Tuesday, January 15, 2008

It's about a failure to protect

In the comments to my last post, Yondalla commented:
With the people who knew but did not act, I am more interested in their ability to keep the child safe in the future than whether they had a good reason for not acting in the past.
I think that's true. Don't get me wrong. It would still *really* bother me that anyone who knew about abuse or neglect wouldn't at least try to stop it... especially a relative or close friend. It seems to me they, of all people, have a responsibility to act. After all, if the child is older and knows that a friend or family members knows, the implicit message is that what's happening is OK, or that they deserve it.

Analyzing reasons for action or inaction is probably very difficult and as, Steph points out, very subjective. It's probably also nearly impossible to do with any accuracy.

But I'm not sure that predicting future action or inaction is that much easier or less subjective. And, if a system is predisposed to one outcome (reunification with biological families) then the subjectivity might be likely to cloud accurate judgments. When predicting future action, biorelatives will get the benefit of the doubt. Which is not a bad thing, except that we are considering the futures and welfare of REAL children, children who could be hurt because someone thought *this* time their families might pull it together and protect them.

So I guess the question still stands - how can we predict that an adult who is seeking placement of a child can prevent future abuse, if they did nothing or very little to prevent past abuse? And the larger question I'm really driving it is, I think, whether reunification with biofamilies as the primary case goal in all cases is a good one?


Yondalla said...

I think that reunification with families should not be the first goal in all cases, unless you just mean that it should be the first goal that is considered, the one that should be ruled out before others are followed.

I think the best, and not great, way to predict future action is to look at past action. And that might sound like I am back-tracking, but I am not. If I were evaluating an aunt or uncle for placement I would be very interested in whether they kept any children they have had safe. Whether their home was a safe place to live. I would talk to them carefully about the rules for contact with the parents and make sure they understood how important that way -- and that they wouldn't get a second chance if they broke them.

Kinship placements can be so good for kids, that I really would like to see that ruled out before other placements pursued.

Maybe this is turning out to be a post...but I think there are so many levels between "worry" and "suspect" and "know." I absolutely agree that anyone who is confident that a child is being abused, they should report it.

And I agree that if a child knows that aunt knew and did nothing, then that is not a placement where the child is likely to feel safe and probably should be ruled out.

steph said...

I think many of the relative placements should be required to attend training, not because they are not appropriate, but so they know the rules better. We do the home study, the background checks, but other then that, it's trust they are telling you the truth when you approve them.
I never had much luck with kinship care, and found the apples didn't fall far from the trees.....
CPS follows these placements for upwards of 6 months (at least WE did) to ensure things continued to go well for the kids and the homes. That's really all you can do to try and maintain the safety of the kids.