On a daily basis child protection workers are faced with the dilemma of protecting a child while trying to preserve families. It can be an almost impossible dilemma in certain situations.
Of course, the vast majority of children are raised in families which are good or at least good enough. There are a smaller number of families where, with supports, they can be made good enough. Then there are those where the child cannot be safely maintained in the home but successful interventions can be brought to bear that will bring the family up to good enough and the child can be returned. There is a small number of cases where that cannot be the case. In those cases, parental rights need to be terminated.
Even in the latter cases, there can be open adoptions, long term foster care with access and kinship care options that allow children to be still connected to biological family. There are cases where biological family is just too unhealthy for contact even though children often still seek to find ways to have contact.
Family preservation has strong political forces on its side - and so it should for the majority of cases. But one needs to question where that line should be dropped. Are we trying to preserve families in cases where termination is in the child's best interests? Are we trying so hard to preserve families that we are seeing children come and go from foster care as parents improve, relapse, improve, relapse, improve, relapse yet again. This is foster care yo-yoing and can hardly be seen as beneficial.
Research in England recently published suggests that we need to get the decision in place as soon as possible and not drag the child through multiple placements through yo-yoing or other actions that do not create stability for the child.
The more a child is left in chaos, the harder many children find it to self regulate. The more placements, the harder it is for a child to be stable. For sure, there are many examples of children who go through many placements because of poor case management - a subject of a future post.
Child protection must understand that best interests of the child must also mean that they may not be able to preserve a child in their biological family when that family cannot be made good enough. Family preservation does not mean preserve at any cost.
This is pretty controversial as many critics of child protection point out the children who are harmed in foster care. Those problems too need addressing and future posts will address other fallings of the system.