Bad parents to lose kids for 18 years under new Government plan

BAD parents will have their children taken from them for up to 18 years under a controversial Barnett Government plan.

By Joe Spagnolo

January 2, 2010 /

Abusive, drug-addicted and dysfunctional parents will get two years to prove to authorities they have beaten their problems before children are handed to guardians.

Child Protection Minister Robyn McSweeney told The Sunday Times a detailed submission would go before Cabinet in the coming weeks, and, if adopted, legislation would be introduced into parliament this year.

Under the radical plan, which stems from an election commitment, courts will be given powers to issue special guardianship orders giving recipients the legal right to care for someone else's child until the child turns 18.

Unlike foster parents, who are under the control of the Department for Child Protection and are checked on every few months, guardians won't have the same constraints when bringing up children under their care.

Though birth parents would likely have some access to children, day-to-day decisions involving the child would be made by the guardians, including where they go to school and where they live.

Ms McSweeney made no apologies for separating children from troubled parents, saying the initiative would give children a stable upbringing, rather than being shunted around foster homes.

"I don't think I am doing anything outrageous," Ms McSweeney said. "These children will always know who they belong to; who their (birth) parents are. They will be able to still see their parents.

"It's not an easy thing to take a child away - (but) kids deserve the best. That's what I want for everyone's children. A child deserves to be loved and hugged and cuddled and held. A child doesn't deserve to be kicked, hit and abused.

"This will shock parents into knowing they need to kick their addictions, knowing they don't want their children brought up by someone else."

But the proposed laws have outraged civil libertarians, while Aboriginal leaders fear indigenous families would be picked on unfairly.

WA Aboriginal leader Peter Yu labelled the laws "drastic and draconian".

Mr Yu, who headed a review into the Howard government's intervention into Northern Territory indigenous communities, said he was stunned by the plan.

"To take away a child would cause a lot of angst in the natural family," he said.

"Of course there is the need to ensure the safety and security of children, but my concern overall is that there needs to be some clear articulation of what the natural justice issues are as they relate to parents as well.

"The fundamental rights of individuals need to be included. We know that a lot of this is targeted towards Aboriginal kids. Most Aboriginal people are already totally disempowered in relation to the legal processes and the justice system. This just compounds what is an already complex and confusing situation where some parents already have very little knowledge of their rights."

Australian Lawyers Alliance's WA president Tom Percy said the new laws had to include provision for parents to be able to appeal against decisions to take their children away.

Figures released by the DCP show there are more than 3000 children in the care of the state.

Five-hundred Aboriginal children and 600 non-Aboriginal children under the age of six are in foster care. On average, two to three neglected or abused children are removed from their homes every day.

DCP director-general Terry Murphy said the increase in child abuse and neglect was driven by more severe drug and alcohol abuse, increased mental health problems, better responses to domestic violence and homelessness.

Foster Care Association WA president Fay Alford said the guardianship orders would give children stability and remove the stigma of being a foster child.


A parent's neighbor and friend

When I was little, we had a next-door neighbor who was married and had no children... hell, she didn't even like children, so I automatically liked her.  They lived in a big house, had a big yard, and I loved to see how other people lived, so I took it upon myself to introduce myself, as only I could when I was little.  According to the adult on-lookers, I went to her house,  moved some small rocks in the yard, and told the woman, "I usually get paid for my services".

The rest became Kerry-History.

It didn't take me long to realize she was someone I could like and trust... she would never hurt me... and being with her made me feel safe.

This neighbor moved away, but still stayed in-town, and still stayed in-touch with my parents.  The former neighbor would host parties and invite all of us, and arrange dinner dates with my parents, most of which my dad would have to cancel, last minute, because my Amother wasn't feeling up to an evening with friends.

As I got older, this former neighbor started asking me if I wanted to join her for a short shopping trips... alone... just me and her.   Those trips started off as very brief events, but as I got older, they became dream-like girl-only extravaganzas.  Once every few months, she'd arrange an entire Saturday dedicated to me, shopping, and food.  She'd take me to very exclusive high-end shops and take me out for dinner at this local fancy Chinese restaurant.  With her, I had a ball!  We'd talk about clothes, relationships and growing-up... and whatever else I wanted to talk about.  God I loved those days.... but I hated them, too.  When I was brought back home,  (the house of doom), my heart would sink because I knew my Amother would be in bed, pouting.  She would always seem mad at me... mad I was having fun with someone else... especially another woman.

My dad would explain to me, "Your mother feels bad, like you don't want anything to do with her."

I wanted to do things with my Amother, but she was always too tired, too sick, too something to do anything with me.  I accepted this about her... and yet, that wasn't enough.  If she had her wish, I would deny myself any and all relationships that did not involve her.  If she her wish, she would be the only person who could make me happy.  If she had her wish, she would be all I ever needed.  If I had my wish, I wouldn't have had a mother who was so jealous.  If I had my wish, I wouldn't have had a mother who had an excuse for everything she didn't do.

My Amother's jealous spells got so bad, I decided a relationship with our old neighbor wasn't worth the added stress and aggravation, so I stopped all contact for a few years.

Time passed, and as I was preparing for my wedding, I decided to send our old neighbor an invitation to the ceremony and reception.  My old neighbor-friend responded back excited and curious -- she wanted to know if my Amother was ok with her being there.  Her reaction surprised me, in a way that brought relief.... how did she know how my Amother would react?  Did she already know something?

That's when she told me she knew there was all sorts of trouble in our family.  She always felt bad for me, and wanted to provide the occasional escape where I could have fun and just be a kid for a while.  She said she always liked my dad, but it was obvious my mother had serious problems.

There were lots of times I wished I could have lived with this neighbor.... but the truth is, as bad as things could be at home, I still loved my parents.  They were my family.... the only family I knew.  [Besides, it wasn't my Aparents who were my biggest problem...]

I don't know when adoption through foster care became such a big selling pitch, but as a kid, such a set-up would have seemed creepy to me.  I liked my neighbor because she did NOT try to turn me against my parents....  I liked her because she did NOT want to adopt me, or make me her own.  She respected boundaries, and as a result, I was able to respect her, and relax around her. 

I can't help but think too many people enter foster care (with adoption-plans) hoping birth parents fail.  I can't help but think lots of people go into foster care not because they want to be a "good neighbor".... but because they want to be the favored parent. 

Meanwhile, I know first-hand, there are a lot of messed-up parents who don't know what it means to put a child's wants and needs first.  

The above article makes me curious... I'd like to learn how newly proposed guardianship programs are supposed to work, because I do think there should be something to offer those children who don't feel safe at home, but don't want to dump the parents, either.

People Too

I can't help but think too many people enter foster care (with adoption-plans) hoping birth parents fail.  I can't help but think lots of people go into foster care not because they want to be a "good neighbor".... but because they want to be the favored parent.

There are ways to minimize that particular conflict of interest when adopting from foster care.  We made it clear to our agency we did not want to consider any child who was not legally free for adoption.  Lots of children had adoption casegoals, but the parental rights had not yet been terminated in a court of law.  We did not consider these children.

This was before foster-to-adopt programs became more and more popular.  At the time we first adopted, it was the exception rather than the norm.  At least it was that way given our experience in 1995 and then again in 1998.

Now I'm told by some PAPs that foster-to-adopt is the accepted practice. In some jurisdictions, it's actually required before parents are considered for adoption from foster care.  There are reasonable arguments both for and against foster-to-adopt programs, but this isn't the time nor place for arguments in favor of foster-to-adoption.

As for favored parent status, that's alive, well, and kicking in families untouched by adoption.  Just ask any child from families broken by divorce, mental illness, domestic violence - or even simple mild dysfunction.  My parents, perfectly flawed as they were, played that little card a time or two in my childhood.

I know you'd like foster parents to be above all that human nonsense, but mostly, foster parents are people too.


"Dad", I'm not the bad-guy

I know you'd like foster parents to be above all that human nonsense, but mostly, foster parents are people too.

"Dad".... I prefer you stop trying to get into my head and tell me what it is I do and do not think about foster/adoptive parents.  With that, please stop your passive aggressive tactics with me... I find them incredibly  old, annoying, and rude.

Just because I want foster and adoptive parents not to use and abuse children, like those we feature in our archives, does not make me anti-foster/adoptive parent.  Please, for the sake of further open discussion, get over your "better than you think" ego!

Now, to get to the substance that has discussion value....

We made it clear to our agency we did not want to consider any child who was not legally free for adoption. 

Are there agreements for those who want to foster and still help preserve existing families?


Pound Pup Legacy