Review scenario: •A recent policy implemented Anytown's Department Job Family Services issue child endangerment. Any household documented offense domestic violence, child abuse, drug alcohol related offenses committed mother, father, guardian, / caregiver, result removal child children home
Anytown's Department Job Family Services
On the surface, a 'zero tolerance' policy regarding domestic abuse and drug abuse for children might seem warranted. After all, it is better to be 'safe than sorry' regarding the welfare of a child. Additionally, there have been many highly-publicized cases of child abuse over the years in which protective services did not follow up on cases where abuse was going on in the home. Theoretically, having a zero-tolerance policy would protect the department's reputation as well as children. However, removing children from foster care is a serious decision and cannot be regarded as a precautionary measure. Only severe, legally-classified actions of abuse can justify the traumatic action of taking a child from the home.
One of the major problems with this policy is that the system is unlikely to be equipped to handle such an influx of foster children. Foster homes must provide a significantly better and safer environment than that which the child is experiencing at home. Taking children away from a questionable environment and putting them in a strange household that is not thoroughly vetted is not in the best interests of the child. In most states, there is a chronic shortage of quality homes able to take foster children. This new measure would merely add more children to the foster care roster without providing additional support for existing parents or bolstering the system's ability to care for more children.
The second problem is that children may not necessarily want to leave the homes where their parents are residing. Of course, identification with the abusive parent does not mean that the desire of the child to remain in their original household should automatically be honored. But, on the other hand, the stresses placed upon the child should not be taken lightly. "Being removed from their home and placed in foster care is a difficult and stressful experience for any child...About 30% of children in foster care have severe emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems" (Foster care, 2005, AACAP). Compounding these problems by taking children out of a familiar environment should only be undertaken if the child's situation is untenable. Children in foster care often exhibit feelings such as blaming themselves for the situation; demanding to be returned to their parents; feeling unwanted; feeling helpless, feeling disloyal if they are attached to their foster parents or simply if they treat them nicely; acting out in school and against their foster home. The situation is stressful in even the best of circumstances, and the sense of instability of the child's future can wreck havoc upon the child's self-esteem.
Placement into foster care can also disrupt the child's education. "A problem that affects nearly all foster care children, however, is the increased difficulty they experience in education. Because they are forced to relocate often, foster care children often lack both academic and emotional support. They have little recourse for dealing with these emotional stressors" (Foster care: An uncertain future, 2011, Huffington Post). Children may be forced to leave their school district and friends. Having a new teacher, struggling with new classes, dealing with unfamiliar peers can all disrupt the child's sense of identity and self-worth.
That is why "unless staying with his or her parents would pose an 'imminent risk' to a child's safety, the government is legally required to make 'reasonable efforts' to prevent removing children from their families. This means that social workers must work with families to help them solve the problems at the root of suspected abuse or neglect. For example, when parents need help managing their children's behavior, social workers can help develop parenting skills and secure necessary therapeutic support" (Foster care, 2012, Children's Law Center). Removing children from the home after only one alleged case of abuse does not seem to constitute a 'reasonable effort' to help the child's family provide a high-quality environment for their offspring. "Federal law, which establishes a minimum standard for states, defines child abuse and neglect as 'any recent act or failure…