Tilak Rishi's weblog

Musings on writing, expression, world politics, journalism, movies, philosophy, life, humour...

My Photo

Tilak Rishi, born in India, has been working as a career corporate executive, after doing his MBA. Passionately pursuing his hobby for writing, he also remained a regular contributor to newspapers in India and the U.S. Many true happenings and characters he came across in life, including interaction with former president Bill Clinton, inspired Paradise Lost and Found, his first novel. A family saga, it starts from Kashmir, when this paradise on earth is lost for the tourists who thronged in thousands every year to enjoy its scenic splendor. Terrorists have turned it into one of the most dangerous places in the world. The family is not only a witness to the loss of this paradise, but also to another tragedy of much bigger magnitude. In the aftermath of the partition of India, along with millions uprooted from their homes in Pakistan, the family leaves behind all that it has in Lahore. Starting from a scratch on the difficult path to progress, it still has many joyful moments when along the way it makes a difference in many a life. The survival-to-success story climaxes in California where the family finds the paradise that was lost in Kashmir.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

May God Help Them!

May God Help Them!

"Given the children's age, taking away the children from their natural parents till they are 18 is an extreme step which should normally be a last resort. The circumstances as known to the Indian government do not appear to justify such measures in the present case," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna reiterating India's concerns over the Norwegian Childcare Services taking away the two children of an NRI couple from their natural parents. The children have been put under foster care.

This happened in Norway, but it happens all the time in the U.S. In 1904, when moved by the plight of vulnerable children, Mrs. E.K. Foster, a Los Angeles community leader, formed a volunteer group which successfully advocated for legislation to protect children, she could never have imagined that her noble idea of foster care system would one day be turned into big business, a money making machine by the state. In USA the nationwide foster care budget exceeds that of the National Defense Budget, to the tune of well over 12 billion dollars! In addition, from the system’s perspective, they are providing a great service to humanity, soliciting millions of private donations for the plight of millions and millions of abused and neglected children. Is child abuse on the rise? Or are there more incentives to terminate parental rights, placing the child in a foster adoptive home to receive federal dollars through foster care? If parents have a child taken away and put in state’s foster care system, not only does the state now receive money each month from the federal government for their care, but the birth parents are also required to make payments to the state, if they deem that their income allows it. In fact, federal and state tax payer funds are just the tip of the funds available to agencies once the state removes a child from their birth home. Once a child has had parental rights terminated, if a child is under age 5 and deemed "marketable", a private agency takes over and then "double dips" by charging the adopting parents for the same care? It appears that the system may take children out of homes because it pays to do so. Foster care agencies get considerably more federal and state funds for removing a child from his home than they do in making reasonable efforts to preserve the family. So, even the slightest excuse is enough for the state to separate children from their natural parents and put them under foster care system.

Imagine this: You have an ongoing feud with a neighbor. Your angry neighbor calls and makes false allegations to the police that you abuse your children. You prove to DCFS (The Department of Child & Family Services) that your children are fine. Even so, the police respond by gaining unlawful entry to your home, put your children in foster care, and throw you in jail. It all sounds like a bad dream, doesn’t it? This is exactly what the Henderson family went through. And there are so many more families who are terrified because their neighbors are making false reports about them to get into good books of the administration. Here is an open letter to neighbors from Linda Martin, a social activist, which is an eye opener on the issue:

Dear neighbors,

Someone called CPS. Was it you? Please read this letter before calling CPS again.
I am honestly terrified of losing my children and implore you, if you are the one who made the call, to let me know if I do something you think is wrong regarding my children, and do not call CPS again.

My terror is nothing compared to the trauma my children suffer at the thought of losing me, their home, their friends, their school, their pets, their toys, their grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, and everything else that is part of their world. In the foster care system siblings often even lose each other.

You might think foster care is a better place for children but according to federal statistics children are much more likely to be abused in state custody foster homes. In foster homes many thousands of children have been abused emotionally, physically, and sexually. Many children have died in foster homes – many of whom were beaten to death by foster “parents”.

So I ask that even if you don’t like me, please have mercy on my children and do not call CPS. It is a very dangerous government agency and not good for children. You are welcome to come to my house to advise me if you think I’m doing something wrong. I would prefer a life where we as neighbors can help one another without having to call in government workers for every little thing. Please do not be afraid to contact me if you feel I’m doing something wrong. Do not be afraid to offer to help me. But please, do not terrorize my children – they are traumatized at the thought of being taken away.

Thank you… from a neighbor.

Terry's story is in many respects typical of the plight of America's 500,000 foster children. He entered foster care at the age of one after he was found with his five siblings suffering from frostbite in an unheated home, his mother in a drug-induced sleep. When he was five, he and two of his siblings were adopted by a foster family. This should have provided the happy ending to Terry and his sibling's travails. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning of a long journey through the labyrinth of the child welfare system. Terry and his siblings had to be removed from their new home due to extreme abuse and neglect after the subsequent death of abuse of his five-year-old adoptive brother. Thereafter followed a sequence of sixteen placements, during which Terry began to exhibit increasingly serious behavioral problems.By the time he turned 11, Terry was placed in a residential facility where he began making suicidal comments, saying that he wanted to go to heaven to be with his deceased adoptive brother. He left the facility during severe thunderstorms without any shoes on. When he was found, he had to be hospitalized for over a month. He has since been diagnosed as suffering from the psychological effects of the extreme abuse and neglect he had suffered while in various placements, complicated by a lack of permanence over his ten years in government custody. Similar narratives are everywhere to be found.

One of the most tragic aspects of many of these cases is that the children suffer needlessly, for in their zeal to protect them against the perceived shortcomings of their natural parents, child protective workers placed them into dangerous homes that inflicted upon them precisely the injury they had hoped to prevent. Just how many abuse and neglect related incidents actually occur in foster care is difficult to determine, given the child protection agencies apparent unwillingness to investigate them. It becomes nearly impossible with confidentiality laws shielding child protection agencies from public scrutiny. What is clear is that there is no shortage of them. Notes outspoken veteran juvenile court judge Judy Sheindlin: “Every year in every a state a commission meets to attempt to identify the scores of children killed and maimed while in foster care. And each year a report is published with suggestions for legislative and systemic change. Although the number of victims is increasing, there has been no nationwide overhaul of the systems that permit these in-house tragedies to occur.”

With all the problems in the country's foster-care system, nothing short of a major overhaul would serve as a lasting solution to this national disgrace. For years, children have been sentenced to navigate the system that promised them refuge from abuse and neglect in their own homes. However, foster care remains as inconsistent, abusive neglectful and dysfunctional as many of the homes from which the children were removed from in the first place. Without cohesion, leadership and accountability, the system continues to fail too many of the 500,000-plus children assigned to it. Once these children age out of the system at eighteen, the state sees the effects that this broken system has on society.
It's like all of a sudden you're 18 and they expect you to be an adult, but the system doesn't teach you to be an adult. It's one thing to be sad about being in the system but still have a roof over your head. It's another to be sad and homeless and unemployed. For the 20,000 youth nationwide who emancipate - or "age out" - of the foster-care system every year, nothing is more terrifying than the number 18.
It is on this birthday that these youth, many abused and neglected before and after entering the system, are expected to instantly become responsible adults. While many children outside of the system are eager to leave home at this point, their parents often serve as a safety net in times of financial or emotional need. Most emancipated foster children do not have this luxury. They are moved from house to house, forming few, if any, long-lasting ties to any of the adults they are forced to live with. Then, at eighteen, they are instantly cut off from a system that never prepared them to live on their own.The state has failed them. Each year, the state fails approximately 20,000-plus foster youth, who, once they turn eighteen, are no longer eligible for foster-care services such as housing. During this pivotal time, many of these youth find themselves with no place to live, and no one to turn to.
May God help them!


Post a Comment

<< Home