Monday, January 22, 2007

Stigma of foster care and group home residency

Readers' Forum: Brooklawn's propose group home
Louisville Courier-Journal, Jan. 18, 2007, pg. A6.

"Proven success'
As a longtime supporter of Brooklawn's excellent programs and former chairman of the board of directors there, I was appalled at the venom directed by Jim King and others toward the young men in Brooklawn's care.

I challenge them to state the factual basis for their comments about psychotic children and the potential for sex crimes.

Have they ever been to Brooklawn, met any of the children there and heard the sad stories of their terrible lives before Brooklawn, learned of Brooklawn's structured programs and proven success, talked with any of the highly trained professional staff?

The residents at Brooklawn are not monsters bent on disrupting a nice neighborhood or attacking your wives and children.

They are children with treatable emotional conditions arising, in many cases, from neglect or abuse from those who are supposed to nurture and support them.

With their comments and actions, the critics of this transitional living unit once again victimize these children by telling them they are not worthy to live in their community. That an elected official, entrusted to see to the good of the whole community, is involved is especially reprehensible.

The staff at Brooklawn ... will be strenuously screening those boys who have completed treatment for the appropriateness of this setting. Then, they will be providing supervision for the boys from trained professionals.

There are so many more safeguards here than when your neighbor puts a house up for sale, and it goes to the highest bidder.

The residents at Brooklawn, each one a child of God, need and deserve our interest, support and love.

I encourage you to reject the ignorant comments of those bent on fear-mongering, go to Brooklawn or another of several excellent treatment and child-caring facilities in our area, learn the facts, and reach out and become involved in helping those children in our community who so need our care and concern.

-Susan Turner, Louisville 40223

'Programmed for failure'
Among Kentucky's most vulnerable are Brooklawn's teens, who deserve better than to be dropped off at a group house with only shift workers to care for them.

In his autobiographical book, A Life Without Consequences (2001), Stephen Elliot writes that group homes exist below foster homes on the lowest rung of the child welfare ladder.

The kids in group homes could not be adopted because they have too long a record, they have some huge behavioral disorder, or they were already in foster homes and the foster care parents realized that they had made a mistake.

Elliot writes that group homes are programmed for failure: You have a house full of kids and you have rotating, often minimum-wage staff. There are no binding relationships with adults. Then the kids turn 18 and are out on the street where the odds are against them.

So-called "transitional living" is not the answer for these special teenagers. Common sense dictates that they need dedicated, loving adults to provide them with basic support — shopping, cooking, cleaning — while they focus on their studies and a healthy social life.

Brooklawn must look past the large financial benefits that will accrue from each teen it houses off campus and place the needs of these kids before its own.
-Robin Dillof Burnham, Louisville, 40205


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