06/11/08 — Who will pay? Bad parenting costs so much for rest of community

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Who will pay? Bad parenting costs so much for rest of community

There is a consequence to sending children back to struggling, previously proven unfit parents — or relying on adults who are less than stellar to be foster parents in an already overburdened system.

In fact, North Carolina is watching one of those tragedies unfold now in the case of the foster mother who killed one of her foster children because of her draconian discipline method prompted by her own bad experiences as a child.

This was an obviously damaged woman put in charge of children who had already been through neglect, abandonment and every other horror that comes with having an unfit parent.

And that is why some of the old answers to how we handle unfit parents and their children just don’t work anymore.

In the past, perhaps reunification as a goal — or keeping the family together as a priority — was worth the effort. The idea was that parents who had previously proven themselves to be unreliable and perhaps drug abusers or criminals could go through therapy or other rehabilitation and earn back the right to parent their children.

And in some cases, that goal has been and will continue to be successful, but in many cases, it just isn’t.

So what happens is, children who have been damaged by their parents are revictimized — and there are just so many cases that child advocates cannot keep up.

And then guess what happens — another round of people who should not have children or who are not ready for them, start the cycle all over again.

The foster parent crisis is a different story. There are some wonderful foster parents who give of themselves to provide loving homes for abandoned or neglected children. And some of their charges are really damaged — with serious problems to battle. They are worth their weight in gold — but they aren’t as plentiful as they used to be.

And if we aren’t careful, we end up with people acting as foster parents who do not have the proper training, history or motivation. And that breeds more tragedy.

The fact is, we need to figure out how to stop unfit parents from begetting more children, period or from getting their children back. There should be an incentive for unalterable birth control — not just an increase in benefits for having more children — and a fee you have to pay if the state takes care of your children.

Until we get tough, we will continue to watch our tax money go down the drain as we fund more and more criminal justice solutions and deal with more costs associated with raising unfit parents’ children.

Parenting is a responsibility and not a right — and it is time it was treated as exactly that.

Published in Editorials on June 11, 2008 10:42 AM