Friday, February 17, 2012

Should White Parents Foster African-American Child Over Birth Parents' Objections?

From the Grio, a case out of Virginia raising the question of the role of biological parents' wishes in making placement decisions; we've talked about it in terms of religion, but what about race?
A white couple who say they have been denied the right to continue fostering a black child have vowed to fight authorities to overturn the decision.

For five months, foster parents Ben and Sarah FitzPatrick, gave the child a loving home but on Monday were told the baby could be taken away as early as Friday. A pair of Norfolk social workers visited their home and said because their foster baby is black, the child would be better off with African-American foster parents.

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A Norfolk City Council official says that his workers do not make race-based placement decisions, but they do consider "the will of the biological parents."

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A subsequent report by NewsChannel 3 says Norfolk allows biological parents who have lost custody of their child to ask for foster parents of a specific race and the investigation alleges this practice is highly unusual and it might even be illegal.

In the televised interview Norfolk's Human Services director Stephen Hawks said, "we do have to consider the will of the biological parents as one of the factors in making a decision on the appropriate placement of the child." He adds, "It's not the only factor, but that is one factor in determining the appropriate placement for a child."


Anonymous said...

Why was the child placed with the white couple initially if the biological parent wanted a foster family of the same race?

Anne said...

Interesting...A big part of me agrees with this. The parents' rights have not been terminated, I think they should have a say in where their child is placed.

Anonymous said...

A slippery slope ~ and if the parents rights should be terminated at a later time and found to have been unfit or unable to care for the child's well being? Does their input still carry the same weight.

Additionally, in our county there are zero African American couples willing to foster; most are white couples or hispanic. What then? Move the children further away geographically from their birth area to accomodate that request.

Finally, I am torn on this personally as a young adult who straddled and continue to straddle both a white/black world. My Mother was white/ my father black. Finding an identity where neither one was weighted one or the other, can be tricky.

I realize this is different altogether, just shades of my own struggles.

I also concur with Anon; foolish placement to begin with if that was the wishes of the parents.

Anonymous said...

I don't think so. The parents wishes should be honored. Unfortunately, people think they have some god given right to trample over their wishes and rights.

Anonymous said...

What if parents say they don't want their child fostered by homosexual people? Or a single person? Or by someone who isn't vegan? Or doesn't use organic products?

What other choices are the parents allowed to make or not? What does social services do if they don't have a foster home that matches the requests?

Anonymous said...

IMO, the "rights" of the biological parents to decide who gives the child a proper home, go out the theoretical window when their children are TAKEN AWAY from them for NOT DOING THE RIGHT THING by that very same child!
The rights of the child to be loved and to feel a sense of security by way of not being moved around FAR outweighs any rights a biological parent has (at least morally!) How egotistical of the biological parents to even suggest such a thing.
I have an idea, how about the parents act like parents and get their crap together to parent their own kids if they want a say in who raises them??

SW247 said...

As a social worker who makes these kinds of placement decisions ALL the time - here are my two cents.

Although the parents have made a mistake - sometimes not intentionally, sometimes catastrophic in its effects - they are STILL the parents. And just as we give birth parents who willingly place their children in adoptive homes, we should give parents who have their children forcibly removed the same chance to make a better plan for their child.

When a child is placed in foster care, it is just the 1st step in a long process that attempts to put the family back together - so why would we place the child in home the parent isn't comfortable with if we can help it? We need the foster parents to work WITH the biological parents. And even if the child can't be reunified with their parents - why wouldn't we want the foster parents (who might likely adopt) to be able to have some kind of openness with the child's bio family?

In reality - unless a parent has extended family who can take the child (there is a federal mandate that requires family be explored first) then there may not be a family that can meet the biological parents' comfort level. It should be explained to the parents that they would risk their child being placed much further away or in less desireable conditions (shelter care/group placement). Many parents will be able to be reasoned with.

However, at the end of the day a child's best interests must be prioritized. Which is why in my state, parents are able to make their requests which a child is first placed and at the time of any subsequent placement change - but they are not able to just decide one day that the child's current placement offends them and request that the child be moved.

Anonymous said...

If we honor the birth parent's desires about placements, then why wouldn't we also honor the birth parent's wishes about a closed adoption?

Seems we can't have it both ways. Are we are talking about what is in the best interest of the child or what are the desires of the birth parents?

My personal feeling are that the birth parents who are giving up rights to the child or who's rights have been taken away shouldn't have any say. The child's right to a home, family and information about the birth family should come first.

DANA said...




Anonymous said...

I am not completely sure what you mean by "forced" adoption. I'm confused, actually.

Also, as another anon has already stated, there are very few AAs willing to do foster care. If the parents have not done right by the child to begin with, and then no family steps up to the plate, and THEN there are very few AA foster parents available, that leaves very little alternative.
IMO, the parents are putting the preservation of their culture in front of the preservation of their child's well being. And putting the welfare of the child in second or third place, is possibly why the child was taken away to begin with.

SW247-I get it. But, obviously, family has not stepped up in this situation. Unless the foster family is being abusive (which is not being claimed here), the parents have little room to complain.
And I beg to differ with you on semantics. When someone places their child for adoption, it is out of love for the child first and foremost. They want the best for that child. When a child is taken from a parent and placed into foster is usually NOT because the parent wanted the best for that child and they were not thinking first and foremost about the well being of that child, or the child would not have been put into foster care to begin with....I do not equate a parent with an adoption plan as being on the same level as a parent who has their child taken away and placed into foster care. I applaud you for not being as cynical as myself, or as jaded as I am about parents who place their children so low on the list that they're taken away for a CHANCE at a better living situation. I personally have a difficult time thinking of those kinds of parents as anything but selfish.

Anonymous said...

Multiple breaks in attachment have significant & long last effects on kids ... while I do believe that parents should have a say, especially with regard to race, I believe the decision should be made at the outset ... to remove a child after the fact is harming that child and their ability to trust and potentially to re-attach to their parents.

Steve said...

IMO, once you abuse your child to the point where the State has removed him or her from your custody, you have forfeited your right to dictate where your child is placed for foster care.

Maybe, these parents should focus their energy on their parenting deficits rather than re-casting themselves as the victim.

Anonymous said...

Surprise, surprise... this has become a bash the natural parents thread. Shocking, eh? NOT.

And we all know the altruistic, savior adopters are so perfect, aren't they? They never lie and con someone to procure a child from their mother. They never lie to the child they have the privilege of raising. They never abuse, (psychologically and otherwise) the children in their care. Spare me and get over yourselves while your at it (to those who think they know what is best for someone else's child by dehumanizing and degrading where that child came from).

Anonymous said...

"Seems we can't have it both ways. Are we are talking about what is in the best interest of the child or what are the desires of the birth parents?"

No, we are talking about what is best for the adopters. It is always what is best for them, while they go on and on about what is best for SOMEONE else's child...

Anonymous said...

The disscusion here is on foster care but it applies to adoption also,yes the state is the last place i will believe there was justifcation for child removal of the house or that the really did whats best in the interest of the child, i think you mean the best of the state or the foster or adoptive family,and yes in many cases the outcome of these children were not always better for them because in most cases the state intervation is to justify the need for them,they are not really making better choices for the children or they don't really have the resources to really help a family,frankly my advise to a family in trouble is to never go to the state for help in most cases the outcome will be worse,

in adoption world its never about the children's needs but the adopters need to create a family on top of a family misfortune.

i have a brother who is half black half white yes adopted let me tell you something ,it was hell growing up with him,he is totally screwd up.

Steve said...

To Anonymous at 10:01 a.m.:

This thread is not bashing all natural parents. It deals with that small subset of natural parents whose misconduct toward their child has required the State remove that child from their care.

SW247 said...

I understand that the parents of children in foster care have made choices with grave consequenced. First, I'd like to point out that most children are not removed for abuse - but usually neglect that is often not willful at the hands of the parents. But when those children are removed, they are NOT PLACED FOR ADOPTION. They are placed in a home that is meant to be temporary until they are able to go back to their parents. So, we should be talking about adoptive rights at all. We are talking about who is best to step in a help raise a child while their parents hopefully get themselves together - and I stand by my belief that it should be someone that the parents feel comfortable with working along side.

I don't think its obvious that family didn't step up for this child. It can often take a few months for family to be identified and then assessed and cleared for placement. So, I don't think we should decide so hastily that no family wanted this baby.

But also, I already stated above that the best intersts of the child should be paramount.