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Reneging on Respite Reimbursement

Hallowell — Give Me a Break! Reneging on Respite Reimbursement

Grandma is in the hospital for hip surgery. Mom is recovering from a hysterectomy. Dad needs a weekend to repair the flooding damage and broken windows from Johnny’s melt-down on Thursday. Johnny needs a break from Mom and Dad and all their stupid rules before he has another melt-down. Rover needs recovery time from the unexpected kick in the head Johnny gave him. The neighbors are celebrating a major anniversary and would appreciate a little quiet next door.

Children who have been removed from their families because of sexual abuse, or because they have been stepping on discarded hypodermics with heroin residue, or because Mommy has not fed them in three days and Daddy is busy smoking pot and watching porno are not simply your average, energetic kids seeking identity and independence. Kids who have lived lives of abuse and neglect have some special challenges and special needs by the time they enter State custody.

The men and women who volunteer to love these children, to bring them into their homes, to parent them, to be their therapists, nurses, special-order cooks, teachers, spiritual supports, advocates, coaches, and crisis managers also have some special challenges and special needs. They can not simply call Aunt Susie to request she take Johnny for the weekend. Johnny would eat her alive.

Until recently, the State of Maine (the legal guardian for these kids) has been willing to pay trained and licensed families two to three dollars an hour to provide specialized Respite Care when foster parents and their children need a break. As of February 1, foster parents will be required to fend for themselves under the governors budget curtailment and new Supplemental Budget.

Remember, Governor, the State is the guardian of these fragile lives and Tim Sample is only kidding when he describes duct tape as a solution to our problems. Any savings you imagine may be realized by yanking supports from foster children and their treatment families will certainly be consumed in multiples by the resulting burn-outs. You may need to spend your savings at the Fire Marshalls Office.

Mark Katz

January 27, 2008

January 28th, 2008 Posted by narsbars | Foster Children | 2 comments


  1. I am not now, nor am I currently considering becoming, a candidate for elected office.

    Comment by Mark | January 29, 2008

  2. What Your (Foster) Mother Does Not Want You to Know
    #3 in the “Big Lies” List

    Some of you know what a Slinky is. A fascinatingly simple mechanism, Slinky toys are what we might call “resilient.” Resilient means “springing back; readily recovering.” Compress a Slinky, let go, and it immediately springs back to its full original state. For years I have been listening to social workers, policy makers, and bureaucrats describe children as resilient. An interesting fact about the Slinky; if you twist it severely, turn it in on itself, or otherwise seriously damage it, it loses its resilience.

    Seriously wounded children, those who have suffered abuse and neglect, who have been traumatized by adverse childhood experience are NOT resilient. The neurology is clear and indisputable. The brain structures and networks, the neuro-endocrinology, and the developmental pathways of these children have been modified irreversibly. This is not to forsake all hope; plasticity within brain structures and pathways can allow for miraculous functional replacement given sufficient time and experience. However, the children of trauma do not recovery readily; they do not bounce back.

    Playdough is another familiar toy. Keep it contained when unsupervised, don’t allow it to dry up and it will take whatever form you imagine. Pound it, push it, twist it and it will still remain malleable. Malleable means that you can shape it. Children are malleable; even following trauma. Forcefully expose Playdough to an image from the Sunday comics. It will absorb the impression. It will appear to have a memory for that exposure; until you change its shape again. Shaping kids is like that. You can mold most any behavior you wish with appropriate schedules of reinforcement. But if they are not contained, if you do not maintain the same environment, be prepared for the shape to shift. Take a child out of a restrictive, residential behavioral management setting and marvel at how little generalizes and is maintained in the new setting.

    For wounded children, persistent change and recovery do not happen quickly. Medicaid models for quick psychotherapy and behavior management do not reflect the underlying realities. Healing takes time and it usually requires seasoned, highly skilled therapists. The children of trauma do not simply return to the nest to heal once the damage is done. Evidence is clear, also, that much childhood trauma is trans-generational. The unhealed child grows to become the neglectful and abusive parent. The cycle is only interrupted if necessary interventions promote real healing (or if a generation is neutered, either surgically or medically.)

    Sociopathy and psychopathy are outcomes of abuse and neglect. Their social costs are astronomical in terms of both dollars and humanity. I, for one, am not comfortable allowing the bean-counters and the servants of the politicians to determine by default how we cure ourselves every time cyclical downturns impinge upon the coffers. These are neither the best times, nor are they the best judges of what ultimately represents best practice.

    Comment by Mark | January 31, 2008

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