6 May, 2006
Again – Foster parents
By Marianne Haslev Skånland (Skanland)
This article was originally posted as a message to the Join-Hands discussion forum on February 24, 2001. (This web address later seems to have been taken over by people with an agenda very different from protecting families from destruction by the CPS – the "Child Protection Services".) The article is very slightly revised and updated for in 2006.
The posting drew very critical comments from two debaters who were evidently convinced that parents deprived of their children by the CPS were necessarily abusers or were to blame anyway, in spite of the fact that the two critics were themselves dissatisfied with CPS behaviour towards foster and adoptive parents.
The posting also, however, received favourable comments from three other people, at least two of whom have experienced or seen CPS treatment of the biological family; one of these commentators wanted to post "Again: foster parents" on some other web sites and of course got permission to do so. The need for this kind of information to counteract official propaganda is clearly great.
Many foster parents express dissatisfaction with the CPS and the system of public child protection. One example is found here on Join-hands in a posting on the 22nd February 2001 by "Abused foster Parent" replying to Steven Berner. He (or she) writes: "Foster parents are good people ... CPS IS NOT!". He describes what happens to foster parents who voice objections to CPS's activities. His description is no doubt correct. We know, because that is exactly what happens to real parents too if they object to the CPS or criticise them.
So far "Abused foster Parent" is right. But we also know that the great majority of foster parents nevertheless accept the official CPS version of why the child was removed from its parents and placed for fostering. Most importantly: They believe that the fact that the children have been taken away from them is a good reason why the real parents should be morally condemned, and that their desperate need to be re-united with their children should be regarded with suspicion, as if it were a cruel attempt to dominate and control the children for egoistical purposes.
Such foster parents only seem to understand how vicious the "system" is when it has negative effects for themselves. They need to go further in their reasoning, to question the very basis of everything the CPS has told them of abusing parents and children's needs of breaking away from the parents. After all, foster parents do lend themselves to CPS business. It would not be possible for the CPS to carry on as they do if they did not have these willing, idealistic tools at their disposal. The intentions of many, perhaps most, foster parents may be good. So are the intentions of practically everybody, including those who take (or took) part in forced sterilisations of "retarded" or "deviant" persons, those who witnessed in courts against oppositionals in the Soviet Union, and so on. We all tend to think of ourselves as harmless, guiltless, good. Good motives, high ideals, a real wish to help .... are no guarantee that one's actions have a good effect.
When this is pointed out to foster parents – when they are informed of the desperate plight of the parents who have been separated from their children and are being kept away on the pretext that they are "bad" for their children - then many foster parents seem to react not only with resentment but with aggression.
There again, some postings on Join-hands seem to illustrate this. One "fostermom2many" is clearly incensed by two of my postings about foster parents. One the one hand, she says in one reply to me that she has done practically all the things I ask a foster parent to do in order to counteract the vicious actions of the CPS - maintaining contact with the parents etc. On the other hand, she doesn't seem to be glad that she has in that way helped, as well as she can, children deprived of their parents. She is still angry at any criticism of foster parents who do not do the same, she holds that I do not know the state of affairs in America (although there are many Americans who say the same as I do, cf the "Join-hands", the "CPSWatch", and the "Fight CPS and Win" sites, for instance), and she declares that the children placed with her were in imminent danger from their parents. How does she know? Did the CPS tell her and does she trust their word? And if really true, why is she angry? Why does she make little of the fact that "some" children were taken on false grounds? Why does she seem to look on parents with hatred?
This foster mother's original posting was entitled "Foster Parents Who Speak Up Against the System". Reading her reply to me and her comment to my posting "The resentment of foster parents and adoptive parents", a question seems to be in order: What in the system does she speak up against? Which aspects does she want to see changed? What kind of change will be of help to the children? Are they changes which would make life easier for herself? (If so, then any changes which would make life easier for real parents would benefit their children too.)
Foster parents do have something to do with families being destroyed; they are not helpless victims prevented from finding out that the evaluations of case workers are false, the declarations of the state that these children are abused are false, the actions taken by the state through the CPS are harmful, and that they should therefore refuse to take children handed to them from the CPS. They do have something to do with what happens in court: We have, for example, wide experience of foster parents who say that they are in favour of contact between the child and its own family, but who do all they can to prevent it, sabotage it, and make it unsuccessful.
Foster parents have painted themselves into a corner, turning themselves into the tools of a destructive bureaucracy. They can only expect understanding, solidarity and sympathy from real parents when they realise that they do wrong in assisting the CPS in destroying real families. I wonder if even Steven Berner realises that although idealism and humanism can improve fostering conditions a lot, it cannot iron out the terrible tragedy of having separated a child from its own family.
The fashionable ideas, among the CPS as well as in society at large, of how "attachment" is formed, e.g. between foster parents and children who have stayed with them for a number of years, are not correct, they are simply not borne out by facts. There is a deep, biological basis – in the form of an instinct, in fact – to the feeling of belonging and togetherness among close biological relatives. No other bonds are of quite the same kind. How, otherwise, can we explain such phenomena as the large proportion of adopteds who long for and seek to be re-united with their parents and siblings, even if they were adopted away at birth and have never met their biological family? And why, otherwise, is there such a difference in the rates of failure of parent-child relations on the one hand and husband-wife relations on the other? Pair formation is the closest and strongest tie between non-relatives. It usually comes into being on the basis of strong erotic attraction and strong emotions of being in love, it is backed up and maintained by social sanctions, legislation even, by sharing a common home, by having a common economy, children in common. In spite of all these reasons why it would be an advantage for partners to stick together, such pair relationships are, as we all know, dissolved at en enormous rate. The number of cases, on the other hand, in which parent and child are so indifferent to each other, or even come to hate each other so much, that they voluntarily part company and do not ever want to see each other again – the number of such cases is very small, and compared to pair dissolutions it is practically non-existent.