The role of the American public should be pro-active and to remain as a vigilant watchdog of everybody else. It has been proven time and again that the American public’s united voice can influence and change even the most fundamental laws of the land. There are also various private and non-government organizations that some concerned individuals can join if they want active volunteerism roles. Now, after identifying the stakeholders and actors in effecting critical change in the child abuse and foster care system we now have, what else can be done?
It has been mentioned earlier on that individuals can be active participants towards the improvement and provision of alternatives for children victims of abuse and violence. This alternative can be as simple as providing a gateway for information and access to specific government agencies that may directly help the child in need. Again, in this digital age, one effective means is the provision or establishment of a website that can serve as a portal to all the other stakeholders involved in the issue.
Currently, we have the website of the US Department of Health and Human Services Website, Children’s Bureau titled “Child Welfare Information Gateway”. It provides statistical date and results or reports of previous studies conducted as to the effectivity of existing government programs that affect children’s welfare. A similar website can be launched by a concerned group of private organization that will interlink all government agencies and private organizations and the various services and programs available to the children in need.
This website portal could also serve as a means to educate the public about the issues of child abuse and the possibility of children encountering violence inside and outside their homes. Other things that can be put in the website are the various descriptions of programs and alternative approaches to countering child abuse and violence. A hotline to the nearest community or state agency office or center may also be advertised in the website so anybody can alert the proper authorities on emergencies concerning a child in need of intervention.
Efforts like the sample web portal to aid children in need of intervention can be advertised through the help of government agencies, through inclusion in various fliers and educational leaflets being distributed in schools and other public places where community members and children frequently go to. Public libraries may also be places where posters informing the general public about the presence of this web portal for children can also be a good place to start. Public libraries usually have several computers for use by the public free of charge.
Furthermore, search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN can also be solicited to help to put the web portal site address or URL at the top of their search engine results when viewers or researches search for particular words like children in need, child abuse, violence against children, children victims, etc. In closing, I would like to reiterate that the escalating incidence of children being put to the foster care system should be a cause of concern not just for the immediate relatives of the children themselves or the agencies or individuals tasked to care for these children.
The abuse and incidence of violence in foster care should be a concern for everybody – the general public. This is because of the long lasting and long term cause and effect of this issue. To reiterate, children who were abused have the highest tendency to also cause abuse in their children or against other children. These children victims of abuse and violence need immediate intervention. Some cases may not even surface until too late – as there is a state of limitation of 7 years in most states – in prosecuting child abuse cases.
That is why all people should be concerned and should be made aware of this societal issue of child abuse. The foster care system clearly needs an overhaul and a re-thinking of the checks and balances that surrounds the whole policy of taking children from birthparents. If we are to take children away from their parents, we should be able to ensure that they are better off in their next destination. Support systems should also be in place. Checks and monitoring of their well being until such an age that they are able to take care of themselves should be in place.
Otherwise, if measures are not in place, and the public not made aware of the issues involved and its far reaching consequences, then our children cannot be truly safe.
References: Barth, R. & Reid, MJ. Probation Foster Care as an Outcome for Children Exiting Child Welfare Foster Care. Social Work, Vol. 48 (2003). p. 132. Browne, Deborah. Coping Alone: Examining the Prospects of Adolescent Victims of Child Abuse Placed in Foster Care. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Vol. 31, 2002. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/