YOU Issue: Foster care isn’t all about adoption

The goal of foster care isn't to get a child adopted, but to reunite her with her parents. The goal of foster care isn’t to get a child adopted, but to reunite her with her parents.

Here’s what readers asked for:

I would love to see an article about the changing shift in philosophy regarding foster care, as well debunking common misperceptions. —Marnie Allen

A common misperception about children in foster care is that the goal is to get them adopted. But Alicia Lenahan, the president of Piedmont CASA, says reunifying kids with their parents is the priority.

Piedmont CASA, which stands for court-appointed special advocates, is a local group of volunteers who act as independent advocates for abused and neglected children in the child welfare system. Volunteers stick with a child as his case winds its way through the courts, and they present the judge with a report on what would be in the best interests of the child.

Lenahan, who has 16 years of legal experience, says it’s frequently believed that the parents of foster kids are “bad,” or that they deserve to be punished.

“Very often, the real problem is that the parents were themselves victims of abuse, and they are simply raising their children the way they were raised,” says Lenahan. And because the primary goal is reunification, advocates should recognize that parents essentially have what she calls “an untreated injury.”

“So instead of asking, ‘What’s wrong with you?,’ we need to ask, ‘What happened to you?’” Lenahan says.

Lastly, there’s a perception that parents who neglect or abuse their children can’t possibly love them.

“But they do love them, and their children love them back,” says the advocate. “Without exception, the safety of the child is paramount. But no matter how good the reasons are for removing children from their homes, there is a high cost, and that is the trauma the children experience when they are separated from everything they know and love.”

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