Send Parents to Foster Care, Not Children

Is there a way to fix the foster care system? Instead of placing children in foster care, why not send parents instead?

Jamie Schwandt April 20, 2018
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I think you will agree with me when I say the foster care system is completely broken.

But is there a way to fix it?

The answer is yes; however, in order to fix this broken system, we must find and fix the root of the problem. Until we fix the root of the problem, the problem will only get bigger.

My idea is to place biological parents in foster care, not children.

What is the root of the problem?

Recently, I wrote about half of the solution to this problem in two articles:

Remove the Parent, Not the Child“:

When a referral is received by child welfare services, a worker will go into the home and assess the situation. If they determine the need to remove the parent, the parent will be brought to a family member, and a respite worker will then move into the home and care for the children. For more on this idea, read “Remove the Parent, Not the Child.

We Need Full-Time Highly Paid and Educated Foster Parents“:

In this article, I argue why we need highly educated and highly paid full-time professional foster parents. For more on this idea, read “We Need Full-Time Highly Paid and Educated Foster Parents.

So, what is the other half of the solution? And what is the root of the problem?

The answer is the biological parents.

What happens to biological parents when a child is removed from their home and placed into foster care? Do they receive any type of rehabilitation service or are they even required to improve?

The answer is NO.

Place biological parents in a foster home

This is the same problem found in the prison system. It’s like locking up the parents and leaving them behind bars for a period of time and then expecting them to magically improve as parents. We then hand their children back over to them and hope they will be better this time. However, this almost never happens, and their children end up back in foster care.

The solution here seems rather simple. We must coach, rehabilitate, and educate biological parents and give them every opportunity to succeed as parents.

So, instead of simply removing a child and wishing the best for the parents, we should do the following:

1. Remove the parents, not the child.

2. Place the biological parents in foster care.

3. Match parents with loving foster parents.

4. Parents move in and live with foster parents.

5. Coach and rehabilitate parents until they are ready to take back their children.

This seems like a logical idea, yet it assumes the parents are not convicted sex offenders, a felon, or worse. It assumes the parents are capable of improving. For those parents who are not capable, this idea will not work, and they should simply remain behind bars. In my opinion, they have lost their right to be parents.

What skills should we teach parents?

In Development of Parenting Skills By Implementing Strong Families Program, researchers found the following:

“To be a parent is a challenge that involves creativity, warmth, and abilities.”

In addition, they found that the harmonious development of the child’s personality and their growth as an adult depends on their parents, family, school, and other environmental factors.

Researchers in this study remarked,

“The education of children is not a spontaneous and random action; parenthood is a mixture of joy and struggle for everyone and no one can claim to hold all the answers to the problems of raising a child. A child learns by and through interaction with parents, adults, and peers.”

If this idea is going to work, (at a minimum) parents should receive the following education while living with a foster family:

1. Financial awareness

2. Ability to provide a safe and secure environment

3. Patience

4. Communication skills

5. Discipline

6. Trauma and behavioral skills

7. Ability to show love

8. Ability to deal with failure

9. Attachment and trust

10. Persistence in finding resources for children and families

For an extensive examination of these skills, visit the North American Council on Adoptable Children.

Lastly, we must find a way to solve the problem at the root. Here, it is the biological family. We have to stop removing children while failing to educate and rehabilitate their parents.

How can we expect this broken system to improve if we fail right from the start?

What’s worse is that it will continue to fail until we build a network of support and allow parents to benefit from the wisdom and experience of other families.

We must find ways to uncover the unmet needs that exist in families. In my opinion, this idea will do just that.

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Jamie Schwandt

Dr. Jamie Schwandt (Ed.D.) is an author and former foster child. He is a TV show host, motivational speaker, lean six sigma master black belt, statistics professor, and a major in the U.S. Army. Dr. Schwandt is the author of the books Finding Your Hero (2015) and Succeeding as a Foster Child (2014). He is the host of the inspiring TV show Dreaming Big and is a fitness expert with a unique mindset for positive growth. You can find his published work here, his website, Facebook, and Twitter.


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