Someone Finally Understands That Bad Parents Aren’t The Enemy
My parents left my younger brother and I alone on more than one occasion before we could tie our shoe laces. I cringe thinking that if dumb luck had me think I should wander around outside our Queens apartment looking for them rather than waking up my brother and crying to him, we would have been taken away and put in foster care. Just that thought is devastating to me.
My parents did an excellent job raising us and when we were left at home it was because they had no way to pay for — or get a sitter to even show up in the middle of the night when my mother’s waitress shift overlapped with the time my father was driving his taxi cab. They did everything they could to provide for us, and yet there is no doubt we would have been taken away had our circumstances been uncovered. Tell me how that makes sense.Â Tobis doesn’t think it does.
It doesnâ€™t have to be this way. In the mid-1990s, New York City had one of the worst child-welfare systems in the country, with almost 50,000 children in foster care. Today fewer than 13,000 are in foster care, with many more children remaining safely in their families with additional support to ensure that the children are well cared for, including day care, homemakers to assist with family chores, counseling and anger management for the parents, legal representation and better housing.
In the next few months, the commissioner of New York Cityâ€™s Administration for Childrenâ€™s Services, Ronald Richter, will implement a historic change that many parents have wanted. Every time there is a decision on whether to remove a child from his or her family, a parent advocate or community member will be present to ensure that parentsâ€™ needs are met and their rights are respected. But a new model that involves and supports parents needs to be adapted across the country. Most parents want to help their children, but at times they need the resources to do so. Involving and supporting parents is the best way to strengthen families.
I could not agree more – rather than taking away their children, involving and supporting parents is the best solution for everyone involved. It’s not always about money (as in welfare dollars), sometimes the resources they need are simply coping tools, support for addiction, or anger management.
Just the same as formula-feeders and extended nursers, struggling parents don’t need any more public shame and judgment. They need understanding that they are doing the best they can and they deserve help — not the label of “bad parents.”