Photo: Gizmodo

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shattered Families

A dramatic report has woken me from my blogging slumber. "Shattered Families" outlines research carried out by the US based Applied Research Center. It found that over 5000 children were currently in foster care after their parents had been either detained or deported by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. This despite countering US Immigration and Child Welfare laws and policies, not to say international conventions,  based on the assumption that families will, and should, be united, whether or not parents are deported (NB: the US is alone with Somalia in not having ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child).

One mother deported to Mexico and separated from her 9-month old son, waited over a year to be reunited with him - by which time he had spend more time in foster care than with his birth mother. This family was fortunate. After a year, Child Protection Services draft a permanency plan, an outcome of which can be parental rights being terminated and the child being put up for adoption despite the parents possibly being in a position in their country of origin to be reunited with their child.

This is not the first time I have heard of children being separated from their detained parents. Under the UK's previous labour government, social workers were encouraged to remove children into foster care to force undocumented migrant families to return to their country of origin. The policy was overturned, largely because social workers refused to remove children who were not at rosk of harm.

And in my time working with families in chronic poverty in the UK, I saw too often children taken into care due to a lack of commitment, understanding and resources to keep families together. Yet when family-support organisations, such as ATD Fourth World, provided a long-term accompaniment to parents, they were able to demonstrate to social workers and family courts their capacity to care provide a safe and caring environment for their children.

It needs child welfare professionals, family advocacy organisations and also neighbours of these families to speak out against such practices which, as the report and video below state, shatter families.