I’d like to take the next few weeks to discuss some of the facts of foster care about which you might not be aware. Today, I’ll start with the number one reason kids come into care: neglect.
Neglect of a child occurs when their basic needs are not adequately met, and the result is actual (or even potential) harm. What might be news to you is what constitutes the spectrum of “basic needs;” these include adequate food, clothing, education, health care, nurturing, emotional support, and housing.
How does neglect even happen? I mean, to many of us, this list seems like it shouldn’t be too difficult to provide…but then again, most of us are not living the life of the biological parent who has had children removed.
So, the next logical question, at least in my mind is this: if it doesn’t seem that difficult to provide basic needs, how does neglect occur? Well, there’s not really a simple answer, because bottom line: neglect happens when parents are physically, emotionally, and/or cognitively unable to care for a child. Often, but not always, it is a combination of more than one thing. Sometimes it is because parents have a substance use disorder or addiction. Maybe the family is homeless for one reason or another. Possibly one or both parents struggle with mental illness. Or, one or both parents may have low cognitive function and struggle to care for themselves, let alone provide basic needs for a child.
There are, of course, outliers as well. For instance, the parents may simply not recognize the special medical needs that their child requires; it may be that a child has a medical condition which the parents have overlooked or don’t fully comprehend, so they do not realize that they are not meeting a child’s needs. In those instances, a child may be removed from the home; but if a parent is capable and willing, and he or she receives the training to properly care for a medical condition, then the child can be reunified. Note: this type of neglect is not very common.
Clearly the list above is not exhaustive, but it is at least one to get you started thinking about why neglect happens, and hopefully leads you to the realization that it’s not an easy fix. And because it’s such a broad area and the result of multiple issues, it’s not surprising that neglect is the number one reason for a child to be removed from a home.