In rebuttal: M. Callahan: Foster care is a money game

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An Associated Press report on child abuse the week before Christmas?

It was moving, but also misleading.

The headline “Extreme failure” implies that child abuse is on the increase when actually the opposite is true. A huge study commissioned by the federal Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation shows the incidence has decreased 24 percent since 1993.

Of course, “Extreme failure” could refer just to the sad death of Ethan Henderson at the hands of his father. It does seem as if a lot of balls were dropped.

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I learned my lesson about believing everything I read back when Logan Marr died in 2002.

She was killed by her foster mother, and in order to shift the blame to her birth mother, newspapers painted a picture of mom as a depraved drug addict.

It turned out Logan was actually removed from a loving family back when the Maine Department of Human Services (now the Department of Health and Human Services) was working with a “when in doubt, get ’em out” mentality that made Maine the state with the fourth highest percentage of kids in foster care.

The AP article left out the important fact that the father responsible for Ethan’s death was raised in foster care, the worst possible training ground for parenting. He was removed during the bad old days, maybe from a loving family, too.

If so, the blame for Ethan’s death may go back a generation.

For anyone who doesn’t remember the bad old days, let me give you some examples from my own foster kids. One was removed for a spanking and another for “rough handling on the way to the car” when she was being suspended from school.

The rest of my foster kids never had a hand laid on them by their parents. They were removed for neglect — code for poverty.

Since Logan’s death and the subsequent reforms there are far fewer kids in the system and child abuse has gone down. Shows the system is capable of learning from its mistakes.

But it sure took a while. Why? Because of the financial incentive.

Almost everyone involved in the foster care system is paid by the child, by the day. So it behooves them to remove a lot of kids and keep them. It took me three years to adopt my son because the foster care agency needed him to “make payroll.”

I can’t help but wonder if there is a financial reason for the “Extreme failure” report to be out there at all, with versions of it in newspapers around the country.

Why make people think the pendulum has swung too far and start to grab more kids if things are actually getting better?

Does money really talk louder than kids?

Mary Callahan, RN

Maine Alliance for DHS Accountability and Reform, Lisbon

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