Too Poor to Parent?

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  • Topic: Foster care, Foster Care Independence Act, Fosterage
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  • Published : November 15, 2011
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Spring 2008, Vol. 18, No. 2, pp. 42-45 

Copyright © Liberty Media for Women Spring 2008. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Too Poor to Parent?

By Gaylynn Burroughs 

• Black children are twice as likely as white children to enter U.S. foster care. The culprit: Our inattention to poverty.

     When a recurrent plumbing problem in an upstairs unit caused raw sewage to seep into her New York City apartment, 22-year-old Lisa (not her real name) called social services for help. She had repeatedly asked her landlord to fix the problem, but he had been unresponsive. Now the smell was unbearable, and Lisa feared for the health and safety of her two young children. 

     When the caseworker arrived, she observed that the apartment had no lights and that food was spoiling in the refrigerator. Lisa explained that she did not have the money to pay her electric bill that month, but would have the money in a few weeks. She asked whether the caseworker could help get them into a family shelter.The caseworker promised she would help--but left Lisa in the apartment and took the children, who were then placed in foster care. 

     Months later, the apartment is cleaned up. Lisa still does not have her children.  

     Troubled not only by the number of children in foster care but by their longer stays in the system, Congress passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) in 1997. Its purpose is to achieve a permanent family environment more quickly for children in foster care, but the legislation accomplishes that goal by placing time limits on family reunification--thus encouraging adoption instead of the return of children to their parents. 

Gaylynn Burroughs is a staff attorney at the Bronx Defenders in New York City. She works in the family defense practice, representing parents facing allegations of child neglect.

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"According to one researcher, poor families are up to 22 times more likely to be involved in the child-welfare system than wealthier families. And nationwide, blacks are four times more likely than other groups to live in poverty....Race and poverty should not be a barrier to raising one's children. But in order to prevent the entry of poor children into the foster care system, state and federal government must confront poverty-related issues." (Ms.) This article explains why poverty makes black children twice as likely as white children to enter U.S. foster care. 

Jan./Feb. 2006,Vol. 5, No. 6, pp. 46-48 

Copyright © January/February 2006 Fostering Families TODAY All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Finding Hope

By Theresa Cameron and Debra J. White 

     New York State assumed the role of my caretaker when I entered foster care as an infant in 1954. In high school, I walked away from a group home without the state's blessing and moved in with two other teenage girls, also former foster children. Battling an uprooted life didn't make it easy to stay in school. I struggled to pay rent. No programs were available for my tuition. If I didn't graduate from high school, homelessness, unemployment, mental illness, unwanted pregnancy, prison or all of the above were ready to swallow me up. My life, however, took a decidedly different turn. Angels named the Godby family stepped in where there was only a thread of hope left in my young life. 

     Kim Godby and I shared the same circle of high school friends. In the cafeteria one day as I picked at a chocolate chip cookie, Kim asked, "What's the matter? You don't look so good." 

     I told her my story. 

     "The bell is about to ring, so come to my house for dinner. We'll talk then." 

     "You sure?" 

     "Meet me after school. My family won't mind." 

     After eating several dinners with the Godby family over the next week, one evening Joyce Godby pushed her plate to the side and said, "Our family has talked. We'd...
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