We all know there are bad apples in foster care. It’s a horrible reality of our world that among those who are suppose to be examples of love and compassion, some can slip in and cause great harm to already hurting children. Today’s post is about another dark aspect of fostering, but this time it’s what can cause the good guys to run for the hills. It’s false allegations.
When it comes to false accusations, I’ve heard foster parents say, “It’s not a matter of if but a matter of when.” According to a 2002 report, foster parents are twice as likely to be the subject of a child maltreatment investigation. The source also states that 1 in 8 foster and adoptive parents will have false allegations brought against them, a number much higher than the average parent. The New York Times estimated that number to be closer to 1 in 4. The article also went on to describe some of the repercussions of allegations, even if found to be unsubstantiated: having the child removed from your home, closing your home for further placements, and the emotional toil.
The reason behind the high number of false allegations against foster parents can range from vengeful biological parents who spread false reports of abuse in hopes of winning back their children to foster teens trying to hurt you by lashing out. Anyone who has survived an investigation can attest to the stress and frustration of being wrongly accused. The Foster Parent Journal gives great advice on how to prevent and cope with an investigation.
One particularly poignant story I heard the other day comes from a foster mom who has survived false allegations and a 4 month investigation. I’m sharing her story today, with permission, to shed light on her experience in hopes of impacting change.
We were placed with a medically fragile preemie (unbeknownst to us) last year. We were told he was a NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, which means he was exposed to drugs in the womb and was born addicted) preemie but was clear. According to the professionals, there were no issues and no meds issued.
Wrong. He had severe tremors, blindness, water on the brain, and undiagnosed bleeding. At 2 months, he stopped breathing. My husband performed CPR until the first officers to the scene arrived. They jumped in the police car and left, without even waiting for the ambulance. He was completely gray at that point. Thank goodness he made it and thrived afterwards.
He had an odd shaped head. I spoke with another foster mom in my area that had just gotten her baby G fitted for a helmet (these babes had very similar backgrounds and could have passed as siblings). At his 4 month checkup, I requested having him fitted for a helmet. The pediatrician sent him for an ultrasound of his head to make sure there wasn’t an underlying issue that caused his malformation. As a result, he was diagnosed with hydro, and an old bleed was discovered.
We spent 15 days living with him in the hospital under investigation. The investigator put a request in to remove ALL of our children (him and 2 pre-adoptive kids) from our home because she believed we shook him. Two division offices AND his out of county workers fought for us, and the very next day, the hospital dismissed the allegations against us!
He was a very, very sick baby that should have gone to a medical home. The ophthalmologist confirmed that he had a congenital defect that caused the blindness and was not a symptom of abuse. To think that the investigator wanted to call in to have us arrested on the spot! She only interviewed us after all the information was in and after she’d requested our children be removed. It was the most horrific event to have ever happened to us in my life. The realization of exactly how vulnerable we really are as fosters hit extremely hard. There’s not a day that goes by that we don’t think about him. My husband still has nightmares and can taste the formula in his mouth from CPR. We’re still in therapy for it.
What made it even worse they removed him from us but didn’t even make prospective fosters aware of what had happened, the true reason why he was in the hospital and lied to many fosters calling in about him. Had I not shared all of the things we faced with him, God only knows what would/could have happened in his next home.
It’s been a little over a year but still very fresh. The investigation lasted 4 months even though we were cleared. The investigator was ruthless. She believed that we really did hurt him. She went to our foster kids’ schools, interviewed them without us, teachers, or administration. I get it. I’m extremely thankful that she was thorough with our baby boys because that means she’ll be the one to really put it to fosters that do harm their children but oh my god…. we still cry. The kids still ask about him. We have no idea where he is. His worker quit the division the Friday after we were told the investigator wanted to prosecute us. The entire thing was utter madness.
Her story is horrific, but she does have an idea of something that could help.
The issue, besides the investigation, that we’re pushing for is to have all babies exposed to drugs be given ultrasounds of their heads prior to being discharged from the hospital. The guideline for cranial ultrasounds for preemies is about less than 30 weeks and 2lbs. Our foster child was 32 weeks and 2.3 lbs. He had heroin in his system plus whatever other substance cocktail mom may have exposed him to with no prenatal care. He missed the cutoff by 2 weeks and 0.3 ounces. This is why we’re trying to push legislation to make it so that all babies born addicted, entering care, be given ultrasounds before discharge.
The opioid epidemic is at record highs. These poor babies are suffering and we’re the ones standing up to fight with them, but we as foster parents have no voice. We’re told to advocate for our children, but what they really mean is to shut up and let the system do whatever it wants.
She also pointed me to a radio broadcasting where her story was mentioned. It starts around minute 5 and speaks truth that I’m sure all foster parents will agree with. One comment I found interesting in the broadcast was when the speaker said she doesn’t see drug abuse among former NAS babies as entering addiction for the first time but as a relapse since they were exposed in utero and went through withdrawals as newborns.
While these types of situations are horrifying and may discourage potential foster parents, we have to push for change (like ultrasounds for premature babies entering foster care) and better resources for foster parents. And as a final thought, I would say to not let fear hold you back from doing what’s right. You can’t make decisions based on fear of oppression or the unknown. There are some difficult things and you may encounter evil in your journey, but that should make us want to fight all the harder for the innocent. They’re worth it every time.
You can find part two here.