My niece works in a childcare center. A few weeks ago, she was quite distraught after arriving at work to learn that a child in her class had been placed in foster care. This was a child with some emotional challenges and my niece had developed a bond with her after months of trying to establish a relationship. My niece knew this had to be incredibly traumatic for the child who had difficulty trusting adults and struggled to fit in with the other children in the center. Not surprising, the child’s home life was chaotic, with a mother abusing drugs and extended family trying to care for the young girl with limited resources or support.
As upsetting as the removal of the little girl was for this 25-year-old, college educated woman, it had to be 1000 times worse for the child. Any gains that might have been achieved at the center likely would be lost when her routine, and the trusted adults in her life, suddenly were taken from her. And not only was the child thrust into an unknown home environment with strangers, she also lost her one safe haven of stability and safety–her childcare facility.
As an advocate, I could not help but wonder, were there any efforts made to maintain at least one little piece of the child’s routine? Did anyone ask the administrator at the center if the child could continue to go there? Was there any way they could assist with transportation from the foster home to the center? Or did anyone ask if there might be a teacher or other person known to, and trusted by the child that could provide temporary care or at least continue some level of contact to help maintain the emotional gains made at the center?
Unfortunately, when abuse or neglect rises to the level of requiring removal, everything in the child’s life is usually disrupted–good and bad. Does it not make sense to keep constant those things that are working well? Doesn’t it seem logical to support the positive relationships that have shaped the child’s growth and development, those relationships that promote resilience?
I do not mean to suggest that case workers are not doing their best to assist families. Most of the case workers I have known pour their hearts and souls into their work. Moreover, I do not mean to second guess the removal of this one particular child–I certainly am in no position to suggest that removal was not necessary or appropriate. I do know as both a professional and as a human being with life experience, that trauma and loss are much easier to navigate when there is a trusted person providing support and consistency. Shouldn’t we put the maximum energy and resources into keeping the positives, keeping what is working in child’s life, constant when it is necessary to place into foster care?