We have to stop looking at family reunification and kinship placements with starry eyes, and not evaluating placements before placing a foster child there. We are placing children right back in harm’s way by preserving families at all cost. The cost is high. Foster children continue to be abused, and some will die when placed in kinship placements or family reunification.
These children are living in difficult, sometimes deadly situations on a daily basis. Thinking that all families can be one big happy family is a pie in the sky idea, and it is not pratical. We have to be realistic that family reunification will not be the answer for all families, or even a large part of them.
A two year old toddler boy died while in the care of his mother. Her children had been removed by CPS due to drugs and neglect. The children were supposed to be living with the grandmother, and the mother was not allowed unsupervised visits (court ordered). She had not had custody of her children for years.
Even with the court order, the mother of the children had three of her children at her apartment over the weekend (another child was already staying with the grandmother) without supervision. She smoked a joint and took two Tylenol PMs and then fell asleep alone with her children. Early the next morning she was awakened by a loud thump, and her two year old son crying. The toddler had fallen down an eight foot flight of stairs in the split level apartment.
Mom was sleepy, so she took the toddler back to bed. She then held a Popsicle to his head and placed one in his mouth. The toddler was already having problems standing, and wanted to lie down (maybe that was the clue to call an ambulance). This all happened around 5:00 a.m. and the child’s father came home around 11:30 a.m. The toddler was on the couch unresponsive. The father called the grandmother; she drove over and then called 911 at 12:45 p.m.
The toddler was found with black eyes, small human bite marks on his arm, chest and face, contusions on his nose, swelling on the left side of the back of his head and dried blood on his mouth and nose. The toddler was pronounced dead.
The three children have been placed back into the grandmother’s care.
Why are the children in the family’s care now when they were not protected the first time? When are we going to decide that family reunification is not the answer to every case?