The Foster Child and the Garbage Bag:
The business of Child Abuse
By Joshua Allen
With all this bothersome talk about DCFS “leaks,” and “freedom of the press,” I got to wondering what possessed Trish Plohen and DCFS to try and sneak the investigation under the radar, away from irritating eyes like the LA Times and the general public, the people who pay their salaries.
It’s arrogance of course, that and ignorance.
We encounter that a lot in foster care, and not just from abusive parents, but also from bureaucrats, administrators and apparatchiks who have never run a business, done physical labor, worried about their guaranteed pensions or worked a single day outside the confines of the DCFS public dollar.
This breeds a certain type of individual, a certain type of contempt for public audit and media sophistication.
So does spending a career working with and around abused and neglected children and their abusive and neglectful birth parents. The latter is especially fun. Yet it takes a toll.
I say the latter not because it justifies trying to sneak the investigation under the public radar, but rather to add context to the utter stupidity that underlies the mentality that the pesky public needs to be kept at bay from, for example, heroes like foster parents who do the real work in caring for children who have been beaten, sexually abused and neglected.
It is hard working with children that were abused. That’s why social workers get the big bucks…not…
But a lot of people have tough jobs that deal with human misery, ER workers, police, hospice nurses, County Supervisors…well not the latter of course, they just cause of lot of it.
Hearing Ridley Thomas speak about the potential damage to social workers morale is like eating watery gruel.
Unlike politicians and our police department, DCFS seems clueless when it comes to the media, public perception and public audit. And unlike politicians, they aren’t voted in or out. Like Philadelphia, they are just there. So why worry about what anyone else thinks?
Zev Yarevslosky was the only voice that appeared to understand where the focus of DCFS should be rather than trying to find out who is leaking non-confidential information to the press. Ridley Thomas may have called Zev's comments a “cheap shot,” but RidleyThomas has never satisfactorily answered his own possible role in helping a foster agency with a terrible record get off of administrative hold which may have played a partial role in the killing of foster angel Viola Vanclief.
We’re still waiting for that answer. Ridley Thomas indignation as heard on a recent radio show may be justified as he tripped on the battle for public perception, - unfair or not - Zev Yaroslavsky = Truth, Justice, Savior of Children – Ridley Thomas = Lies and Cover Ups. Heck I’d be indignant too.
However, amid this “noise and waste” there is something – er -someone who remains a forgotten part of the conversation.
Our foster children. The ones who remain alive that is.
You remember the children right? They are the ones who have parents who beat them or each other. Have parents who touch them sexually, use drugs, neglect them and leave them alone in the home as toddlers. The ones who have parents or other adults in their lives who do unspeakable to them, things which keep social workers wondering why they have chosen this profession.
The children, remember?
They get removed from abusive parents in the middle of the night, and if they are lucky some of their clothes and perhaps a toy are stuffed inside a garbage bag as they are packed off to-Lord help us- a loving foster home while feeling fear and anger at being torn from their parents no matter what the parents had done to them.
The garbage bag;
The children’s suitcase and frankly symbol to their new life of strangers and courts, investigators and new schools, overworked and impossible to reach lawyers, and well-meaning and sometimes foolish social workers who can refer them to therapists and talk to them at length with their own version of counseling, but in the end often wonder what they can do to really help, to honestly offer some type of solution that too often is not forthcoming.
The garbage bag;
One of the first tools an abused child encounters on their excursion through The Business of Child Abuse.