Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why doesn't the press cover foster care?

by David Sharp

There is always rhetoric in the press about so many things, for now it is guns!! I wish the children living in our nation's foster care system could get this kind of press. There are no "sides" to take and no big disagreement on how to fix the problem ... no, this issue's only enemy is awareness. If all these pro- and anti-guns folks were asked if we should help innocent and helpless orphans and abused children, they would all say "yes."

However, this issue is not interesting enough to the press because most people believe they are unaffected by it.

Ben Franklin once said, "For change to occur the unaffected must be as outraged as the affected." That statement is true as demonstrated by most of the comments we've seen lately.

The sad fact is that more (many more) people are affected by the plight of dependent children than are unfortunate acts committed by irresponsible people wielding guns. I am afraid the reality is that these two subjects go hand in hand. First, a child's hand held out with nobody to hold it -- until he grows up and decides to put a gun in it and find the folks that ignored him in his childhood filled with grief and sadness. These children don't care if you own a gun or not, they have much bigger problems to deal with.

If the media wanted to report the real problem with gun ownership, they would write about the plight of the children who find themselves, through no fault of their own, in our nations foster care system or children living with birth families who were just too busy for them.  "Mental illness" and "emotional instability" are the adopted parents of many of these vulnerable children and youth.

This is the real tragedy of gun violence, but we don't like to read articles that put the blame on us.  There are no conservatives or liberal parents at a child's funeral; only the picture of a parent holding out her empty hand, now with no one to hold it.

By the way, 70 percent of the folks in our prison system today have spent time in foster care. That statistic tells us that more needs to be done for foster parents and their children now to prevent all the overcrowding and lost lives in our prisons.

We better believe we are all affected by the way we treat our children -- they are our hope for the future.

David Sharp is the Public Policy chair for NFPA.


  1. I absolutely agree with what you are saying David. In fact, I can't help but cringe every time a reporter digs into the past of an offender after what appears to be a crime "out of nowhere".
    Those of us that foster and/or adopt can almost predict the perpetrators background before it is reported and, unfortunately, we know that the actions do not come "out of nowhere". We know that the damage, as a whole, is irreparable and that the frustrations experienced trying to get effective care for these kids leaves most of us exhausted much less feeling as though we have not made a difference for these kids.
    In addition, the general public knows NOTHING about RAD, much less what we go through on a day to day basis thus when an event occurs we all scream RAD and the rest of the world simply screams.
    So where do we start?
    I don't have all the answers but I do believe that during the first 18 years we have the best chance to make a difference. The diagnosis is still valid, the treatments (although limited and less than adequate) are more widely available and the in-patient residential programs are a more viable option than they would be as an adult (where they are re-diagnosed as sociopathic, Bipolar and simply psychotic in nature).
    We have got to dig into the history of these kids from the beginning, formulate an early plan (regardless of what the CM says) and seek out appropriate, effective care for the kids utilizing EVERY tool we have.
    We have to educate foster parents, grandparents, schools and clinical staff (not to mention DSS) about RAD and the percentages of misdiagnosis (75%) and pharmaceutical mismanagement (more than 85% are mismanaged).
    As a group in the trenches we owe it to the kids, each other and the rest of the general population to speak up, speak out about RAD.

  2. I also think privacy laws get in the way. I have had so many issues come up with our "system" of care that I wanted to scream to reports about, but because the only way the story would ever run is with information that could potentially identify children, that it becomes impossible to get someone to "bite" when dangling a story. Oh how I wish, I wish, I wish, I could scream to the top of my lungs about the kinds of red tape our children deal with because of this or that - but I don't think I could get anyone to listen. :(