MYTH: They will make the same false claim by arguing that taking away the child “when in doubt” is “erring on the side of the child.”
FACT: In fact, there probably is no phrase in the child welfare lexicon that has done more harm to children than “err on the side of the child.”
When a child is needlessly thrown into foster care, he loses not only mom and dad but often brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, teachers, friends and classmates. For a young enough child it can be an experience akin to a kidnapping. Other children feel they must have done something terribly wrong and now they are being punished. One recent study of foster care “alumni” found they had twice the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder of Gulf War veterans and only 20 percent could be said to be “doing well.” How can throwing children into a system which churns out walking wounded four times out of five be “erring on the side of the child?”
Two more studies, of 15,000 cases, are even more devastating. Those studies found that even maltreated children left in their own homes with little or no help fared better, on average, than comparably-maltreated children placed in foster care. (Details on our website here.) Whenever anyone tells you that rushing to tear children from their parents is “erring on the side of the child” please remember the 15,000 children who would gladly tell you otherwise if they could. And as noted above, the rate of abuse in foster care is disturbingly high, with several studies finding abuse in one in four or one in three foster homes. If a child is taken from a perfectly safe home only to be beaten, raped or killed in foster care, how is that “erring on the side of the child”? If a child like Nubia is denied placement with extended family members and thrown into foster care with the Barahonas, how was that “erring on the side of the child”?
None of this means no child ever should be taken from her or his parents. Rather, it means that foster care is an extremely toxic intervention that must be used sparingly and in small doses.
THE PRICE OF PANIC, FLORIDA, 2011
By Richard Wexler, NCCPR Executive Director
Released April 26, 2011
DCF Florida Save Our Children