Abuse and Foster Care


It's been many months since I've written a post on fostering. Recently some things have brought it back to the front of my mind.   

There's been a high profile abuse case in northern Indiana lately. It involved a father who just today was found guilty of abusing 3 of his children and of killing one of them, a 10-year-old boy. The abuse involved a big stick, a hot iron, duct tape used to tie them up... just sickening to even hear about this type of abuse and even worse to know it was the children's own father who was the abuser. 

While it seems that justice has been served, with the abuser being found guilty and likely spending the rest of his life in prison, so many questions remain unanswered. 

Teachers saw the scars on the children and reported the abuse to CPS (Child Protective Services). CPS investigated and visited the home at least twice, according to the news reports. And yet, the children remained in the home with their abusive father. Why? 

What did the father say and do that convinced the social workers that he was safe, that the home was safe? How could such abuse go on for months or years without someone speaking up? A grandmother lived in the house. There is a case against her, since she did nothing to report or stop the abuse (which was presume she was aware of). How does she live with herself?

As a former foster mom and someone who has been a part of "the system" that is in place to protect children, I have other questions too. How overworked were the social workers involved in this case? I heard from almost every case worker we had about how busy they were, how little time they had to return calls or make home visits. "I'm sorry. I'll get back with you when I can. I'll get to it, I promise."

In some terrible way, I saw this coming. When we became foster parents, our state of Indiana was in a transition and trying to achieve a balanced budget. Many services were cut. One area that was cut was CPS / foster care. I don't want to argue the pros and cons of budget cuts. I know that tough decisions have to be made some times in order to reign in out-of-control spending. And I'm not making a political statement. I'm simply pointing out that since becoming involved with foster care two years ago, we learned that in Indiana case workers are strongly encouraged to keep children in the home. While in many states in America, having a foster parenting license is a practical guarantee of having foster children in your home whenever you want them, Indiana is the opposite. There are an abundance of foster parents in Indiana and they are not being utilized because it is less expensive to keep children in their homes and provide "wrap around services" (like counseling, etc) than to pay for foster care. 

So somehow this situation didn't seem severe enough to the case workers involved to pull the children from that home. Did they see the scars? Did they ask the kids? If only they had probed deeper, had time to investigate further.

I just wonder how many foster parents would've gladly taken in this 10-year-old boy and provided him with a safe, loving home while his abusive father got the help he needed. Instead the foster homes stood empty and the boy remained with his father. He died.

It's a sad, sad story all around. One child dead. Two young boys testifying in court of their father's abuse. A grandmother who stood by and did nothing. CPS workers who tried but failed in this case. The system failed this boy.

I don't have the answers. I only have lots of questions... and some guilt, as one who was part of "the system" in place to prevent situations like these. A system meant to save children. 

I know, though, that no human system can save us from our evil selves. Yet somehow we hope in the system to do some good. In this case, the good will be for the two surviving children.

I welcome your thoughts. How could we fix the system? What could've been done in this situation to save the boy's life?

Lastly, let me encourage you to make a call to the Abuse Hotline if you EVER suspect abuse or neglect is happening. In Indiana, that number is 1-800-800-5556. 


msudmom said...

I actually agree that the CPS social workers are seriously overworked in most cases and I wouldn't want to be the one that had said that this father was OK to be with his children. I do however know that I was close to girl that had been smart about getting out of an abusive relationship, and loved her children very much taking very good care of them making sure that they even ate before she would even take a bit. She was in a shelter and slept through her alarm once and still managed to get her daughter on the bus on time they called CPS on her. So here they are waisting the time of CPS, SO if they are having to wade through all of the false alarms they do not have time to get to the children that are actually getting abused.

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