Friday, July 28, 2023

Texas tragedy is foster-care failure in microcosm

KABB-TV in San Antonio reported this week on the tragic death of 16-year-old Mia Morales who died in a car crash after running away from a makeshift foster care placement.  It’s remarkable how many tragic failings of Texas foster care – and the failed attempt to fix it with a McLawsuit – are illustrated by this one case. 

● Mia’s mother says she gave up the girl and her other children for adoption nine years ago because she thought they would be safe.  The mother was being abused by the children’s father. 

What if, instead of simply accepting surrender of the children, authorities had removed the abuser from the home, and helped the mother with whatever she needed to raise the children on their own?  

● The adoption failed – the adoptive parents gave up on the children and sent them back to foster care. 

We don’t know how often this happens – family policing agencies never like to ask questions to which they don’t want to know the answers.  But the available data are alarming.  It’s clear that often the “forever family” is anything but.  This much we do know: The adoptions helped Texas collect bounties of anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 paid by the federal government under the so-called Adoption and Safe Families Act.  When the adoptions failed, Texas didn’t have to return any of the money.  In addition to all its other harms, ASFA creates an incentive for quick-and-dirty slipshod placements. 

● One reason the mother might have thought surrendering her children to foster care was the only option: She’d been in foster care herself.     

Yet, even after generations of failure, we still delude ourselves into thinking foster care is fixable. 

● The story ends with the obligatory quote from a lawyer involved in the McLawsuit against the Texas system brought by the group that calls itself “Children’s Rights.”  

But the McLawsuit, like so many other nearly identical suits brought by Children’s Rights, does nothing to fix these problems and may even make things worse. Children are in makeshift placements because too many are taken needlessly from their homes.  The McLawsuit diverts funds from what does work – providing the help families need so their children aren’t taken in the first place.  And the lawsuit complaint even calls for stricter enforcement of ASFA. 

The failure of the Children’s Rights McLawsuit approach is best summed up when the local lawyer working with them tells KABB “What these children need are trained caregivers.”  No. What these children need are exactly what Mia Morales needed – their own families.