The rambling thoughts of a Modern Orthodox Chassid (whatever that means). Contact me at emansouth @

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Foster Care in America: The Case of Marie and Her Sons

Uberimma gave me a head's up about a story in last week's New York Times Magazine that has blown me away.

The article is 15 pages long but well worth reading. To make a long story short, it follows the struggle of a pregnant 29-year-old woman whose 5 children have been placed in foster care to get her children back. The state agency responsible for foster care has decided to terminate her parental rights (TPR). While "Marie" has seemingly gotten her drug problems under control (her last baby was born addicted to cocaine) and has taken some steps to obtain proper parenting skills, the state has decided that her long track record as a drug abuser, and her long record of instability (her five children have been born to 4 different fathers, most of whom have been convicted felons and drug dealers), suggests that she is too unstable to raise the children over the long term.

The article portrays Marie in a relatively sympathetic light given her long history of irresponsibility. They even bring in some ridiculous lawyer from NYU law school who spouts some idiodic politically correct mumbo jumbo:

I believe in the golden rule,” said Martin Guggenheim — the N.Y.U. law professor, who represented hundreds of kids in juvenile-delinquency, child-protection and T.P.R. cases as a legal-services attorney — when I described Marie’s situation. “Test this case against what we would want for our own families.” He spoke about race and class and suggested that we substitute someone influential for Marie and painkillers for cocaine. “If we imagine it was substances that important people use, we can’t imagine that we would be taking those children.”
As far as I am concerned, anyone who studies this case or reads this article who doesn't think it's in the best interest of the children to be taken from this pathetic mother, is delusional. (I'm not suggesting we shouldn't feel bad for the mother; her case is tragic. She was raised by a drug addicted mother and had her first child at the age of 13).

Finally, at the end of the article, the author virtually skips over an incredibly important point: It appears that the mother has bugged out. In the two weeks before the article went to press, she skipped her weekly visits with her kids. The state social workers believe she may have skipped out of Connecticut to avoid having her current baby taken from her at birth.

The article also focuses on the tremendous struggles faced by state social workers in deciding the correct course of action in TPR cases. They are portrayed as almost heroic figures who must balance the rights of the mother (and, in this case, their obvious personal feelings for the mother) with the best interests of the children. No decision to TPR a mother is easy even if the objective facts would seem to make the decision clearcut.

This story resonates with MHW and me for obvious reasons. Fosterboy and his siblings were involved in a long, drawn out, and ultimately successful TPR case. (His sister has been adopted and, with G-d's help, his two younger brothers will soon be adopted.) We have no idea where the case with the Baby stands today. While I am not at liberty to discuss specifics, I will say that, unlike the case with Marie and her sons, there have never been allegations of drugs or abuse of any kind. This will no doubt make it that much more difficult for social workers and courts to decide what to do in this case.



  • At 4:38 PM, Blogger PsycleSteve said…

    There are long acting, reversible, subcutaneous contraceptives which can be used in extreme situations like this. Mention that to an ACLU-type and they go into an hysterical frenzy. They obviously find it more humane to tear a dyfunctional family apart after the fact. Not to mention the financial and social ramifications that these children will cause in the future. As far as I know there have been no cocaine addicted babies that have gone on to be Nobel Prize winners (although the way things are going, a successful career in cycling is not out of the question).


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