A friend who works with the juvenile justice system in Detroit sent me this link to a series of articles about a child who was not served by the foster care system in that area. It doesn't have a good end, so you might not want to read it if you are pregnant or particularly sensitive to such things.
Obviously, we've only begun to learn the whole story, as this is a 14 part series. A few things struck me as I was reading.
The mother in this family viewed having a child as her right. She wasn't in a good place mentally, nor did she have the kind of marriage that would create a loving home for a child. Plus, she had fertility problems but couldn't afford to have them looked into. All of this screams "Not right now" on the baby front, but she would not listen. She pushed for what she wanted to satisfy her craving, even though she wasn't ready.
Sometimes God places obstacles in our path for a reason. Our best response is to accept His answer and work on ourselves.
Catholic Charities recommended a change in this boy's situation, but the state agency didn't listen. The caseworker who met with Ricky assessed his mental state on a regular basis and saw that he was becoming more emotionally unstable and developing aggressive tendencies. She thought he would be best served if he was the only child in the foster home and if his parents were trained to give consistent, loving discipline. Yet the state continued to place more children in his home without demanding that the parents undergo any kind of parenting classes or counseling.
It's not surprising to me that Catholic Charities had the true interests of the child at heart, while the state was more concerned with placing as many children as possible. I've heard this from other sources, too, when I was looking into becoming a foster parent myself. It makes me increasingly convinced that we need MORE families to open their homes to these children. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's risky. But the state agencies are so strapped for somewhere to put these kids that they ignore potential danger signs and place children in abusive homes because there's no where else to put them. Pray with me that more families will hear the call to look after these children and accept the challenges and rewards it will bring.
The parents in this situation used archaic and heavy-handed discipline methods. When Ricky wouldn't stay in bed, they tied him there. If the kids acted up, they were locked in their rooms or sent to bed hungry. These aren't methods of discipline as God intends. They do not honor the inherent dignity of the child as a person, nor do they allow the child to learn to make good decisions or exercise his own judgment. All they do is inflict fear and humiliation.
If we consider our children as possessions, we will treat them as such. Anytime they do not conform to our desires, we will punish them until they are trained to respond to us without question.
But if we see our children as blessings, as gifts from God to be nurtured and cared for, then we understand that they are their own selves in need of guidance and instruction, not punishment. As much as possible, we need to give our children choices, knowledge, and the tools to discipline themselves. Tying a child to the bed or locking them in their room relies on force to elicit compliance. Sometimes children need to do what they don't want to do. Of course. It would be irresponsible of us to allow our children to eat candy for lunch or watch TV all day. But the methods we use must allow for the exercise of their own free will, as well.
Pray with me for parents who are struggling with their vocation. For children who are in abusive homes or unstable situations. Pray with me that we might all turn our attention to those in need of love and support, and provide it to the best of our ability.