigned to his or her case. One of the first things that the social worker will do is to search for family or extended family who are able and willing to care for the child. Most often, family will take in the child, and he or she will not officially enter the foster care system. However, in too many cases there is not a family member or extended family who are able to care for the child. Sometimes family members are also substance abusers or suffer from mental illness and would not be suitable guardians for the child. Sometimes family members are not willing or able to care for the child. When no family or extended family can take custody of the child, that child will enter the foster care system and will be placed into a foster home.
The goal of the foster care system is to return the child to her parent as soon as possible. So the social worker begins assisting the child's parents with a case plan that clearly outlines what must be done in order to have the child returned. For example, a parent may be asked to submit to drug testing, attend parenting classes, complete a substance abuse program, or attend weekly counseling sessions. If the parent completes the plan, the child will be returned to them. Sadly, in too many cases, the parents are unable to complete even the most basic aspects of their case plan; however, since they most likely still retain parental rights, their child cannot be put up for adoption. Instead the child will begin navigating the maze of the foster care system.
For foster kids, child abuse equals trauma; removal from their parents equals more trauma; and movement from one foster home to another equals still more trauma. It is not unusual for a child to have been in 10 or more foster care placements by the time he or she reaches the teen years.
Foster children are not orphans; they are victims of the crime of child abuse and experience further trauma within the foster care system as they are moved from placement to placement. They deserve all the help, protection and love that a community can give them. At Milestone, we work very hard to give them a home where they can feel safe and secure, where they can work on their issues, and build self esteem.
We are not alone in our work. We rely on community organizations like the YMCA, Parks and Recreation Departments, and places of worship. We also need the help and support of local school, medical providers, and law enforcement. And of course, volunteers who raise funds, donate clothing, or lend a talent or service are so critical to the success of any child's stay are Milestone House. It takes a village to protect a child, but it also takes a village to save a child.