Social Services Reform

Three years ago, I took in a young lady when her mom was having some mental difficulties.  I’ve since become her foster parent.  What we discovered was that she has PTSD as well as other mental health issues because of her childhood trauma.

I’ve spent some time researching and learning about the effects developmentally as well as medically of PTSD in children.  We often associate PTSD with Veterans and less with nonveterans let alone children.  But the effects are real.  PTSD in children is measured by research backed tests (ACES for example) and sent out for scoring from an independent company not directly involved with the child.  The exam is very thorough and professionally done.

Kids with PTSD grow up to have 2 ½ times higher rate of COPD and Hepatitis, 4 ½ times more chance of depression, 12 times higher rate of suicide and triple their risk of cancer AND heart disease!  One may think that of course they’re more likely to be depressed, look at their situation!  Children who grow up in a trauma filled home are more likely to get into trouble and make poor decisions which can contribute to depression and suicide.  BUT, kids who grow up and DON’T get into trouble, still have this increase in health risk factors.  The science shows that the amygdala, prefrontal cortex and the hypothalamic pituitary access are physically changed during childhood adversity!

This got me thinking –

What if a parent who shook their baby caused brain damage, what would happen to them?  Would they be charged with child abuse?  Would their parental rights be taken away?  Would that child be put back into their care?  I don’t think that child would be put back in that parent’s care.  So why is it that when a parent causes enough trauma through physical, emotional or psychological abuse to cause physical changes in that child’s brain that we remove the child temporarily and work on reunification?  I do believe that whenever possible children should be kept with their parents, but not when they’ve caused so much damage they physically change the shape of their child’s brain causing lifelong effects!  Why are we not talking about pressing charges instead of reunification?  Currently the law states that the child can be taken into custody of the state and placed in foster care for up to 15 months while reunification plans are made.  If at the end of that 15 months, the parents have not shown ample progress then parental rights can be terminated.  But not until the end of that 15 months.

Did you know that because our girls’ parents still have rights we have to ask permission for certain things?  Can we take her out of town?  Can she play on the trampoline in our backyard?  Can she go in a boat?  (And many others).  Because of this, her parents (particularly her mother) has tried to take privileges away from her in order to continue the abuse because she’s mad over the situation.

What I would propose is that when a parent causes PTSD (or other severe affects) in their child because of physical, emotional or psychological abuse that parental rights are terminated.  This opens up an opportunity for children to be placed in long term care such as guardianship or even adoption rather than keeping these kids in foster care.  Also, when PTSD is caused by a parent from an intentional attack (not caused because a parent has a mental condition) that charges could be made against that parent to be determined by social services.  I would also propose that we consider screening children in school for childhood traumas.  Using the Ace questionnaire (or something similar) early detection and help for families could be addressed possibly preventing PTSD or foster placement!

It’s time to stop the cycle.  It’s time to give these traumatized kids a SAFE place they can call home.  Forever.

In a nutshell:

Providing more resources for our social service system with a particular focus on foster care is essential for ND kids.  Our social workers have large case loads and resources in school for early detection of trauma are little or nonexistent.  I will focus on changing those dynamics and providing more support to families in need as well as families who are currently providing foster care for children.