Protecting every child's right to a loving home
As my CCC course delves deeper into child welfare issues, I am crushed to learn the realities of how the American foster care system fails so many families, especially the children. While I’m sure there are lovely stories out there, the majority are harsh truths. My last site visit brought me to Lawyers for Children, where we had a converation with the individuals who direct the attorney/social worker teams who assist foster care children. Lawyers for Children specifically advocates on behalf of the youth, really listening to their wishes and advocating on their behalf in court.
Most gut wrenching was the documentary we viewed, Why Can’t We Be a Family Again?, which chronicled a set of Brooklyn-based brothers in their grandmother’s care because their absent mother was a drug addict. When given the opportunity to legally separate from their mother, the boys could not bring themselves to do so even after multiple disappointments and the knowledge that their mother did not want them. The complicated layers of love, protection, and care are evident in the film and left our small group of mostly women advocates reaching for some kleenex.
Upon our return to CCC to discuss our morning treks, a 19-year-old young man was our guest expert. Hassan articulately described his life in foster care since the age of 10, in and out of group homes, as well as the physical and emotional abuse he suffered from his mother. One of 13 children, his mother made him stand in the corner facing the wall for hours at a time. She would jump from a chair with a belt to have the most impact when she hit Hassan who described, ‘When you hit your kids, you usually don’t climb on a chair, you just hit them . . . ‘
Among the memories he recounted was the time during winter when he walked from his home to a friend’s to seek refuge, wearing nothing but his boxers because his mother told him to get out of the house.
He shared that group homes don’t work because young people don’t remain long enough to develop worthwhile relationships with any adults. They’re in and out every couple of months based on their therapeutic needs. What young people like himself need are loving families, adults who will support them, listen to them, and consistently be there. Hassan, who still lives in a group home, talked for over an hour and openly answered our questions. His amazing resiliency was a testament to his strength to continue to survive and grow into the college man that he is today, pursuing Coporate Law because he wants to be a future humanitarian/philanthropist.