Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Foster Care System Disregards Fathers - Glenn Sacks

Foster Care System Disregards Fathers

Excerpts:

The new report, What About the Dads? Child Welfare Agencies’ Efforts to Identify, Locate, and Involve Nonresident Fathers, examines the foster care systems of Massachusetts and three other states. The report contains a shocking finding: when fathers inform child welfare officials that they would like their children to live with them, the agencies seek to place the children with their fathers in only 8% of cases.

Research shows that fathers matter. The rates of the four major youth pathologies--juvenile crime, teen pregnancy, teen drug abuse, and school dropouts--are tightly correlated with fatherlessness. For example, one long-term study of teen pregnancy published in Child Development found that a father's impact is so large that income, race, the mother's characteristics and a host of other normally powerful factors all mattered little. What mattered was dad.

What About the Dads? makes it clear that many child welfare workers treat fathers as an afterthought. The report found that even when a caseworker had been in contact with a child’s father, the caseworker was still five times less likely to know basic information about the father than about the mother. And 20% of the fathers whose identity and location were known by the child welfare agencies from the opening of the case were never even contacted.

These policies are seriously misguided. When a mother is deemed unfit to care for her children, dad shouldn’t be just one option out of many. He should be first in line.

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