Where Do The Children Go?
Mark Ybarra, Foster/Adoptive Father and Certified Family Life Educator
Where do the children go in the state of Michigan?
It is understandable that many Michiganders are not familiar with the plight of special needs foster and adopted children. By ‘special needs’, I mean older children aged 3-18 with physical, mental, emotional, or learning disabilities. Special needs children enter our communities having left behind pasts filled with hurts and disappointments. These are resilient and gifted children who are seeking safe homes, acceptance, and most importantly, unconditional love.
Special needs children enter ‘the system’ unwillingly and oftentimes spend extended periods of time in foster care, moving from one foster home to another. This instability usually does not bode well for these children and can deny them opportunities to form relationships, develop social skills, attach to caregivers, and learn and mature at the same pace as their peers.
Unfortunately, through no fault of their own, special needs children are oftentimes stigmatized and have negative stereotypes to overcome in life. What is even more troubling is the fact that too many are not receiving the kinds of advocacy or interventions needed to lessen the likelihood of contact with the criminal justice system.
These children are not about a ‘second chance.’ An abused, neglected, or traumatized youngster needs more than a single second chance in life. As an ex-correctional officer, let me add that where jail is concerned, there is no rehabilitation on the inside, and even if there were, you cannot rehabilitate what you do not already have. Some of these children have already experienced being institutionalized as Wards of the State in treatment facilities and youth homes. They need our inspiration, not behind bars incarceration.
Make no mistake about it, there are people who care, parents and volunteers, who do provide social events and parent meetings. For foster and adoptive families, however, there is a much greater need for active advocacy on issues such as mental health, substance abuse, education, employment, and the criminal justice system. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that eligible foster children find permanency in homes across the state. These children are some of Michigan’s greatest assets for the future.
So, again, I ask the question, “Where do the children go in the state of Michigan?”
Mark Anthony Ybarra is a retired teacher and Certified Family Life Educator who serves as an adjunct professor of family law & public policy and is a former foster parent. He resides in Michigan with his adopted sons, Anthony and Scott, and their two dogs, Rudy & Buddy.
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