Department regulations and policies appear neutral but in practice gerrymander to create unequal effect. As applied to the Blaises and others similarly situated, the regulations and policies disproportionately exclude persons who observe certain religious faiths from qualifying as foster parents based solely on speculative future conduct. In operation, Department regulations and policies eliminate a not insignificant cross-section of otherwise qualified persons from serving as potential caregivers based on their faith’s stance on sexual orientation and gender identity and whether their religion supports certain issues LGBTQ+ youth might face.
Turnover among foster parents is alway high, and experts tell me that concerns about infection risk, especially for older people, seem to have become another reason for parents to relinquish children under their care during the past few months.
. . .
When the worst-case scenario has hit, foster care’s pandemic failures can seem lurid: Foster kids in Washington State were quarantined in a government office building after their group home closed. A number of COVID-19-positive foster children spent several nights sleeping on the chairs, couches, and floors of the Child and Family Services Agency D.C. headquarters. But similar incidents happen in normal times too (albeit without the same infection risks). These experiences are traumatic, but the social workers and experts I spoke with emphasized that children enter foster care because of trauma; some tragedy has befallen their family that has made their parents or guardians unable to care for them. The pandemic adds another layer of complication and trauma to their lives—not creating new cracks so much as deepening existing ones in an already-fragile system.
My parents had three biological and adopted 10 children, nine of us black or “biracial.” They didn’t have a savior complex. They had a love reflex. And that love was born out of pain and brokenness. My mom grew up in a trailer home with an alcoholic father. At the age of five, her parents separated and placed her into a children’s home for one year. It was a devastating time for a 5 year old. I guess she was “privileged” to experience such loss. It was there that her heart for adoption was sparked and her passion to love the “unwanted” changed her life — and countless others’ — forever.
Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers are members of the community who are trained and appointed by judges to advocate in court for children in the child welfare system. They get to know the children/youth and everyone involved in their lives, such as their parents, family, foster parents, teachers and therapists, so that they can make informed recommendations to the Court in their best interest. They also work to make sure children can safely stay connected to their families and are surrounded by a network of supportive, caring adults.
Children who have a CASA volunteer are likely to receive more services while they are in the custody of the state, creating a bigger support structure for the child. Teenagers who have a CASA volunteer to support them are less likely to run away while in foster care.
Lorraine Surringer, 59 and from Porthcawl, had always wanted to foster but she didn’t have spare room to make it a reality – until last year.
She said: “My dad sadly passed away in 2019 and he left me the house so I could move in and be closer to my mum, who is in a nearby care home. When I moved in I realised I now had the space to foster.
“It was very difficult losing my dad as he was such a big part of my life, so fostering gave me a purpose again. My children have all grown up now and I thought it would be nice to help a child.”
“I have done about 70 to 80 outfits so far this year and it only takes a day,” Gamble said. “I just do girls’ clothing for toddlers who are 18-months-old in patterns I like. I just go and can’t stop.”
Living in foster care is a state of never being quite settled. Though a stable home is provided, there’s always the next court hearing, the next visit with family, the next update from the caseworker. Will the kids be there at Christmas? Will they be around for that next vacation? Can I schedule a dentist appointment six months out? I have no idea.