By THERESA DAVIS
Have you ever been curious as to why a child you know has been taken away from their birth parents? I have mentioned this briefly in previous columns and told everyone not to ask. That’s still a no, by the way. Don’t ask. The family may not be able to tell you, or they may want to respect the child’s privacy. Besides, we all know you want to know what “sort” of child they are. So nope, we’re not going there.
That being said, Child Protective Services doesn’t go around town taking children away from their homes like stray puppies. For one thing, they can’t. For another thing, CPS’s main concern is to keep families together, even when the child is removed from the home. A foster parent is told from the start that it is part of their job to help the family reunite.
There are two main reasons for removal from the birth family, abuse and neglect. Abuse is fairly straightforward. Neglect can get fuzzy, but that’s why we rely on the laws and the fact that no one needs evidence to report it. That’s why the phrase “suspected” child abuse or neglect is used. Either way, something terrible happened to this child or family that is so extreme the child was removed. That’s all you need to know. Trust us, we know more than we want to, and we’ve seen more than we want to. We don’t wish the same on anyone. This isn’t TV, you don’t need to know the details.
When a child enters a friend or family member’s home, it’s not the time to judge the foster family, the foster child, nor the foster child’s birth family. It’s not the time to ask the family why the child is “acting like that.” It’s not the time to offer advice on discipline. (Think about it: How do you think a child who has been beaten is going to react to spanking? How do you think traumatizing an already traumatized child with spanking or hitting going to benefit them? Write me an essay. Use examples.) It’s not the time to disrespect the family by not including the foster child in family events. They are part of the family just as much as anyone else is.
Support the family by inclusion in all family events and traditions. Do everything you can to make the foster child feel welcome. Embarrass them with a crazy family reunion T-shirt too! No one gets away with not wearing one! Offer to take pictures for the scrapbook the child takes with them for visits. If a child does act out, let the foster family handle it. There is most likely a certain way the child needs to be dealt with. I will warn you, in some instances it looks like the parents are spoiling the foster child. I may get to that another time. Trust the foster parents, and the foster child.