Kelsey Crouse:How to help DSS protect children

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The Department of Social Services has been a part of my life since 1998, when my family decided to take in foster children. Both my parents worked. My dad was in the Navy and always deployed and my mom was a women’s counselor at a halfway house in Norfolk Va.  We took children from babies to teenage girls.  At a young age I was exposed to the cruelties of  world. I became a protective sister to more than a 100 needy children. They had been beaten, abused, abandoned and stripped away from the only home they knew. I saw firsthand what the system did to these kids. Some become hard and develop emotional detachment.

Kids in the system are bounced from one foster home to the next whether they are looking for a permanent placement or a family who is open for adoption. In an effort to stop this process my family would take kids that were waiting to find out if their parent could gain their parental rights back and keep them for the two-year probation period to give the kids stability until they could go home.

A lot of times when children were taken from our home it was due to the fact that we were white and the kids were black or another nationality. I remember when my family lived in Virginia, five brothers came to stay with us. They had been through a lot but they were young and had not been in the system long. They were waiting for their parents to go through the legal system and go home. It was not even a week when their social worker came to split them up in order to place them with black families.  The boys didn’t want to go and hid all over our house making the social worker find them. It was sad but funny to watch the social worker find them. White people couldn’t take care of black children properly, according to many of the social workers.

Situations like this happen often. This is not a problem in just one state. Social Services and law enforcement are supposed to act in the best interest of the child. Removing a child from a safe, supportive home because of racism or moving them from one foster home to the next and in and out of youth facilities is not in their best interest.

Unfortunately DSS is underfunded and understaffed. If the state could properly pay social workers and open more positions they would not be overloaded with cases. If there were more social workers to help with the caseloads, then the best interest of the child would be the main focus and not the amount of cases they have to get through in the short amount of time. Social workers are drastically overworked in an already stressful job for little pay. That does not exactly attract people to apply for a job.

The Department of Social Services is a great program but like all great programs it has flaws. And like most problems within government programming it could be help with proper funding and more people. Social workers work extremely hard with the exception of the few bad apples that are sadly the ones people remember.

I respect the difficult choices social workers and law enforcement have to make. I also respect that different belief systems, religions, and the cultures of the children need to be preserved but not at the expense of compromising the child’s safety.

In a recent event, two girls were court ordered out of foster care and into the care of their grandfather and his wife. While in their home the girls were terribly abused, ending in one of the girl’s death. The investigation is ongoing so information is limited. I do not know how the girls were put in such danger but I do know that this needs to be examined further than just the prosecution of the abuser. I am at a loss of how to fix the system so that when a child’s safety is at risk they can be properly protected.

Foster parents are put through an extensive process of paperwork, classes, background checks, and home studies before they are allowed to bring a child into their home.  The Department of Social Services does the best job they can to protect the children in our community.  Thank a social worker for their hard work when you get the chance.

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