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Saturday, September 29, 2007

A System Run Wild

I just returned from an errand and happened to run into a woman who showed a great deal of interest in the book I was reading, How to Overthrow the Government by Arianna Huffington (www.huffingtonpost.com). I mentioned this blog and she proceded to tell me the following:

A couple years ago, she was arrested for driving without a license and no proof of insurance, two offenses she readily admitted to me. Apparently, a short time before she was to appear in court, she lost her apartment (no details on why) and was preoccupied with trying to establish a new residency. She forgot about her court appearance and, naturally, a bench warrant was issued for her.

Within a few days, she was arrested at one of the homeless shelters in Denver and her children were taken into the foster-care system. The system tried to place the children with their fathers (two children, two different dads), but one placement did not work out well when the father proved to be abusive and neglectful. That child was put back into the foster-care system and awaits a non-familial placement. Fortunately the other child fared much better. His dad took the situation seriously and is working hard to care for his son. Guess which father gets the blue ribbon of the day.

The mother served her time (in jail since she didn't show up for court) for her rather minor crimes and returned to the community. The problem got worse when the foster-care/social worker stated she could not get her kids back until she re-established her housing and employment situation, something that for someone who is homeless can take months, if not years.

Such demands and expectations, though seeming reasonable on first glance, can be a virtual life sentence for the kid, sentencing him or her to spend the rest of their childhood lost in the system. Statistically, to say this is a less than ideal situation would be an understatement.

Keeping any mother or father from their children because they are homeless is an insult to our community. Any of us could end up homeless for one reason or another. To label someone as unfit to be a parent because they lost a job or had a disaster occur that cost them their home is adding insult to injury.

It is high time we come up with realistic solutions to situations like this. The system as it stands is doing far more harm than good.

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