Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Wards of the State

Once again, I do Not like the practice of law. I spent the morning speaking with one of my DCFS clients–and my boss is probably not going to be happy about it, because this was mostly outside of the scope of my representation of her, so he will have to discount the time. However, she is stuck in a psychiatric facility and being treated worse than a prisoner. The facility keeps her locked in a small room with nothing to occupy her time. When she complains, they shoot her up with drugs. The staff tells her that she will never get out of there. Fuckers.

So this girl is stuck and scared. Why is she in DCFS–because her parents abandoned her. She has a social worker who doesn’t seem to give a flying fuck about her and a guardian ad lidem who seems nice, but who seems too busy and too unconcerned to really raise hell about her situation. And she has me.

My job is supposed to begin and end with me advising her to remain silent and making sure that the cops don’t speak with her. I’ve done my job, and she has followed my advise perfectly–in fact, a little too perfectly, because her refusal to speak about an incident, according to my instruction, has caused them to insist that she is uncooperative. This girl is freaked out, rightfully so. She has only been in the system for about three weeks and is being treated like shit. Unlike some of these other punks, she obviously doesn’t know the ropes and how to survive in the system.

Whenever I speak with the DCFS wards I really try to relate with them so my advice sinks in. It is impossible with many of the boys–they are already so abused and abusive that their eyes are glazed over. These boys will die young and/or spend their lives in jail. Most of them don’t even have anger or fear anymore–they just have apathy. They are lost causes. However, the girls I’ve met seem different: they still seem like they have a spark of hope left in them. They relate well to me and not only listen and follow my advice, but put a lot of trust in me. My conversations with them go well beyond the generic advice I am supposed to give them.

My newest ward especially leans on me. I should discourage her from calling me, but instead I told her to call if she feels like it. She is sixteen years old, was in an abusive family situation before being abandoned and now is imprisoned in a psychiatric ward that she hates. Whenever she doesn’t act docile and sasses back she gets threats of being drugged. When she cowers at these threats this is taken as a sign of non-cooperation and the staff becomes physical–if she struggles, then she gets restrained with leather straps and drugged into docility. She has no books, TV or companionship. When she yells for a magazine or for someone to talk to–she gets drugged instead. This is a human being we are talking about. I had to argue with the staff to allow her to speak with me privately, instead of them being in the room. Previously I would hear them in the background taunting her and teasing that she was stuck there forever. Motherfuckers.

I’ve been to some of these facilities–the staff is only about one maturity/education level above the residents. Granted I would lose my temper with most of these freak-shows, too. However, I didn’t choose to work with abused kids, because I know that I wouldn’t do well at it. But, c’mon–what about some compassion? Maybe these kids wouldn’t be so f-ed up if their caseworkers, staff and counselors actually empathized and cared about them. Sixteen years old.

Once I forgot to mention immediately on the phone that I was her attorney, and waited forever for her to be put on the line. The woman who picked up each time sounded surprised that I stayed on the line and said in a surprised voice, "Oh, you’re still here!" Finally she asked in a snotty voice what my relationship to her was (and I realized that it wasn’t mentioned earlier). When I responded, "her attorney" the woman apologized hastily and I had the ward on the phone within seconds. Motherfuckers. Were they just fucking with me? Did they think maybe I was ‘unworthy’ to speak with her because I was ‘only’ a friend, teacher or relative? Unacceptable. For a g-damned mental health facility, they certainly don’t seem too concerned with this ward’s mental health.

The first time I spoke with her she seemed perky and normal–a little scared, but totally reasonable and stable. Now she sounds (rightfully) scared and distraught about her situation. She sounds like she is breaking down because of her treatment. She always sounds much better after talking with me, though. So maybe I am doing some good, although all I can really do is listen and try to be supportive. I’m considering visiting her over lunch some day just so she doesn’t feel abandoned there. The facility refused to let her caseworker see her a few days ago, and from talking to the caseworker it sounds as if she didn’t even try to argue her way in. Fuck that–she is a scared, alone girl. Isn’t it just possible that she might respond better if she was treated with respect instead of being threatened and assaulted with sedatives? Totally bizarre concept.

Anyway, this situation obviously frustrates me. There is a girl who seems to have put all of her faith in me to help her out of a miserable situation–and I can’t really do anything. The little that I am doing will probably displease my boss. What will happen when the girl is released? She will either move onto a group facility or with foster parents. Foster parents often suck and are abusive themselves. The group homes are filled with young criminals who feed on the weak. These places often seem colder and harsher than the streets in some ways. Certainly they don’t provide the support and attention this girl obviously needs. The tactics of restraining and drugging will probably continue at a group home, although to a lesser degree.

Some of my friends work as social workers or teachers of troubled kids. The system for them really sucks. First, we allow strung out addicts to continue to breed, knowing damn well that even before birth these kids are going to be developmentally injured and need special care and treatment. But instead we send them home with crackheads* to be abused or neglected. Even when we know this happened with crackhead’s kids one through three, we will give her the benefit of the doubt and send retarded baby #4 home with her, too. Pure Craziness. Then after documenting abuse and neglect, the child might be removed around age three or four: by then so much damage is done that the kid probably can’t recover and function normally. The kid might be damn-near catatonic, freakishly low language/communication skills, violent, distrustful and almost universally, undisciplined. The total package of dysfunction. The in vetro drugs, alcohol and poor diet might also cause this kid to be deformed, ugly and malnourished.

What now? Foster care, group home, adoption by almost equally fucked-up relatives–maybe even the grandparents who raised the crackhead mother; you know people with a proven track record of raising fucked-up kids. Plus these kids are more often than not going to get sent completely unprepared to regular school. ‘Mainstreaming’ it is called, but I think it is an assbackwards policy that hurts all kids. There are two reasons why mainstreaming is popular: 1, it is cheap–no special teachers/curriculum for the smart kids or the retarded ones, and 2, the powers that be have decided that putting kids in slow or retarded classes stigmatizes them and hurts their self-esteem. Sure. Stuttering and always being the dumbest kid in class who can’t read and has no chance of catching up is good for self-esteem. Plus, the other kids can’t tell who the dummies are and therefore won’t be able to pick on them as long as they are in the same classes. Riiiiight. Sorry, but I’d rather have these kids in super-slow classes where they have a chance to learn the 3 R’s, instead of in the normal class feeling completely clueless.

Back to the timeline: foster parents often Suck. There are good ones, of course–but a lot of them do it for the money. Taking in a disturbed child for a few hundred bucks a month is not a good deal unless you are rather poor, and often uneducated. (Taking in a disturbed/retarded child because you want to help them is awesome, though). So most likely the kid is going to end up in a cramped, frantic household led by parents who don’t possess the skills to deal with his/her problems. Sexual abuse by foster parents, their children or older foster children is far too commonplace. Physical abuse–also too commonplace.

The system sucks. One of my friends was kicked out of his mother’s house when he turned eighteen so that she could use his room for a foster child and collect money every month. Totally fucked up. Do you think a woman who takes these actions with her flesh and blood only-son (who is a pretty good kid, too) will be motivated to be a great foster mom? Survey says, NO. This isn’t uncommon in the foster parent world according to my friends that work with these kids. A lot of the foster parents suck and are only in it for the money. This obviously means that the Fps won’t be spending extra coin on these kids: food, hand-me-down clothes and other basic necessities. I don’t foresee sport camps or piano lessons or tutors. Nor do I see lots of trips to museums, great books or theatre. I label this as ‘kicking them when they are down.’

There is the possibility of adoption–but really, who wants to adopt a spaced-out elementary school kid or a violent middle-schooler? Who in their right mind welcomes this chaos and struggle into their lives. Some people get off on this do-gooding, of course–but not enough people to absorb this wave of damaged kids.

Once the kids get old and/or violent enough, they are abandoned by foster parents who can’t control them–surprise! Neglected or abused kids who have never had security or stability and have no chance for a future become violent and hard-to-manage: shocking. This is where group homes come in. I’ve seen children as young as seven in these homes, but most of them are street-hardened teenagers. Do you think any of these older kids abuse (sexually, emotionally or physically) the younger ones? Duh–of course. Some of these places are so lax that it disgusts me. Others are so strict that they are just a prep school for prison. Just like prison hardens petty criminals into hard dangerous criminals, these group homes often turn deliquents into criminals. Those too soft often become withdrawn and just try to cope. Fucking mess.

From what I have seen, what my friends have told me and from my Sociology background I doubt that many of these kids ever become productive members of society. From cradle to grave they are a drain of resources–be it welfare, foster care payments, prison or disability. And an even higher cost in human misery. So sad.

What to do? Liberals and black community leaders scream bloody murder at the idea of forced birth control (depo, norplant) or sterilization of these crackhead mothers because it is genocide and interfers with ‘a fundamental human right.’ Fuck that. What about the rights of the children? Also, taking a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ approach to crackhead moms also interfers with their ‘parental rights.’ Fuck that, too. How about this–if you birth a FAS child, a child with drugs in its system or a child who exhibits the signs of in vitro drug abuse–You get all of your children removed from your home because you are Unfit to Parent. Similarly, if you ever have had a child removed from your home, you have to overcome tests and prove that you deserve to reunite with them–if you haven’t done this and spawn another one–then yoinks! That baby gets removed too, until you prove you can provide a good home for it.

Why are these measures considered so draconian and racist? It would help keep kids from growing up in abuse and squalor: if more minority children currently are being abused, then why isn't that considered racist? Isn't it racist to ignore their suffering? How about this solution–sterilization. Forced Sterilization. Maybe a two or three strikes and you are out policy, for both men and women. Sexual abuse of a child? Snip. Shirking on child support payments? Snip. Snip. Mother of a crackbaby or FAS? Snip. Snip. Snip. Most of these procedures are reversible–so once the formerly-horrible parents get their lives in order and can afford kids–they can prove it by ponying up for the right to spawn another crop. This isn’t to punish parents–but to save kids. God forbid I suggest that retarded crackheads have forced abortions–I would be accused of being Hitler or causing a genocide.

NO--instead as a society let's be too afraid to infringe on people's 'rights' to fuck up their kids and then do nothing meaningful to mitigate the damage to these destroyed children. Our current policies don't really help and just try to prevent the kids from being too destructive to society until they are old enough to finally jail.

* I use the term 'crackhead' as a generic category for anyone so fucked up that they value their drugs (crack, cocaine, meth or alcohol) more than their children's health and well-being. The innner cities have a lot of them, as do many trailer parks--especially in areas overwhelmed by meth abuse.


At 5:36 PM, Blogger Nathan said...

Why Go

The system is fucked up. The world is fucked up.



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