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Systemic barriers across social service settings have been long ignored. These challenges undermine positive outcomes, permanency and safety for children who are in foster care. Many times, the lack of communication between service agencies impede the achievement of intended goals for children and families. Angela and David’s hope is to adopt both Anton and Isaac once Kyla’s rights have been terminated. Their current belief relies on the assumption that Kyla’s rights will be terminated as according to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) social worker. Kyla has not been meeting court ordered recommendations. The lack of system coordination and lack of involvement of foster parents, children, and the school is minimizing the needs of the family. The various sectors appear to have poor accountability in providing Angela and David with services with tracked progress and adjusted case plans and thus resulting in the lack of cohesion between these services settings and foster parents.
In light of the lack of communication between service sectors Anton and Isaac have been displaying unusual behaviors. According to school staff Anton has recently engaged peers in physical altercations (biting) and Isaac has had difficulty regulating emotions (crying) when separating from foster parents. The attention received by the children’s behaviors caused the school social worker to recommend parenting classes further evoking the notion that Angela and David would be Anton’s and Isaacs permanent caregivers. The lack of communication between school social worker, foster care social worker, dependency court social worker in addition to receiving mixed messages from both foster parents and biological mother is impacting Anton and Isaac’s psychological health. Not only is the lack of communication affecting Angela’s and David’s mental health by engineering ideas of doubt in their abilities to parent these children, but also decreasing Anton’ and Isaac’ perceived sense of security.
Coupled with the lack of communication is the system issue of weak and insufficient engagement practices. Kyla is faced with balancing not only the DCFS worker, the dependency court appointed attorney, a parenting classes facilitator, the Transitional Housing Program (THP) worker, but she is also pressed with balancing probation officer, substance abuse counselor and criminal defense attorney whom all serve to meet a specific need. Social Workers, probation officers, attorneys’ counselors, and other advocates are not effectively organized to provide collective support and enhance engagement in support of Kyla’s needs. The inadequate systems of accountability do not provide support for Kyla that is culturally responsive to her needs. Kyla has a long history of trauma, from inadequate care by her biological mother, and being abandoned by her father, to being in a domestic violence relationship with her ex-partner. As it is, the challenges of navigating the judicial system are lengthy. Nevertheless, the of trauma informed engagement from Kyla’s service providers impede her ability to achieve positive outcomes through all sectors.
Studies have illustrated how many times social workers take on a biased attitude towards the caregivers in the child welfare case (Akin, Strolin-Goltzman & Collins-Camargo, 2017). The DCFS worker has clearly taken a negative stance towards Kyla’s ability to reunite with Anton and Isaac, and she relates information to Angela and David about her inconsistent attendance at the parenting classes and substance abuse classes. The DCFS worker should inquire not only about attendance but possible challenges Kyla may be facing in attending these classes. Is it the lack of transportation that is impeding her continuous attendance, her drop in visits form THP workers, her probation officer drop in visits, or her motivation to obtain employment? Moreover, it appears as though her conviction of drug possession has clouded all her advocates’ abilities to see past the misdemeanor charges and highlight her strengths such as her resiliency, despite being in the foster care system herself.
An alternative system barrier presented in this case is the lack of the child’s voice in the permanency focus planning (Connolly & Masson, 2014). As Anton and Isaac’s case is unfolded before us, we see various problems highlighted for Angela, David and Kyla. However, the only acknowledgement that the system barriers are affecting Anton and Isaac is the indication that there has been a change in behavior. Anton and Isaac have endured neglect from their biological mother, witnessed violence at home, removed from the only home they have been, placed with strangers and are now being told by their mother they might have to once again adjust to living with mom. Child Welfare’s mission to help protect children and strengthen families is tainted not only in perception but in action. There are too few opportunities for children to voice their thoughts and feelings yet as providers one would hope we would at least acknowledge their voice in life altering decisions.
The exclusion of Anton’ and Isaacs point of view limits all providers such as school social workers, school staff, Angela, David, the DCFS worker to adequately address their needs. For example, if the school social worker only addresses their behaviors without tackling the overall reasons the behaviors arose, both Anton and Isaac are at risk for engaging in riskier behaviors. As providers, we cannot address behaviors without identifying the initial concern that led to the behaviors in the first place. As it is, many adults feel as if they have no say on how their life turns out, however by ignoring Anton and Isaac’s voices they erroneously learn that what they believe does not matter and thus disempower them from any future altering decisions. In the past year, Anton and Isaac have had their life turned upside down without any say. As providers, we advocate for client’s rights, yet by not incorporating Anton and Isaac all the system providers have done is take away their voice and put forward what the providers in power believe to be the best solution.
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