What is Foster Care Panic? And Does it Affect Child Welfare in Michigan? (Pt. 4)

Girl sitting outside with head buried in hands
No parent is perfect, but we shouldn’t punish all parents for the crimes of a few.

Welcome back and thanks for joining us. If you’re just finding this series now, we recommend you take a minute to get caught up. If you’ve been with us from the start, let’s dive in… At this point it we think it would be safe to assume that we are all on the same page. In other words, multiple studies performed over the last decade have unanimously proven, over and over again, that foster care is not the answer. That pulling families apart because they are not perfect doesn’t give those children a better chance. So what is the answer?

Well, first and foremost, we have to acknowledge the fact that there is no one perfect solution that will work every time. But what seems to have won out, is the fact that even imperfect families, even families with issues and problems and conflicts, are better than no families at all. Because let’s face it, there is no such thing as a perfect family.

Perfect parents do not exist. Only human parents trying their best.

Every parent is a human being, and every human being has emotional baggage, personal struggles, and psychological conflict. Which means that there’s no such thing as a perfect parent. There are certainly some parents who are better than others at what they do. Some who learned faster the importance of self-sacrifice. Some who understood better the significance of self-education when it comes to child-rearing. But not a single one who is perfect.

So before we do anything else, as a society, we have to come to place where we can acknowledge that different doesn’t necessarily mean bad. And that even if we don’t always agree with what others around us are teaching their children, it doesn’t make them evil or abusive parents.

We need to be careful not to punish all parents for the failings of a few!

Next, we need to learn to focus our attention in the right place. If a child is murdered by their parents, it is a hideous tragedy. But it’s not indicative of how all parents in that economic bracket, or religion, or ethnic background, will treat their children. It doesn’t mean that homeschooling must suddenly be monitored by the state. Or that the food police must show up at everyone’s home at dinner time, ensuring that every meal served to a child is the most nutritious meal possible.

Parents who torture and murder their own children are not the rule, they are the exception. Yet foster care panic is what happens when we treat those exceptions as if they were the rule! Those singular and heartbreaking instances are not, and have never been, indicative of a statewide, or even national trend. They are exactly what they are – tragic deviations from the norm. And they should be treated as such.

Perhaps if we spent a larger portion of our state’s child welfare budget on programs that offered assistance to families in need, and less on breaking up those same families when they faltered, we could overcome the mass stampede that is foster care panic. Perhaps if we focused more on developing community programs, fostering good schools, and putting support systems in place for those who need them, we could turn the tide in this battle.

Creating supports for parents who need it would make a greater difference

Parenting is one of the hardest jobs a person can do. Maybe if we invested in more places like Lansing’s Family Growth Center, which provides free, drop-in respite care for families in crisis and parents who need a stress break, we could invest less in foster care. More domestic violence prevention, less abuse investigations. More mental health care, less government oversight for struggling parents.

Child abuse is dreadful. No one is contesting that fact. But we could eliminate so much fear, finger pointing, and damage if we only focused on solving the real problems at hand. So let’s stop putting expensive band aids on gangrene. It’s time for surgery, folks. Time for therapy. Time to heal.