I saw this video making the rounds on social media earlier this week. I watched it, and had the expected reactions (compassion, getting choked up, teary, missing the girls, all that). But there were some things that I wanted to point out as a way of clarification. I liked that they made the kid White (40% of kids in foster care are White) and I liked that the mom she connects with at the end is Black. The wee baby was adorable. The little girl is a great actress. The production value is very high quality, and I want to know where they got the furniture for the sets.
But there were a few things that stuck in my caw.
1. Family centered approach to care
. Many states have adopted something like a new model when talking about foster care. When I was a kid in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it’s true that at the first sign of abuse kids would be snatched right out of their homes and taken away. I have memories of kids seeing a city car pull down their street and scattering to the winds because they were afraid someone was about to scoop them up. This is a clearly traumatizing
and terrible way of doing business.
In this “enlightened” age, the focus (at least in budget conscious places like Philly) is on keeping kids in their homes whenever possible and keeping siblings together. If that scenario had happened a Philly, as in many cities with a family centered approach to care, it would have gone down a little differently:
A) The girl would not have been made to sit in class with a black eye and bloody lip. She especially would not have been put into the embarrassing situation of sitting for her class photos. She would have come to school and her teacher would have brought her to a nurse or counselor who would have then called DHS and a worker would have come right out to the school to interview her. She likely would not have gone home that night.
B) The cops probably wouldn’t have burst the door down at the house to bodily force the dad into handcuffs. Now, if her mom or a neighbor had called while the abuse was happening, it may have been more like that, but the scenario presented in the movie was that she was abused, went to school, went home and then the cops came and beat her dad up in front of her and her brother.
Everything would have been done to minimize the drama and trauma of the situation.
2. In home placement.
In many situations, only one kid is being abused
. Or only the mom (or dad
) is being abused, but that creates an unhealthy environment. Maybe an uncle is staying there for a while and is sexually molesting the oldest daughter. Maybe the older son is put into a position of having to have physical fights with an abusive dad. However it goes down, kids are kept at home unless their immediate safety is at stake. From what the short film showed, there is no indication that the Mom was abusive. Neglectful, maybe. Naïve, yes. But it is not a crime to be a victim of domestic violence
. If there is no evidence or testimony that the child is being abused by the mom, there’s no reason for the kid to be taken from the mom. Remove the abuser.
It is deeply traumatic
for a child to be separated from a caregiver. This is true even if the caregiver is an abuser or is allowing abuse. I’ve seen the effects of this up close and personally in my own family. An abusive parent is STILL YOUR PARENT. You still see them in yourself when you look in the mirror. Your identity is still tied to that person.
3. Sibling placement.
Agencies will bend over backwards, beg, plead, pay extra incentives, and do everything in their power to keep siblings together
. Especially kids as young as that little boy. It’s understood that having siblings together can dramatically minimize the trauma for all the kids involved. That almost doesn’t need discussion- that’s a “duh” moment if there ever was one.
There were a few other things that were clearly designed to be appealing (not in the least the very attractive and sweet looking male social worker), but the message was still clear. I understand how marketing works- a story like this needs to be the biggest soap opera ever in order to be taken seriously.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Until the issues of abuse, neglect and other ways that children are mistreated become a common conversation, until all kids who are looking for a home have one, then whatever means possible should be employed to advertise and promote these concerns.
There’s also this ad: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/05/09/child-abuse-advert-hidden-message-children_n_3243599.html