Source of Stories: PLAINTIFFS’ ORIGINAL COMPLAINT FOR INJUNCTIVE AND DECLARATORY RELIEF AND REQUEST FOR CLASS ACTION in the recent lawsuit filed on behalf of 12000 foster children in the State of Texas against Governor Rick Perry, Thomas Suehs, Executive Commissioner of the Health and Human Services Commission of the State of Texas and Anne Heiligenstein, Commissioner of the Department of Family and Protective Services of the State of Texas.
There are several “named plaintiffs” suing the Texas system. They are children who have had to live in foster care on a long-term basis and they represent a “class action” suit on behalf of over 12000 other foster children.
Usually a foster care stay is approximately 12 to 18 months if all goes well, but for the not so fortunate, the stay in foster care may last for years. Many children never find a permanent home, and “age out” of foster care as a young adult who has not learned how to find a sense of security or how to trust people.
These children have become a product of their environment, harmed by the failure of a government system that needs not just an overhaul, but a miracle to fix. Whether an oversight created some problems or a lack of financial funding for a private foster family or residential facility occurred because of some bureaucratic red tape – the effects trickle down and the leftover mess is cleaned up by the ones that matter the most – the children – and when I say cleaned up, I mean dealt with.
Most of the time, the higher ups will never put a face to the name – or number these innocent children have become. Most of the time, these are not accidents, or unforeseen circumstances, but completely preventable and avoidable situations that leave these children paying the ultimate price by living in an unimaginably painful world. Negligence, abuse, misconduct, untrained workers, caregivers with backgrounds that should keep them from working in any environment ‘designed’ to protect children….are some of the causes for the damage done to these children. Caseworkers carry too high a workload with too little incentive or not enough pay for long hard overtime work hours so the turnover rate is high. The need to hire more workers often means they are not always experienced or even properly trained to deal with the depths of the situations they will encounter in their job. The real life situations of a child that they must protect if at all possible, realizing their decisions may change the course of many lives forever. That is not a light responsibility to be taken, and when the workers are hired and fired or quit so often that motivation to do the job right is low, lives can be ruined. Destroyed. By one choice made, or one decision.
I can barely touch the issues our system must address in order to affect a noticeably positive change that those families named in the lawsuit as well as those who are not. will benefit from. One thing is clear, anyone involved in the system will become someone new before its over with. The lawsuit outlines what the issues are that the children see in their daily lives when living in foster care. The lawsuit places the failures on the table for all to see now, not just the children, but anyone else who has not, until now, taken a look.
Its Almost Tuesday is thrilled that legal action has been sought to find justice for these children and families. Meanwhile we await the outcome of the battle ahead that the lawyers must face, and we can only cross our fingers that the outcome we can anticipate will be in favor of the children. We can only hope it will not only be in favor of the children, but also begin the road to remedy the harmful effects they have suffered. Somehow. Having said that it only seems appropriate now, to take the time to get to know these children, starting with M.D. the first named child plaintiff in the lawsuit.
M.D. is the first of many stories we will share. Remember, these stories are real. These experiences have been lives of children not unlike yours or mine — they have been caught up in an unfortunate trap set by a system out of control.
Child Welfare. Child Protection. How much do we see in these stories? Have these children been protected?
If they had been we would not watch as lawsuits are filed. If they were protected, I would not be writing this blog; or introducing you to these children. Although we will only learn their initials and not their full names, we will hopefully learn something about who they are – and not forget them.
Its Almost Tuesday commends all the survivors of the foster care system, applauds them for their courage when living in a world they never should have known…