Richard Gelles is a well known scholar within the area of family and child welfare, a scholar who, up until David’s case came to his attention was pro-family reunification. This book is something that I had to read this semester for my Domestic Violence class, however it brings so many important factors to the forefront regarding America’s child welfare system that it is worth dicussing here – and truly, everywhere.
After responding to a call from mother Darlene Edwards, the EMTs found fifteen month old baby David in his crib not breathing. The medical personnel tried to revive him, but to no avail. Meanwhile mother Darlene stood by, she made no attempts to hold her child, she did not cry or scream, she just stood there, waiting. Following the protocol of the state, an investigation was launched. The information that came up during this investigation sits less than kosher.
The father Donald is understood to be a drinker and probable that he abused his wife. Darlene worked as a prostitute out of the apartment she shared with her family, she would bring customers in while leaving her child in the other room. The part of this whole situation that pisses me off the most; David’s older sister Marie had been removed from the family due to an investigation into abuse against her.
There a lot of bones to pick with the system when you read The Book of David. The constant switching of personnel through each phase of going through the child welfare system and the laziness shown on the part of each person through failure to communicate with each other is a major problem. It left one child vulnerable to abuse from her mother for far too long. Another issue is the blinders that those employees of the system have. They treat each child as a seperate case. If a mother fails to change her attitude toward abusing her first child, what makes an individual – one IN THE FIELD SEEING THIS REGULARLY nontheless – believe that her behaviors are going to change with the next child? The failure of a mandated reporter to actually report the abuse spotted like protocol states is inexcusable. Another bone to pick, the lack of training. It’s no secret that America’s welfare systems are underfunded, undermanned, overwhelmed, and in need of some serious revamping, but there were mistakes made here that should not have been.
Gelles does make suggestions about what could be done to benefit our child welfare system. Among his suggestions are the elimination of mandated reporters and increased emphasis on training our social workers. Personally, I believe an infusion of common sense for some of these individuals are in order. Some of our social workers bust their asses regardless of crazy hours and low pay, the rest need a serios revamp.
I don’t pretend to have the answers. I don’t know about laws everywhere or the exact missions of each child welfare department. I can’t tell which countries have the greatest systems or which have the worst. I can’t even do that for all of the states. As it is each state has its own mission for child welfare. Some put emphasis on getting the child into a safe environment whether its with family or without. Other states believe on doing everything to reunite the child(ren) with their parent(s). Whatever the individual laws, Gelles has helped me to open my eyes more fully to the state of things within America’s child welfare system. Someway, somehow, we need to do something. We need to protect children like David who at fifteen months old had no way to protect himself. I have a baby brother who’s sixteen months old and another turning four in December. The thought of anything like this ever happening to them makes me go ape-shit. And while I know that my dad and step-mom give them a great home, so many children out there are not as lucky. So the question becomes, what are we going to do about it?
Do you have any thoughts? And if you know anything about the child welfare laws where you reside do you see any similar problems? Do you see anything that could be improved upon?
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