Monday, December 26, 2011

Child abuse at Penn State: Jerry Sandusky, foster parent

            Given the mad rush to tell anyone and everyone to report anything and everything as “child abuse” – or maybe even force us all to do it – this seemed like a good time to remember the ultimate consequence: foster care.

            With everyone running scared, there will be a lot more reporting of all kinds of “child abuse” – including “neglect,” which so often is confused with poverty.  In fact, calls to state child abuse hotlines already have spiked, not only in Pennsylvania but also New York and New Jersey.

            That means more children needlessly torn from everyone they know and love because they are poor, as in this case from Houston.  It also means more children needlessly consigned to foster care just because caseworkers are afraid to do anything else.

            The majority of foster parents do the best they can for the children in their care, like the overwhelming majority of parents, period.  Some foster parents are true heroes.  But one study after another has found abuse in one-quarter to one third of foster homes, and the record of group homes and institutions is even worse.

            Oddly, however, in all the hundreds of stories written about Jerry Sandusky two facts rarely are mentioned, and almost never get much emphasis:

            ● Jerry Sandusky was a foster parent.
            ● Jerry Sandusky’s charity began as a group home.

            So if Jerry Sandusky is guilty that should give us all something to think about:

Before we support laws turning everyone into a mandated reporter who risks going to jail if we don’t call a hotline whenever we think someone just might be abusing or neglecting a child, do we really want to put more children at risk of being placed with the next Jerry Sandusky?