Child Protective Services Is A Necessary Organization But Drug War Causes Abuse of System

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Child Protective Services (CPS) is a necessary organization. There are children who need to be protected from families if they are not safe, well fed and properly cared for.

Certainly organizations like CPS needs to exist because there are children out there who need a safe place to go if their home environment is not one that is conducive to a healthy upbringing if they are being abused, neglected and otherwise harmed.

Every child should have a home that has running water, electricity, food and love. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Nearly 25% of American children live below the federal poverty line. Nearly one million American children are homeless. Many children live in homes where they are subject to physical or sexual abuse. For some children, adulthood comes too soon.

Child Protective Services should aim to place kids with family first if there are members of the extended family who can and will care for those children, many local CPS organizations have this requirement, although there is no oversight of the placements.

If a child doesn’t have extended family who can take care of them, into the system they go until the family from which they were removed has met criteria where the child or children may return home. Adoption should be used only as a last resort and for extreme circumstances when a child cannot and should not be returned to a home.

The idea of governmental protection of children has a long and morphing history in the United States, but did not become established state government-funded entities until the early twentieth century—shortly after labor laws were passed to protect children from working, particularly in dangerous factories, which was rampant during the Industrial Revolution.

While these organizations remained managed at the state level, it wasn’t until 1974 that federal funding was introduced. Today CPS agencies have little government oversight and are forced to survive on whatever budget their municipality leaves them.

The War on Drugs has created an environment where kids, especially children under the age of 3, are looked at as potential adoptees, potential revenue for the agency. Although there is federal funding of these agencies, there is little to no federal oversight.

Local agencies receive between $2,000-$4,000 in federal funding per child adopted once they have been removed and placed in foster care. Agencies can receive up to $8,000 in incentive pay once an older child is adopted. Young children are easier to place into adoptive homes. The federal government spends $4.5 billion a year to fund local agencies. Once in foster care, children are 11 times more likely to be sexually abused and twice as likely to be physically abused.

Older kids are not as adoptable, teens often end up in for-profit juvenile detention facilities for what would have been “slap on the wrist” misdemeanors. Instead of being given appropriate consequences for their youthful indiscretions, they are exposed to more serious delinquent individuals and removed from their homes and schools sometimes for years, sentences that do not match the reasons for their entry into the juvenile justice system.

According to the Children’s Defense Fund, “On any given day, approximately 81,000 children (263 of every 100,000 youths ages 10 through the state’s upper age of original juvenile court jurisdiction in the general population) are held in a juvenile justice residential placement. Additionally, 7,560 children are held in adult jails and 2,778 in adult prisons. As noted in the 2007 report of the National Prison Rape Elimination Act Commission, juveniles are at highest risk of being sexually abused while in confinement, and children housed in adult facilities are at an even higher risk of being victims of sexual abuse than the children retained in juvenile facilities.”

The older children, mostly teens, are in a system that is reflective of our adult prison system, which is also becoming frighteningly an increasingly a private industry. Everyone agrees something needs to be done to help these vulnerable children, but nobody wants to pay.

Instead, local child protection agencies are at the mercy of funding to exist. Fifty years of federal wars have forced us to make cuts to one of the most pivotal roles our government can play to improve our society– taking care of our future by taking care of our children.

By Diane Fornbacher and Angela Bacca