Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Ripping the Nest Apart for Abused Children

Children and their parents
are nested in a broader family group:
those people to whom they are connected
through kinship and other relationships
American Humane: FGDM

Can't help wondering...
what you're wondering about today?

I'm thinking about families, remembering aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, siblings. Most are gone now, but the sense of belonging, of being a part of something remains as comforting as ever.

Imagine ripping these children from their great-grandmother in order to protect them from an abusive or neglectful parent. Her loss would be devestating. Their loss incalculable. With her would go extended family members, family history, culture, mentors of skills and talents, safe harbors for all kinds of life storms.

I wonder what I would be without the grandmother who adored me and made no secret of it, the extended family members who gave me the joys and experiences of books and learning, scouting, who introduced me to the comfort of religion, the pride in "our" pew in the church, taught me of the local landmarks that created connections of my family to place through generations that came before me, gave me a sense of a history that included me and would pass on through me to next generations.

What of those who taught me manners not learned at home, values and pride in craftsmanship, who provided regular escapes from a horrific home life? What if my brothers, my reasons for hanging on were ripped from my life? What of the pets, friends, neighborhood places, schools and teachers that served as lifelines during rough times? Sure, I might have suffered less neglect and abuse by being removed from my mom and dad...maybe...but there is no doubt that I would have suffered greatly from the loss of all the other positives that come from having a connection to time and place and people.

For some reason when good people set out to do good things and don't consider all the consequences that may occur as a result of their decisions, they can cause more damage than had they done nothing. The road to hell... and we all know the rest of that! The decision to hasten the time from removing children from their homes until parental rights are terminated in order to stop the horrors of children lost in systems and place the children in permanent situations sooner sounds like one of those good intentions!

My grandson was "lucky" when the state took him from my daughter, for she was a Heroin addict, with all that includes for a young female, and his life was in jeopardy. But was he so lucky when the foster parents, eager to adopt him, and case-worker believing it best, pushed hard for that closure as soon as they could legally do so? I have no answer of course. Once the adoption took place, my daughter wasn't the only one locked out of his life when the records were "closed."

So when as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate for Abused and Neglected Children) I participated in a Family Group Decision Making program I was thrilled to see the children included, along with extended family members and even close friends, in an attempt to create the best possible solutions for the children and their single Mom. How different from other meetings of professionals making decisions based on their biases, values, mood of the moment, mixed with incomplete information about the people whose lives they would change forever! The stake holders at Family Group Decision Making meetings have a lot more at stake, to say the least.

If you are interested in knowing more here is a bit....

Family Group Decision Making in Child Welfare: Purpose, Values and Processes
The values associated with FGDM include:
• Children have a right to maintain their kinship and cultural connections throughout their lives;
• Children and their parents belong to a wider family system that both nurtures them and is responsible for them;
• The family group, rather than the agency, is the context for child welfare and child protection resolutions;
• All families are entitled to the respect of the state, and the state needs to make an extra effort to convey respect
to those who are poor, socially excluded, marginalized, or lacking power or access to resources and services;
• The state has a responsibility to recognize, support and build the family group’s capacity to protect and care for
their young relatives;
• Family groups know their own histories, and they use that information to construct thorough plans;
• Active family group participation and leadership is essential for good outcomes for children, but power
imbalances between family groups and child protection agency personnel must first be addressed; and
• The state has a responsibility to defend family groups from unnecessary intrusion and to promote their growth
and strength.

And here are some related links:

How To Solve A Family Problem the Democratic Way

Family Group Decision Making

Families Gaining Their Seat at the Table

Engaging Families in Child Welfare Practice

Family Group Decision Making in Child Welfare Purpose, Values and Processes

Seen but Not Heard? Children and Young People’s Participation
in Family Group Decision Making:Concepts and Practice Issues

Tools for Permanency: Tool #2: Family Group Decision Making

A Child is Waiting,
Take aware,
Nancy Lee


Megan Bayliss said...

Nancy thanks for all the links. Most helpful for me in my work....and I have such little time for research nowadays.

Happy International Women's Day to you Nancy. We're having a afternoon tea where all our female friends and colleagues are invited. It is casual and all women - my favorite way to do things.

Are you going to do something for Grandmother's Day coming up?

Child Person said...

Megan, glad to be of help. In fact, if I can be of service in researching things for you let me know and I'll do the best I can. I know to put up even a couple of links takes wading through an awful lot of awful stuff...and I try to find a mix from fairly casual to newest studies for the blog. Hadn't thought about what to do for Grandmother's Day, but now that you mention it,I will poke around that way. When is it anyway?

Actually anyone reading this can request the same thing. I tend to research all day, every day, anyway... simply changing direction according to news, whim or whatever interests me. I do it because I enjoy it and that's a good thing to be able to do in one's life!

Didn't realize it was International Women's Day, Megan...I'd say sounds like a fun way to celebrate, but I try more than ever to be honest in all things. In spite of 40+ years therapy and determined effort to overcome the damages, in spite of outstanding progress in many directions, in spite of an empty loneliness that goes beyond description, being around people, (any...even my beloved ones) still terrifies to the degree that there is no fun, only such a high level of fear and anxiety that escape is paramount. My daughter jokes about knowing I'm having a good day when I last more than an hour with her! And there really is no one I'd rather spend time with...we share so many interests and have no secrets anymore.

However, even though I did all the recommended stuff such that I was able to force myself to do whatever necessary to become a top producer in real estate, work my way up the academic ladder, be involved in community, the internal price was too high. My latest therapist, one of so many that really did give me a chance at living, agreed that in my 60's, if I was fairly content as a recluse and otherwise not showing signs of illness going completely out of control, then that is okay. The psychiatrist who oversees the meds that keep me functioning disagrees, but what the heck...
Take care...

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