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Apr 8, 2011

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/04/06/2011-04-06_heart_from_brooklyn_baby_beaten_to_death_in_foster_moms_apartment_gift_of_life_f.html

OK, I'm the biggest supporter of orgin/tissue/blood/platelets/bone-marrow/miscelanous bits-and-pieces-donations you'll ever meet. I earn my living in the blood banking industry, I'm a registered marrow donor who has twice been called upon to donate, and my husband is going on the cornea-transplant list in the forseeable future. But there is NOTHING about this story that makes me smile. 

First of all, I live in NY, this story happened in NY. For almost ten years I've been active in trying to persuade NY's legislator to fund child abuse prevention programs so that every high-risk family has access to them. Right now only 10% of high-risk families have access to them. By no means will this fix everything, but it'll be a great start. But in ten years, I have been unable to expand the scope of NY's child abuse prevention programs. I was able to help keep funding from being cut last year and eliminated this year, and I'm proud of that, but obviously this isn't enough.

So what happened in this story, exactly? Well, some very, very small child was either abused so horriffically in their first 17 months of life that someone noticed, notified CPS and they decided the child was in immediate danger of death or serious harm, or the mother was so unable to bond with and attach to the child that she relinquished him. Relinquishment is not easy to do in NY, as I understand it, so I'm betting it was the first scenerio. The under-17-month crowd isn't too defiant. They're awefully cute. They're barely verbal, so they're not likely to say things that enrage their parents. Potty training is a perilous time in the life of a toddler who's born into a home with parent(s) who cannot take care of them appropriately, and many a child has been beaten or burned to death as a result of an accident, but it seems very unlikely someone was trying to potty train a child this young. 

Other reasons for CPS to remove a child that young from the custody of their parents would be evidence of sexual abuse, or the mother's refusal to protect the child from sexual abuse, massive parental neglect (such as leaving a very young child alone, again and again), or having the child in a home where there is no sober adult, again and again. So anyway, some pretty horriffic things happened to this little guy very early in his life. Most likely, CPS made many visits, and thought long and hard about this decision. But the decision was made. When a child is being removed from the care of their birth family, the child's grandparents must be notified and, if they are declaired fit, given the option of taking custody of the child. So since this little guy ended up in foster care, it means he had grandparents who either didn't want him or weren't fit to care for him. So into foster care he went.

I've gone through much of the trainig and rigamarole necessary to become a foster parent in New York. I never got my liscense- that may be another blog, or series thereof. But I do understand what the state looks for in a foster parent and who usually ends up interested in doing it. The training is pretty extensive, and people who've never had any other kind of parenting education and training say they've learned a lot from it. A small percentage of people who become foster parents are couples with fertility issues, who want a child very badly and are willing to do what ever is necessary to have one. In a county with a strong CPS department, these couples usually end up with very young children who's biological parents don't seem likely to get them back. They are likely to adopt the child, maybe foster/adopt another one, and then they have their family and stop being foster parents. There are a subset of people who go into foster parenting for religious reasons. These people can be great parents, but tend to butt heads with CPS over things like corporal punishment, vaccinations, respect for the child's parent's religion, and heaven help a child who identifies themself as gay. And the biggest subset of people who go into foster parenting are people who've learned about it "word of mouth"- they know someone who does it, or they were involved in the system growing up. Foster parents do get money for having these children under their roof. Not a lot, but for people used to raising children on very little money, it probably seems like a lot. I have no doubt in my mind that financial reward motivates some people to enter the system. And for a pedophile, being a foster parent is like guarding a henhouse if you're a weasle.

I can't even guess why the foster mother of this little boy got her liscense, but I am willing to guess that on some level, she wasn't healthy or wise enough to throw a dangerous man out of her life. Because people don't just beat a little child to death on their first date, nor without any hint that they have issues with violence and/or anger. Foster parents are not allowed to use any form of corporal punishment, and they learn in many different ways why brutalizing children is bad. So she knew this guy was doing something wrong. She probably told him to stop, and he probably didn't. And this probably happened again and again- that is the typical pattern. And then, the unthinkable happened.

I may end up brainstorming "would have's" and "should have's" in reguards to this case in June. When I become aware of a tragidy like this, especailly in New York, I like to think about what I could do, personally, to keep something like this from happening agian. I can do more to support organizations that seek to help abused children. I can re-commit myself to my legislative advocacy work to push New York to increase funding for child abuse prevention. Yes, it's hard to come up with funding for the program, but if we refuse to pay for it, babies die. It's that simple. And as a writer, I can try to improve the way people percieve emotionally distrubed children and foster parenting. Of course, trying to get published when you write about these subjects is not the easiest thing in the world, and that'll be the subject of another blog.

 

 


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Posted: Friday April 8, 2011, 9:35 am
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melanie blow
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