Trans/interracial placements

August 20, 2008

This post may generate some anger from various segments of the population, however it is something that we feel needs to be discussed.

Trans-racial or interracial placements are not new, in fact the placement of children of one race with a family of another has been a topic of debate for a number of years.  The reality of it is, there are children in the foster care system who, if they were not placed with a family of a different race would never get placed.  Unfortunately, there are not enough foster and adoptive homes available to place every child in a same race home.

The federal government saw this problem and in 1994 passed the Multiethnic Placement Act (amended 1996).  MEPA was passed to prevent discrimination in the placement of children.  In other words, if a minority child was in the system, the state could not keep that child from going to a qualified foster home of a different race or ethnicity.  Unfortunately Congress did not realize that they were opening up a flood gate of controversy.

Arguments have been made on both sides of the debate as to whether placing a child from one ethnic or racial group with a family of a differing ethnic/racial background was in the best interest of the child.

David Herring of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law concludes in his paper, The Multiethnic Placement Act: Threat to Foster Child Safety and Wellbeing

Based on behavioral biology and social psychology research addressing kinship cues and superficial similarities that give rise to in-group favoritism, one can formulate a hypothesis that non-kin, same-race foster care placements may be safer and healthier for children than non-kin, different-race placements.

We would argue that allowing a child to flounder in group homes, institutions and similar placements while awaiting a same race placement is more dangerous to a child’s well being than placing that child in a different race home.

We have heard that a child cannot learn about their culture if they are not living within their own community.  We have heard DCS case managers state that a white family should not have a black child placed with them because they will not know how to take care of the child’s hair.  We have heard from both sides that a child should be “with their own.”  In this century one would have hoped that the bigotry and divisiveness that permeated American society for so long would have finally died.  However, when it comes to taking care of the most vulnerable in our society, political correctness seems to be the most important criteria.

Here are a few stats from the Indiana DCS Foster Fact Sheet:

There are more than 500,000 American youth and young adults in foster care, according to a 2005 report by Casey Family Programs.
Although there is no “typical” foster child, trends and statistics help assess the state of foster care across the United States. The Child Welfare League of America, the nation’s oldest and largest child welfare organization released its most recent national statistics in 2004. This snapshot of U.S. foster care provided the following facts:

Children in Care:  On September 30, 2004, 518,000 children were in the U.S. foster care system.

Age of Children in Foster Care:  The average age for children in foster care is 10.1 years.
Only five percent of foster children are less than one year old. One of out four foster children are between the ages of one and five, and 20 percent of kids in foster care are ages 6-10. However, nearly half of foster children (49 percent) are teens and pre-teens in search of permanency.

Gender:  Of the children if foster care nationally, 53 percent are male and 47 percent are female.

Length of Stay (Nationally):  For children in foster care on September 30, 2004, the average foster care stay was 30 months. Twenty-nine percent of children leaving care in 2004 had been away from home for a year or longer. More than half of the young people leaving the system (53 percent) were reunified with their birth parents or primary caregivers.

Foster Homes:  In 2002, there were 170,000 licensed relative and non-relative foster homes nationwide. In 2004, 24 percent of youth living in out-of-home care were residing with relatives.

Adoption:  In 2004, 59 percent of adopted children received a permanent home with their foster parents, while 24 percent were adopted by a relative.

Relative Care:  More than 2 million U.S. children live with grandparents or other relatives because their parents cannot care for them. When relatives provide foster care, siblings often can stay together. Relative foster care also improves stability by allowing children to live with their families and maintain familiar community connections

Given these statistics, one would hope that those who oppose interracial placements would rethink their objections.  Every child deserves to have a loving and stable home.  Ideally, every child would be able to grow up in their own biological, two parent home.  However, due to drugs, crime, an inability to parent, or other reasons children are removed.  It is vital to us as a society to provide these children with the safe, loving and nurturing homes they need.  Not just to secure their future, but ours as a society.  If that means placing a child outside of their ethnic or racial community, then so be it.  They deserve a chance.

CFLs – The next heavy metal band?

August 12, 2008

The debate as to whether global warming is man made or something that occurs naturally is one that will probably rage for a generation.  Since this site is NOT dedicated to discussing such far reaching topics, we will avoid all discussion regarding this matter.  However, given the fact that there is an immense amount of discussion on the use of energy saving devices, and if you are like we are, thrifty (okay, cheap) anything that will lower monthly costs and expenses is welcome.

Compact fluorescent light bulb

Compact fluorescent light bulb

This brings us to the topic of compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs.  Granted this may not be as interesting as what is going on at DCS or the latest news regarding other issues for foster parents, however it is something that should be discussed and understood.

CFLs have been touted as a great energy saving device, and may save consumers up to $30 over the life of the bulb.  The Energy Star website states the following about CFLs, “ENERGY STAR qualified bulbs use about 75 percent less energy than standard incandescent bulbs and last up to 10 times longer. Save about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime. Produce about 75 percent less heat, so they’re safer to operate and can cut energy costs associated with home cooling.”  For us that was enough to go out and buy some bulbs.  However, we started to read that there was something the consumer was not aware of.  Mercury.

CFLs contain this heavy metal, and this poses a health risk to humans and animals in the event that a bulb breaks.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website has a detailed explanation of what to do if a bulb breaks.

Before Clean-up: Air Out the Room

  • Have people and pets leave the room, and don’t let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
  • Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
  • Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

Clean-Up Steps for Hard Surfaces

  • Carefully scoop up glass pieces and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

Clean-up Steps for Carpeting or Rug

  • Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid (such as a canning jar) or in a sealed plastic bag.
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
  • If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
  • Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

Clean-up Steps for Clothing, Bedding and Other Soft Materials

  • If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
  • You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
  • If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

Disposal of Clean-up Materials

  • Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
  • Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
  • Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.
  • The State of Maine did its own study of CFLs, their report, all 200+ pages can be read here, Maine Compact Fluorescent Lamp Study. The Maine study states:

    Mercury concentration in the study room air often exceeds the Maine Ambient Air Guideline (MAAG) of 300 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) for some period of time, with short excursions over 25,000 ng/m3, sometimes over 50,000 ng/m3, and possibly over 100,000 ng/m3 from the breakage of a single compact fluorescent lamp. A short period of venting can, in most cases, significantly reduce the mercury air concentrations after breakage. Concentrations can sometimes rebound when rooms are no longer vented, particularly with certain types of lamps and during/after vacuuming. Mercury readings at the one foot height tend to be greater than at the five foot height in non vacuumed situations.

    Another group, the Mercury Policy Project stated this in their summary:

    Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) are important energysavers and are being widely substituted for less-efficient incandescent light bulbs. But CFLs also contain small amounts of elemental mercury. Much of this mercury is released when a CFL is broken. Several studies of mercury releases from broken fluorescent bulbs suggest that, under certain conditions, CFL breakage can pose a health risk, especially to an infant or young child who spends time near the site of the breakage. While this risk raises valid public-health concerns, there is no reason for consumers either to avoid using CFLs or to panic if one is broken. However, parents should consider avoiding using CFLs in situations
    where breakage is likely, especially in infants’ or toddlers’ rooms. To prevent breakage and to increase recycling of CFLs at the end of their useful life, consumers need more and better information about risks posed by broken lamps, clear and consistent instruction on safe clean-up and disposal of a broken CFL, and guidance to help find energy-efficient light bulbs with minimal mercury content.

    While we would never tell someone how to run their household, we would ask that people use common sense.  Is the savings of $30 over the life time of a bulb worth the potential health risk that CFLs may pose to small children?  That is something that the individual must decide.  However, the federal government has decided to make the decision for us.  The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 effectively bans standard incandescent light bulbs by 2014.  Given the current information of CFLs and the potential for health risks, especially to small children, we would think that the federal government would allow market forces and consumer ideology to determine what kind of bulbs we use to light our homes.

    Schools and CPS

    August 8, 2008

    World Net Daily reports today of a family in German that has had their five children removed and placed in foster care due to the family homeschooling.  WND has been highlighting over the past how German authorities have been forcing families to send their children to government schools or face fines and/or prison.

    While we know that Germany is a far cry from Indiana, this matter raised several questions.  One of which was the question of educational neglect and homeschooling.  Is a parent in Indiana required to send their child to a state or state sanctioned school?  Some research revealed the following.

    In Indiana, a parent can home school if they follow certain guide lines.  These are delineated in the Indiana Department of Education’s website regarding homeschooling at Indiana Home School Help Sheet.  The Children’s Law Center of Indiana, a part of Kid’s Voice of Indiana,  has a pdf file that explains educational neglect.

    The CLCI explains it this way:

    Question:  Is there such a thing as “educational neglect ?”

    Answer:  Yes. Indiana law requires that a child enroll in and attend school in the fall of the year the child becomes seven years old. The child must attend school until one of the following occurs: 1.) the child graduates; 2.) the child turns eighteen; or 3.) the child is sixteen or seventeen years of age and is given written consent to withdraw by his parents and his principal.
    While the law does not clearly define what constitutes educational neglect, the
    compulsory education law requires a child to attend school every day that school is in
    session. A parent would seemingly be neglecting the child’s education if the child failed
    to regularly attend school and had no reasonable medical excuse. In addition to neglect
    of education under the CHINS statute, a child’s truancy from school may result in
    criminal charges as well.
    Note: Parents who “home school” their children may defend themselves against a
    charge of misdemeanor education neglect by claiming they provide the child with “instruction equivalent to that given in the public school.”

    While we agree that the state has a right to ensure that children are receiving instruction, it does not have the right to force its philosophy of instruction on its citizens, hence the homeschooling option.

    Keeping in this vein of wondering how Indiana schools respond to educational neglect we did some further research and were shocked by what we found occurring in Madison County.  The Anderson Herald-Bulletin , in an op-ed piece, dated July 22, 2008, the Herald-Bulletin states:

    South Madison Community Schools officials are seeking to do something more about parental “educational neglect” by considering a policy that would enable the schools to contact Child Protective Services in cases where students have a pattern of disruptive behavior and parents won’t work with the schools to break the pattern.

    The Herald-Bulletin’s editorial board rightly stated, “It’s stretching the definition of neglect further to include a parent’s failure to get a child to behave appropriately and put forth effort in class.”  A check of the South Madison CSC website has a list of the minutes of the school board’s meetings.

    Quoting from their on-line meetings record:


    Dr. Warmke presented the first reading of new Policy JGB – Parent Participation in Disciplinary Action. A parent or guardian of a dependent student may be required to participate in action taken by the District in connection with a student’s disruptive or inappropriate behavior.

    Many concerns were expressed in reference to Policy JGB.

    Some concerns that were mentioned:

    Stronger Language (May verses Shall)

    Safety concerns

    May need to include Law Enforcement

    Administration taking students home or to parent’s workplace

    Consistency of how the policy is administered

    Dr. Warmke feels that administrative guidelines would eliminate some of the Board’s concerns. Dr. Warmke also shared that the policy gives administrators the tool to make a referral to the Child Protection Services Division of Public Welfare.

    This policy, which South Madison Community School Corp. Superintendent Tom Warmke says is the same as the Indiana School Board Association policy should send shivers down the spines of every parent in Indiana.  Have a child who is giving the school a problem, and you could end up with DCS/CPS knocking at your door.

    If a child is disruptive, unruly or otherwise a royal pain, and they do exist, deal with the situation within the confines of the school.  Suspension, expulsion or other internal disciplinary remedies.  Not CPS.  If the child is engaging in criminal behaviour, then bring in law enforcement.  The ONLY time CPS should be contacted by a school is if the school suspects neglect or abuse of a child, not because the teacher cannot control the student.

    For a school district or the Indiana School Board Association to adopt this kind of policy simply shows how weak the educational system in Indiana has become.  To rely on the bully of state government, DCS/CPS, to help you maintain control of your school is tantamount to throwing in the towel.

    Review time for DCS

    August 8, 2008

    The Washington Times-Herald (Washington, IN) reported on July 31, 2008 about the death of Jalen Blake, 2.  Jalen had tested positive for methamphetamine in early June, and died from blunt force trauma to the head on June 28, 2008.  His alleged killer, Jeffery Truelove, committed suicide.

    While the death of a child under such circumstances is extremely troubling, what is more troubling is the fact that the Daviess County’s Child Protective Services knew of the positive drug test, and did not remove the child. The case manager in the case, John Potts, has resigned.  Potts was one of the 800 new case managers hired in an attempt to correct the problems at DCS.

    The Indianapolis Star reports that DCS is standing behind confidentiality laws regarding comments on the case, and that the Daviss County prosecutor, Byron Overton, is not asking for an investigation of DCS and their handling of the case due to DCS doing its own internal investigation.

    DCS investigating itself is like the proverbial fox watching the hen house.  While the majority of DCS case managers are dedicated to the safety of children, all too often in the smaller counties, personal associations, friendships and family relationships trump the safety of children.

    There needs to be an independent investigator.  Honk For Kids, an organization that describes itself on its website as, “[A]n Indiana-based, statewide Parents’/Children’s Rights advocacy group, whose primary purpose is attempting to stop the rampant abuses of power and position by the Indiana Child “Protective” Service (“CPS”)/Department of Child “Services” (“DCS”), when dealing with families in Indiana” has called for an ombudsman to be established to review DCS cases.

    We would go one further.  While an ombudsman is needed to handle reviewing of cases, there needs to be something within the confines of DCS.  We suggest an Office of Professional Review.  As things have stood over the years in DCS/CPS, whenever there has been a situation regarding an employee’s fitness or judgment, the matter was reviewed by a County Director, and any disciplinary action was at the discretion of the Director.  To avoid the appearance of impropriety, a Director from an adjacent county could be brought in to handle any kind of hearing.  This, unfortunately, allows a “good ol’ boy” system to continue.

    The investigation of professional misconduct should not and cannot be left to individuals that are in direct supervisory control.  This allows too many friends to get by with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, or conversely, allows for the abuse of qualified staff that may just rub a Director the wrong way.

    Any and all questions regarding possible misconduct, whether it be in the handling of a case, mileage logs, reports, etc., should be referred to an outside investigator.  DCS could easily establish an OPR based in Indianapolis with a team of 4-5 investigators who’s only function would be to handle all investigations and allegations against staff.  We recommend an Indianapolis office to eliminate the problems of investigators becoming to intimate with local staff, thereby maintaining objectivity.

    In light of all that has been happening at DCS, it is time for Jim Payne to show some leadership and establish a way to bring back confidence in his agency.  An ombudsman and an OPR would be great starts.

    First the cat. . .

    August 1, 2008

    The Muncie Star Press reported today of a plea agreement reached in the case of Danield John Collins, 39.  Collins was accused of forcing his 7 year old daughter to stab the family’s 8 month old cat.

    According to the Star Press, “The daughter and Collins’ 11-year-old son said their father ordered them to stab the cat because he wanted them to “learn to kill.” Police said the defendant’s son tried to hide the cat from his father, but that Collins was able to find the animal and strangled it as his children looked on.”  Collins pled guilty to domestic violence/animal cruelty and 2 counts of neglect of a dependent, in the plea agreement, he will be sentenced to 18 months in prison.

    It is a well know fact that animal abuse leads to domestic violence.  The Humane Society of the United States, Animal Cruelty/Domestic Violence Fact Sheet points out the parallels between the two.

    While Collins may end up only serving 9 months total in prison, the mother of these two children should take this time to get help for herself and the kids.  If she doesn’t she and her children will be in serious jeapordy when Collins is released.

    Again, to all the foster parents out there, it is cases like this that make your commitment to kids all the more important.