Perfect set up for Failure


Definition of Failure – the condition or fact of not achieving the desired end.


Boy in a hoodie looking sadIn North Carolina we have approximately 14,000 children ages from birth to eighteen years of age in our foster care systems. The priority for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is to protect children from harm - specifically physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. This unfortunately can be life threatening and traumatizing for a child.  


Step one here in NC, and many states, is a call or report from a concerned person to Child Protective Service (CPS). The next step is a CPS Social Worker investigating to decide if the safety issues are valid and so great the child or children need to be removed from the home. The DHHS data will show that many reports are regarding the biological parents or a step-parent. If the allegations are true, the parents involved have an opportunity to correct the issues, but often do not have the financial resources or sometimes the interest or the motivation it may take to have the children return.


This is when the system starts to challenge everyone involved.  Instead of considering “what is the best interest of the child,” the system starts with “what extended family member can we place the child with?” This approach, known as “kinship placement,” means a child is placed with an uncle, aunt, cousin, or grandparents. What is not always considered is if the selected family member has any interest, desire, or ability to parent a child in crisis.  The first kinship placement often doesn’t work, nor does the second or third, resulting in multiple placements within the family unit for the child. I have seen many situations placing high risk children and youth with grandparents who are in their late 70’s. When this fails, a higher level may be the next placement for a young child or rebellious youth, averaging about 10 days.  What happens next - another family member, a higher of level of care? More than likely these placements will only add to their placement merry-go-round and only last from 3 weeks to 6 months.  


If this child is 10, 11, 12 years old, how many more placements will they have before they are 18 years of age?


Sadly, the answer is anywhere from 6 to 24 placements. Take a moment to imagine that you experienced this journey yourself. What kind of adult would you be at age 18? And what would your family look like when you begin the journey of parenthood?


There are many childcare experts who will only consider placing children with families. That may be all well and good for some children, but the reality is good quality residential children homes can make the commitment for children to come and stay whatever the age may be until they move into young adulthood. To me, this level of long-term commitment and support sounds like a more secure plan that takes the child’s best interests into consideration.  We have the responsibility to make this right so no child is left behind.


David Passmore is the Vice President for Residential Services at Boys and Girls Homes of NC.


Learn more about Residential Care at B&GH


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