Responding to Ginia Bellafante’s Column: Why Aren’t There More Rich Foster Parents?

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Ms. Bellafante’s article inspired the Public Policy Committee of the National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) – comprised of foster parents and child welfare public and private agency professionals – to provide another perspective on the issues she raised. 

There were some shortcomings and false assumptions in her otherwise well-meaning column, so it is important for community members, policymakers, and professionals to consider another view.  First, we need to be more respectful and accurate in the words we use. Youth who advise us explain they do not like the word removed as if they are garbage or snow.  Instead, they feel being separated from parents is more appropriatewith all the emotional pain that accompanies separation. Second, referring to foster home overlooks that it is not a home but a family and the individuals who comprise that family that will help or hurt children. 

Third, children are not objects to be placed by caseworkers who drop them off and walk away.  Young people separated from their parents will be joining a family – and every member of that family – the children joining, any already there, and the parents – have the right to a positive family experience.  It takes no money, just a commitment by agencies and the media to use what we refer to as “strength-based”  language endorsed by the National Foster Parent Association in collaboration with the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA).

There are countless opinion pieces and news articles dating back decades about the failures of the foster care system across the country.  There are, however, many more professional journal articles, book chapters, and training programs on how to find and keep foster families who have the ability, resources, and commitment to ensure quality foster care.  We know exactly how to engage communities to recruit, assess, select, train, and retain quality foster families.  There are models of practice to ensure that every child or young person separated from parents who cannot live with relatives can be connected with foster families able to protect them, meet their developmental needs – including respect for cultural and sexual identity, ameliorate emotional trauma, and ensure that they are connected to safe, nurturing, and enduring relationships.  

We applaud New York City for its efforts to keep children safely with parents or kin, providing them also with the resources to have a quality of life free from drugs and poverty — factors that typically result in parent-child separation.  Foster care does not have to be a system that wastes money as it harms children and replaces parental neglect with organizational abuse and community neglect. All that is needed is the political will and leadership to implement best practices well known to the NFPA, CWLA, and other advocacy organizations. Instead of a column describing why we don’t have rich foster parents, why not one detailing how to find and keep foster families rich in skills and supported by agency staff rich in best practices?

Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/17/nyregion/foster-parents-nyc.html

For more information, please contact:  Irene Clements, Executive Director, National Foster Parent Association, 1102 Prairie Ridge Trail, Pflugerville, TX 78660, 512-775-9781.