Friday, July 27, 2007

Foster Care Horror Stories

My article about the death of little Malachi McBride-Roberts prompted this response:

Very good article. If you want more proof look into Washington State DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services).

Tyler DeLeon is the most recent in the news, he was seven years old, weighed 28 pounds and broke out a window the day before he died to try and get snow to ease his thirst.

Washington State residents are treated to a numbing routine of dead children under DSHS supervision.

I am a Washington State Foster parent, our three foster kids under age 3, are legally free and will adopt them sometime before the end of 2007.

Our kids came to us in a program that identified high risk children and placed them in a foster home identified as the future adoptive home.
This program was an attempt to minimize the children's bouncing through the system. The program has been terminated. It was successful in 1 out of 7 DSHS districts and thus a failure. Instead of looking at what worked, the bureaucracy looks to the failures.

DSHS's budget has increased 12% in the last budget cycle. However services to the children and their parents has been cut. Cut services to the parents means court ordered treatments are not available. When the parents do not receive court ordered services the cases is delayed until the parent succeeds or fails in the treatment programs. Worse case is the court finding DSHS in contempt and the child being returned to the parents.

Our kids initially required rehabilitation services, with the budget cuts we had to be very aggressive getting the services the children needed. At times we paid out of pocket, fortunately we can afford such things but many foster parents cannot afford such out of pocket expenses.

Thank you for giving national exposure to this issue. If you need more grist for the mill Washington's DSHS will give you more than enough.

I also got a long letter from someone telling me that the foster care system is only interested in maximizing its budget, and that is why the kids are never freed for adoption, why the state snatches children from innocent parents and all the rest. There is plenty of bureaucratic mismanagment, and poorly structured incentives. But I actually don't think there is that much room for reform in that area. Many reforms end up with the effect of trying to micromanage the day to day work of the social workers. I think the interpretive culture around these decisions is often very skewed: sometimes by bureaucratic incentives, sometimes by fear of bein overturned on appeal, sometimes by fear of making a big mistake. But the accumulation of a lot of small mistakes can be just as deadly, as little Malachi's case shows.

No comments: