Foster care failures


St. Petersburg Times

Foster care failures | June 7, editorial

We must all make children a priority

As always, you lay out the problems confronting our child protection system fairly accurately and with surgical precision. I marvel at your knowledge of complicated matters such as psychotropic medications given to children. And I wonder why you seem to wait for errors to impart your wisdom and educate the citizenry.

Certainly I share your concerns for the children. I believe that most of us do. We also share your concerns about the overmedication of our seniors and our infirm. You mention the new protocols that may protect children from the errors of overmedication in the future, and write, “Such changes will only work if (Department of Children and Families Secretary George) Sheldon succeeds in changing a culture that ignored such safeguards.”

Here’s my point. The culture extends so far beyond DCF, which is but a reflection of the wider culture. Here’s how it sometimes feels to those of us working in the trenches of child protection: Citizens, make a choice. Which would you rather have in your community — a new sports stadium or an exemplary child protection system? If this choice was placed on the ballot, which proposition do you believe would win the vote and get the funding?

We, as citizens, parents, institutions and moral individuals need to change our minds and our hearts to make children a priority. We need to speak out and contribute before the next death or disaster. The victims are not foster care failures. They are our failures.

Douglas Bonar, Pinellas Park

Foster care failures | June 7, editorial

What are we doing to the children?

Your editorial was two-thirds on the mark in citing as foster care failures the “extraordinary prescription rate” for children under care of the Department of Children and Families and the way “a 2005 law aimed at tackling that problem” has been ignored.

The missing third is the most important: What in the world are we doing to these children that creates such a need for antipsychotic medication?

In my court I’ve seen psychiatric medication recommended for children as young as 4 and 5, because they are “out of control,” and for teenagers who are running away and breaking the rules. Those “out of control” preschoolers have been bounced from foster home to foster home. No wonder they are angry and defiant. Many of the teenagers have been given back to the state by relatives who liked them at 6, but not at 16. Kids need stability!

Irene Sullivan, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court judge, Pinellas Park

Foster care failures | June 7, editorial

Guardians needed

We can do at least two things to lessen “Foster care failures”:

1. Go to http://www.guardianadlitem.org and volunteer to become a Guardian ad Litem. The guardians are the only persons legally appointed to represent and advocate in the best interests of the child in the entire system, but most children do not have one. We have a desperate need for more trained guardians.

2. Don’t stand by and let Florida cut more of the budget that supports vital programs for children. Talk to your legislators and tell them that you care about children and will be watching how they vote.

Merle F. Allshouse, Guardian ad Litem, St. Petersburg

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