Time to Foster Change

DNA Does Not Create a Family

Think about this quandary for a moment. If you were forced to select five people in which you would lay down your life, who would they be? I’ll bet for many of us most of those chosen individuals would not be a blood relation. In my case, four out of five people I love most in this world; my husband, my son, my sister and my best friend are not biologically related to me. How many individuals in your life mean the world to you, but don’t carry the same DNA? 

In the last few decades our modern day mindset and ideals have significantly changed in regards to our views on the parent/child/family relationship. I believe there is an overall agreement that there is no longer a one size fits all definition of who a parent can be or what constitutes a family unit. But yet, many of our laws continue to remain out of step with the majority of this country’s perception. Our laws have been enacted and interpreted with a biased slant that harmonizes with an outdated core belief that sharing the same blood, DNA, and chromosomes somehow creates this exclusive bond that shouldn’t be tampered with. This belief has been cemented in our consciousness because this thought process stems from our Constitution. Our founding fathers recognized that certain universal rights could not be taken away by legislation as they were beyond the control of a government. These fundamental rights were naturally given to every individual at birth and are retained throughout one’s life. Parental rights were carved out of this definition and eventually categorized by the Supreme Court as an unenumerated right. Which in short means it carries some weight. A fundamental right according to the minds of the men that established this country is a protected right bestowed upon a human being by his or her creator. If that is indeed the case, then a fundamental right is also a personal right entitled to be held by each and every citizen no matter what their age. Parental rights should be given no more importance than children’s rights if the underlying definition of fundamental rights is applied. That same unenumerated right should also belong to the children of those parents. Because children are also categorized as individual human beings according to our laws, shouldn’t they too be permitted to benefit from fundamental right protection? When and why was it decided that parental rights shall carry more credence than their child’s right to be free from any type of inflicted harm? Why are they treated in such a subordinate manner? Children are not property or personal goods so why do we treat them as such. The words of wisdom that stem from our constitution should be cherished and given the utmost respect and reverence. But, it can’t be denied that when the constitution was written a fundamental right protection only applied to a certain demographic. I’m sure most of us would concur that the framers were ordinary human beings affected by the sociocultural and political times of their era as was every generation that came after. The accepted and established norm that rang true centuries, decades, or even a few years ago does not and should not carry the same relevance as it once did. Life as we know it is constantly changing. The entire point of human existence is to evolve. So isn’t it about time to accept the fact that every human being placed upon this planet is entitled to basic human rights regardless of any difference.

I get that the parent/child bond strikes an emotional chord deep within many of us. I understand this relationship is sacred and most of us could not fathom our existence without that special connection. However, this type of sentimental thinking is hurting the children whose reality is far from the picturesque family portrait we paint in our minds. Millions of children are suffering from neglect, abuse and even death at the hands of their own parents. These children need protection now more than ever. In recent years,there has been a shift in thinking that puts increased attention and funds toward keeping families together and making major efforts to keep kids out of foster care. The 2018 Family First Prevention Services Act places emphasis on in-home counseling and parenting classes to help at-risk families from having their children removed. Supposedly this is based on “decades” of research which found that children in this at-risk environment would have improved lifetime outcomes if families were kept together. What about the decades, make that centuries, of reality that counter-argues this particular stance. If you do a quick google search you will find that in the United States alone more than 5 children die each day from abuse and neglect. In 2017, 3.5 million children (U.S. only) were the subject of an abuse investigation. It is now 2022, with those numbers even higher. Now ask yourself this…Whose care were the majority of these 3.5 million kids under? Their parents, the same individuals the federal government wants them to remain with. There is currently a Bill being passed around the Florida legislature that if enacted would hold foster care agencies, as well as, child protective investigators and state attorneys accountable by developing an Office of Quality within DCF. Sounds commendable enough, but what really concerns me about this bill is that it provides incentives for the foster care agencies in this state to exceed child welfare guidelines. Which means pushing to get a child out of foster care inside a year. I commend the legislature for seeking a new way to address foster care’s overcrowding, but offering a carrot and goading these agencies to close cases faster doesn’t appear to be placing major focus on the proper protection of these children. It actually gives the impression that it’s much more important for the child’s case file to be closed as quickly as possible so as to reflect more favorable acceptable statistics. So, is focusing on parental counseling/classes and keeping children out of foster care supposedly for the child’s benefit or the government’s? Is it actual concern for the welfare of these kids or is it more about the financial burden it causes to subsidize their care as a ward of the state? Both federal and state governments are rallying around the idea that families need to stay together. That is after all what is best for all parties involved. Really? Says who? This continued ignorance and old school way of thinking will just produce more of the same. A record number of children dying at the hands of their own biological family members. These kids are the future, but they need protection in order to become that future. Blood and DNA do not create or sustain healthy children. How much more time must elapse before common sense and a bit of empathy take hold so that a consistent uniform blanket of rights is established to protect these kids?

I’m a profound supporter of the belief that we get back what we put out in this world. The American public has managed to bring to light so many social, racial and cultural injustices in recent times and by doing so has really made a deep impact on society. There needs to be more awareness directed toward at-risk children and the rights of children in general. I don’t know any group more deserving of some difference making than voiceless innocent kids. Let’s not forget about them.