FOSTER CARE, CHILD WELFARE, AND
ADOPTION REFORMS




JOINT HEARINGS

BEFORE THE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON PUBLIC ASSISTANCE
AND UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION
OF THE
COMMITTEE ON WAYS AND MEANS
AND
SELECT COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN,
YOUTH, AND FAMILIES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDREDTH CONGRESS
SECOND SESSION
APRIL 13 AND 28; MAY 12, 1988

SERIAL 100-61






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Acting Chairman DOWNEY. Marcia Lowry and Boyd are next.
Marcia do you have something to say or is Boyd going to testify?


STATEMENT OF MARCIA ROBINSON LOWRY, DIRECTOR, CHIL-
DREN'S RIGHTS PROJECT, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION,
ACCOMPANIED BY BOYD A., FORMER NEW YORK CITY FOSTER
CHILD


Ms. LOWRY. Well, I do have something to say. I would like to in-
troduce Boyd to the committee and have him make some remarks.
Boyd is a young man who is a plaintiff in a law suit that the Chil-
dren's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties has brought
to try and enforce provisions of Public Law 96-272. He was in
foster care for almost 5 years. He is now living at home with his
mother and sisters and brothers. He has some things that he would
like to tell the committee about foster care. Then, just briefly, I
would like to make a few remarks myself.

BOYD A. OK. The first thing is when we were with my mother,
she put us in a foster care home for an emergency, but they took
advantage of it and kept us in. We were away from our family and
then me and my big brother and my little sister and my little
brother were in different homes. My mother just, she had to give
us up for a little while so we could just come back with her after
she get well from the hospital. But they did not let us come back to
our mother because they said that she was not well enough. And
that was not true, she was well. And then she kept on trying, kept
on fighting it, but we could not. We could not beat it. We could not
come back with our family again.

Then after that, we just went. I went to a different foster home
with my other brother and then, I think, my sister and my little
brother stayed in the same foster home. He touched a plant. Just
because of touching a plant he got smacked in the face. That was
not good. When he come to visit us I did not feel good. I think,
man, when they should be a foster mother, they should take care of
those kids. They should not just take them for the money. That is
what I think. And I do not think it is good. So after that happened,
we went to the same foster home, all of us. But, we were visiting
our mother. And one thing, man, when we went to visit, sometimes
we did not like to visit our mother. Do you know why? Because
when we went to visit our mother they would have to tear us apart
to take us away. We would not want to leave. And then, I could not
stand it. I could not stand it, so I went to another foster home.

First my brother went and then I followed my big brother, be-
cause I have always followed my big brother. Well, agencies still, it
still stayed like that. And then they stayed in Mrs. ---, they stayed in
the foster mother's home and we just went to a different one. And
that lady she smacked me and then she put me in hot water. And
it was hot, it did not feel good. I feel like doing that to her. That is
how I feel. And after that I had to go to a different foster home, so
I went to a different foster home. My brother stayed in that foster
home. I have to get so used to so many mothers. So many mothers.
It, is not funny. After that I went somewhere else to a different one
where I was there for, I do not know how long, but I was there.
Nothing actually happened there. From there I went to my father's,


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which my mother got me from there and we stayed in this place
for a long time. And I think it was in bad shape or something like
that. We were fighting, just fighting so we could stay back with our
mother. We said this, if we would go to a foster home then our
mother would come with us. If she would go to jail then we would
go with her. We did not care as long as we stayed together. That is
the only thing. That time was really, it was really a happy day for
us. But after that something happened to me, they looking behind my
back everything I do. Something happened wrong and I went into
another foster home which was no good. The lady only spoke Span-
ish. I only know a little bit of Spanish. I could not communicate
with her. I could not ask her nothing. After that I ran way from
there because I could not stand it. And I went to, that was in
Brooklyn, but I went to a different place, over my mother's house.
And we wanted so bad to stay together. And the cops came and
they tried to take us apart. I was going to hide.

And then they got me so I had to go to a different foster home. I
think it was in Long Island. Right there I had to spend all this
time just going and going back to come back with my mother. But
it was not funny. When I came back Chris Hansen, my lawyer, he
helped me. And he helped me come back. The day that I met him
was when we were telling them that we want to come back, inside
that place. And then we went to a shelter and that is where we
met him. And this was after about Long Island. When we came
back we swear that we would not go back again to a foster home.
We are going to stay with the family forever. That is the way we
feel. If we go back it is going to be, not going to be no good no
more. I do not like it. I still think that they are looking behind my
back. I do not trust them one bit. I do not think that the way they
work is the way it is supposed to work.

My mother had two apartments and they did not help her with
none. All this stuff happened over there and I did not even like it.
And I want to get back what they tonk from me. They took about
almost 5 years away from my life. I am only 12. That is about half,
half of my life right there that I spent just waiting to come back to
my real family. But I could not.

So now that we are together we will never part again. I am
happy we are together. The whole world is like it came back to me.
My sister and all of them, I love them all. We can, me and my
sister we cannot communicate too good because we have been apart
for so long and we do not act like brothers and sisters.

Acting Chairman DOWNEY. Thank you. Thank you Boyd.

Ms. LOWRY. I want to make clear to the committee that Boyd
comes from a very typical family. His mother had some difficulties,
not very serious difficulties. Yet, it took her almost 5 years to get
her children reunited. She got no help in getting her children back
despite the fact that there is a very clear and very strong bond in
this family. There was never any question of abuse in this family.
And the children fought desperately to come back to her. These are
children, of course, who are supposed to be protected by the very
fine legislation that Congress passed in 1980 which requires the
States to make reasonable efforts to avoid the need for foster care
placement whenever possible. Reasonable efforts were not made in


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this case and reasonable efforts are not made in hundreds and hun-
dreds of thousands of cases across the country.

The Children's Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties
Union has spent the last 8 years trying to enforce the provisions of
this very good piece of legislation in Federal court because the
States are not enforcing it and because the Federal Government is
not seriously trying to enforce it. There is very little in the way of
reasonable efforts to keep families together in the States across
this country. There are some very good model programs and that is
what they are. They are model programs. The States are not
making a serious effort in every case to keep kids together. There
are many children who come into foster care for whom the situa-
tion is not as it was in Boyd's case. There is in fact not a viable
family. The family will not be reunited, it is clear. And yet, no ef-
forts are made to move those children toward adoption.

The Federal law requires that there be periodic review of kids'
foster care status and that efforts be made to either move the kid
back home, if possible, and give services or to get the kid into an
adoption track if that is the appropriate course. Yet, the figures
show --- and there are very, very few figures --- that this is not hap-
pening. For example, in Louisiana one half of the children did not
receive mandated 6-month reviews. A third of the children did not
receive mandated 18-month dispositional hearings. In New Mexico
a quarter of the children did not receive the mandated 6-month re-
views. Access to adoption is a cruel hoax. It does not exist for most
of these kids. It takes such a long time to decide whether or not to
free a child for adoption that by the time a child gets on an adop-
tion track, the child is both so old and so damaged by his experi-
ences in foster care that he becomes truly unadoptable. Then the
States say, look, the only kids we have are kids that nobody wants.
The State has put them into that situation and the State has de-
layed getting these kids into a situation where people would know
that they were available for adoption.

The length of time in care is increasing and, as this committee is
aware, the population is going back up. We do not know the num-
bers of kids who are going in and out and if we did I think the fig-
ures would be even worse. There is an absence of really good data
that anybody can rely on. But what we do knowis devastating. The
harm to these kids, as you have heard Boyd articulate so well, is
immeasurable. It is not readily visible, because these children for
the most part, although there are exceptions, are not physically
abused. They are moved from home to home. Their ability to form
relationships with adults is destroyed so that we are breeding gen-
erations of psychopaths. Children are being left at home without
services and they are dying. More children are going to die. Chil-
dren are being taken away from their families and destroyed by
that when services could keep them together. They are growing up
to be children who are going to produce more generations of kids
who are going to produce more generations.

The question for Congress, I think is are you serious about this
law? It is a good piece of legislation. Are you serious about having
it enforced? Are you serious about trying to do something about
kids like Boyd in New York, Del in Louisiana, Joseph in New
Mexico and Michelle in Kentucky? Are you going to try and attach


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some strings to this huge amount of Federal money that you are
giving to the States to damage kids. If you are serious about it I
think that very big changes could be made for these hundreds of
thousands of children. But, so far what we see is virtually no moni-
toring by HHS. The reviews that are done of the States are irre-
sponsible. States are passing HHS audits with systems in which no
reasonable person could consider children are being well treated. It
is virtually impossible to fail an HHS audit. Notwithstanding the
fact that children like Boyd are being unnecessarily taken away
from their parents, other kids who cannot go home are not having
a chance to go into adoption. We have been trying to enforce this
law in Federal court because Congress is not and HHS is not.

I welcome the opportunity to speak to you all today and to urge
you to take this law off the paper and into the lives of these chil-
dren that you sought to protect.

[The statements of Marcia Lowry and Boyd A follow:]