Dyana Jean (The Magdalene Mantra)
Not many people understand the way juvenile justice works in the Family Court system. Juveniles can either be adjudicated delinquent or dependent. Children can live with foster parents, in group homes, or with other relatives. Up until recently, the push for reunification with biological parents took a back seat, often because the biological parents were the root of the child’s issues that either lead to delinquent acts, or lead to the child being removed from the home.
Such was the case for 6 year old, Khalil Wimes, who died from head trauma March 19, 2012, at the hands of his biological parents, with “too many scars to count,” according to one source in the investigation. He was also only 29 pounds. He lived with his foster-mother until he was 3 when child advocate attorneys, DHS social workers and a family court judge decided to return him to his biological parents. This is another child gone way too soon.
Since 2004, The Department of Human Services in Philadelphia, has undergone major financing restructuring due to constant cuts to social services funding from the State. Since 2006 until recently, cuts that were made to foster care specifically, made the Department call on social workers to push to reunite children with their biological parents. The social workers are specifically trained to work with the biological parents on addressing what is needed in order to make the reunification process successful. Reunification with biological parents falls into performance based contracting with non-profits. Those non-profits will get penalized financially if they do not reunify the families on their caseloads. The pressure is real. People’s lives and jobs are on the line. If you don’t get it right, this is what happens.
What we have here is a system squeezing out as much work as possible, with as little resources as possible, resources that can detect abuse and deal with neglect and/or issues of violence in the home. Reunification is not always possible no matter how much pressure being placed on social workers, child advocate attorneys, and DHS in general. How can we gamble with children’s lives like this only because the State doesn’t want to pay out to foster parents? Seriously?? Is that the issue? Shrinking the government so much that we get rid of the cost of paying loving foster parents , moving towards adoption of at-risk youth? That was called giving Khalil a chance to live the American dream? What a slap in the face to loving foster parents all over this country and the children who love them back.
One child dying at the hands of his biological parents, like Khalil Wimes, is a disgrace. The fact that DHS can’t do a better job because of budget cuts is an outrage. How many children will die before DHS is fully supported to do the job they do?
Millions of social workers show up every day to make a difference for all kinds of at-risk children and families. The majority of social workers work hard and there are success stories. However, if we believe our children are truly our future, what stops us from pouring all the resources we have into an investment for their well-being? 29 pounds with too many scars to count.