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I recently read a story about a two year old little girl named Alexandra Hill. I felt it necessary to share a portion of this story with hopes to remind us all that there is so much work to be done within the foster care system, particularly with for-profit foster care.
Question, is it just me or do we all expect a child to be placed in a SAFE environment after being removed from their homes due to NEGLECT or MALTREATMENT???
Alexander Hill was taken away from her family in order to ensure her safety and well-being. She was placed in a foster home recommended by a Texas for-profit corporation. Three months after placement, Little Alex was dead!
Was Alexandra placed in a safe environment? Was this home in the ‘best interest of the child’? Who decided this was the best home for her? Who will be held accountable? And….how often does this happen???
Alexandra’s story is one that mirrors the lives of many other children entering into foster care which is why it is so important that I share. If we don’t know of a problem, then how can we try and fix it???
Parents of Alexandra, Joshua and Mary lost custody for a few reasons. One, they both smoked marijuana, and Mary has an illness that causes her to have seizures often. Also Alexandra lived with Joshua’s parents, along with his father who had served time for having sex with his mother’s 16 year old daughter. Although no one denies that Joshua and Mary loved Alexandra, it is clear that this was not a safe arrangement. The state removed Alexandra from her grandparents’ home placing her in a foster home.
After being removed from the first foster home due to Joshua’s accusations that his daughter was being abused, Alexandra was placed with Mrs. Sherill Small who at the time was fostering an infant as a means of support for her family. She resided with the fostered infant, her two children and her husband, Clemon Small.
According to reports, on the day of Alexandra’s death Mrs. Small had been upset with Alexandra for waking up too early and getting something to eat and drink without permission. At some point Mr. Small left the house leaving Mrs. Small alone with Little Alex; approximately 15 minutes later she called 911. Police arrived to find Alexandra lying on the floor unconscious; although all foster parents are trained in CPR, there appeared to be no attempts to revive her. Reports further explain that Mrs. Small confessed to slamming Little Alex’s body on the floor causing her to hemorrhage, but said she did so “accidentally” while playing a “game” with her. The autopsy showed that Alexandra had suffered bruising throughout her body, thus suggesting ongoing abuse.
More disturbing facts include the agency’s inability or care to properly assess the family to ensure they were ‘fit’ for fostering children. The investigation determined that Mrs. Small had been in foster care from the age of two; had three daughters, who were raised for a short time by her parents; and one of her daughters remained in the care of her parents. Mrs. Small and her husband had criminal records which included multiple drug charges, and Mr. Small was a recovering crack addict which was listed in his description on the foster care application. Let’s not forget to mention that Mrs. Small told the caseworker that she was very stressed out prior to bringing Alexandra into the home. Am I the only one who sees the possible issues here?
Keeping in mind Alex’s story, I would like to provide some more information for you.
Nationally, no one tracks how many children are in private foster homes, or how they perform compared to those services provided by the government. After one author covering this story, Brian Joseph questioned every state about the number of children in its foster system, only eight of them responded. The eight states combined had a number of at least 72,000 in 2011. Mr. Joseph stated that not one of the states had a statistically valid dataset comparing costs and rates of abuse and neglect in privately versus publicly vetted homes. When he asked about this, Mr. Joseph was told that, “Data is a low priority because it’s difficult.” Then the individual stated, “How do you measure child safety?” What in the world does this mean??????????
Private agencies in Texas alone were found to have more than 100 deficiencies or violations of standards in 56 of its foster homes; and this is only what has been reported. Children all over the country are being sent to foster care through private owned companies; they are being sexually assaulted, beaten, neglected and murdered! What’s worse is there is little accountability! These companies are skating away scott free, as well as some of the foster parents causing the harm to the children. Who is fighting for our children???
Bottom line….placing a child in foster care is often times more dangerous than leaving the children in their homes and taking the time (and spending the money) to address the things that can be changed through the implementation of education, resources and/or financial assistance.
Tomaro’s C.H.A.N.G.E. is aware that we cannot ‘save’ everyone; and when we are able to make a difference it may only be one life at a time but just imagine if we all realize the impact that changing one life can make. Education, resources and a little financial assistance can go a long way….it can possibly prevent the need for so many children to be removed from their homes, thus decreasing the need for so many foster homes (particularly private ones). No, we cannot save all the children in the world but who says we can ACT as if we can. A change may not be seen in our lifetime but we must start somewhere or our children will continue to suffer; the number of children being mistreated and who are dying will continue to grow. AND THAT MY FRIENDS IS JUST UNACCEPTABLE!!!!!
A life today, a nation tomorrow…we can do this if we work together!
Mrs. Tomaro Pilgrim, MS