Saturday, January 07, 2006

Is It The State's Job To Take Care Of Families?

I'm going to do something I don't usually do: defend NJ's Division of Youth & Family Services (DYFS). I work for another State entity, and believe me, I have my problems with DYFS, but I think some of the flack DYFS is receiving from the state child advocate is unwarranted. Now, granted, children in DYFS care have been injured and killed, and the DYFS system was in need of repair, and I'm sure still is to some extent. But come on! I don't care how much reform there is, unfortunately, children in NJ are going to be abused and even killed. It's just a fact of life! And is DYFS totally responsible for protecting every child in NJ? Or, is DYFS there to lend some assistance to families to lessen harm to children?
Two reports released by the state child advocate yesterday has found that the Division of Youth and Family Services sometimes fails to help New Jersey's abused, neglected and otherwise vulnerable children _ even amid an ambitious reform effort. Most of NJ's children under the care of DYFS remain in the homes of their families, not in foster care. "Too many families in this study appeared to be left to their own devices to solve their problems," said Arburta Jones, the chief of staff for the child advocate's office and the lead author of the report on families. Let me ask you, what's wrong with families solving their own problems? Who solved your family's problems? Who solved my family's problems? Was it the State? NO!
We live in a time when nobody takes responsibility for their own actions. It is not the State's job to take care of families; it is the family's job to take care of itself. Why does everyone think the State is responsible to provide the care? State agencies are there to lend support and assistance, but not be totally responsible for the care of families. Women (and men) have child after child, then expect the State to take care of them. Then if there's a problem, blame the State! Even for a child taken from his/her family and placed in foster care, who is ultimately to blame if something bad happens to that child? I would argue it is ultimately the natural parents to blame who for whatever reason shirked their parental responsibilties! It is not the State's fault. The State comes in to provide help, but cannot be held accountable for the problem in the first place.
Instead of blaming DYFS, maybe we should be supportive of the work it does. Budgets are limited, and nobody wants their taxes raised to provide the adequate funding needed. Caseworker try their best to provide assistance to families in need, but they are not in the situation 24/7, and bad things happen when they're not there. It is not the State's responsibility to care for families! It is the family's responsibility. And I would suggest that if someone does not want the responsibility of caring for their own children, then don't have them in the first place!


paxromano said...

Great points, dawg.

Then again, all of those children being abused are merely suffering god's judgement -- just ask Pat Robertson!

I am all for parental testing: NO ONE has a child until they pass a test that proves they have what it takes to raise said child (fiscally, mentally, etc...).

DYFS, as mis-managed as they are, are not the problem. The problem is too many stupid people having children!

Sam said...

Parental testing isn't such a bad idea, actually. Although it would be rather hard to enforce.

Good points, Karl. It's sad for the kids, though. I agree with you about families taking care of themselves, but if they won't then the kids are just SOL.

Anonymous said...

Is it possible, just possible that the decline of the family as it has been known plays a role? The concept (pun intended) of two parents raising a child seems woefully traditional in a time when marriage or at least two stable adults is an option. Men making babies with little or no further responsibility is as shameless as the woman who makes a choice to bring another child into this world alone. Frankly, these social and moral concerns are beyond any human service agency control or authority.

Lisa said...

Speaking as a former foster child and current child advocate...

It's one thing to say that, in principle, families should take care of themselves.

But, it's another thing to be that child and think, "Ya know, I never asked to be born. And I certainly never asked to be born to these particular (disfunctional) people."

I guess it all boils down to the value you place on human life.

When you look into the eyes of a small child who is being abused, what are you going to say? "Tough luck, kid, too bad Mommy wasn't sterilized?"

Rather than saying it's not our problem, wmight as well admit that: Yes, tt is our problem.

In one way or another, foster kids are gonna cost us -- if we don't help them grow up healthy and cared for, then we should expect to pay for their future time in prison.

We can either handle the problem proactively, or wait for it to fester. For my part, I made it through foster care, college and grad school -- and I am going to make a difference.