Friday, April 27, 2007

The Child Protection System

Before I began my journey as a foster and adoptive parent, I was sure that I knew who children needing protection from. I assumed, as do most, that children needed protection from their parents, period.

But now that I have been through our journey of the last several years, I am coming to understand that once children have received protection from their parents, they may spend their teen years needing protection from themselves.

We have two sons who have chosen a rather tumultuous adolescense. I say chose because they made small choices along the way, but with their disabilities, I'm not sure how much of what they did was actually a choice. But their choices, and ours, led them into the "Child Protection System."

The "Child Protection System" intervened because we were unable to keep them safe at home. This isn't because they were being abused and neglected -- we, in fact, were the ones that were the recipients of the abuse. But since they could not live at home, someone needed to take care of them.

Their stories are told, in way too much detail, sporadically, in my personal blog, but the conclusion so far has been this. One of our sons was put into structured environments to protect him from his own choices as a result of FASD. He functioned very well in a place where he was told what to do consistently from sunup to sundown. As soon as he was placed in a less restrictive environment, he couldn't handle it. He is now wandering around our town, has quit school within weeks of his graduation, and is unemployed. We don't know where he is sleeping.

Our other son is in a boys ranch and doing very well there. He is in a place where very large guys can restrain him when he gets angry or violent. He is receiving OK grades, working 25-30 hours a week, and maintaining very well. My theory is that he is doing OK there because he feels safe . . . not safe from us, but safe from himself. He knows that if he looses it, he is not going to be arrested or kicked out -- because there are big guys that will remove him from the situation before it gets out of hand.

I am coming to believe that there are many young people who do not feel safe from themselves. They are afraid of what they might do if given enough freedom. They have proven, again and again, that to be somewhere without those built-in guidelines, means they can't handle themselves.

My conclusion is that it is OK for some kids to grow up in group care. They don't feel safe anywhere else. What is NOT okay is for those kids in group care to have no one. Maybe recruiting families to be there for them WHILE they are in group care is the answer.

So I've come to a new point of understanding. It isn't always the children who need protecting. There are occasions when it is the parents. And sometimes the children need to be protected not from other people, but from themselves.


debbie said...

Claudia, this is an awesome realization. It hit me down to my toes.

Mongoose said...

What I think is sad is that the same resources are not provided to adults. I know so many young men (well, some are 40, but they still seem young) who just cannot function on their own. Like my (ex?)-boyfriend, he went from his mother's house, to the military, to his wife, to a remote work camp, to living with his brother, to living with me, to jail, and back to his mother's. In the intervals where no one is there to tell him to get up, go to work, eat, and go to bed, he falls apart. He does best in a residential setting where everything is organized for him. I know a lot of young men like that. If we had a group home here that could provide that kind of structure, I think a lot more of them would be able to hold down a job and decrease their self-destructive behaviours.

In short, I totally agree with you.

Innocent Observer said...

I'm curious after reading this how you feel about "orphanages". My friend's mother grew up in one and talks very positively about the stability and love she felt there. After being in the foster care system for a bit I have to say, it sounds like it might be a good solution, if there were run well, of course.