Saving the most abused children

Families who adopt children are scrutinized within an inch of their lives by social service agencies.  Foster families, who care for children temporarily, are also examined for qualifications.  But any pair of idiots can make a baby.  At least once in your life, you may have muttered to yourself that somebody ought to require licensing before horrible people are allowed to have children.

Some parents mistreat their children in ways the rest of us could not even imagine.  Those parents were probably mistreated themselves, and their children will probably grow up to mistreat the next generation of children, and we call that the cycle of abuse.

So when we read in the news about a monstrously abused child rescued from monstrous parents, we can feel some relief. The abuse was discovered and maybe the intervention will help this child and stop this cycle.

In the worst cases, when the child is too seriously damaged to be saved by mere rescue, what’s done is treatment foster care.  This intensive service is provided by volunteer families, through nonprofit agencies working with government.

With government funding always shrinking, it is good news that two New Mexico nonprofits in this field, both with outstanding reputations, have merged, consolidating administrative costs so they can stay strong. The new combined agency is La Familia-Namaste.  It has offices in Albuquerque, Gallup,  Farmington, Taos, Las Vegas, Santa Fe and Tome.

According to president Beverly Nomberg, treatment foster care children have been so neglected or abused that they may lack basic life skills such as how to respond normally to noise or touch.  The foster family, having received intensive screening and training, commits to having one or both parents in the home with the child around the clock, with a few days of respite each month.   The family is paid, but not much.  Intensive professional therapy is also provided.  Typically, a child is in this program for six months to a year and then shifts to “regular” foster care.  Some families take a series of children year after year.  I can only express awed admiration for these families.

La Familia-Namaste is looking for new families both for treatment and regular foster care, in all of its service areas, especially for ethnically diverse families to match with children of the same background.  Anyone living within 60 miles of an office is in the service area. Contact the Albuquerque office at (505) 766-9361.

New Mexico currently has about 500 children in treatment foster care and 2000 in regular foster care, many of whom are eligible for adoption.

Foster care has historically not been kind to children; many end up in prison or die young.  Nomberg says these dismal outcomes are improving due to recent changes in federal standards, such as encouraging adoption, but life is still tough for the kids who reach adulthood with no permanent family.  These kids become grownups who are part of our society, and it’s in the interest of all of us to help them become functional participants.

In tight times like these, social service programs are among the first to feel the pinch.  Even though they are an investment in our collective future, so many other needs are more urgent and compelling.  Treatment foster care is labor-intensive and expensive, and maybe we wish we didn’t need it, but we do, and thank goodness programs like this are saving children from much worse fates.   One way to prevent the next generation of horrible people from having children is to prevent abused children from growing up into horrible people.

Triple Spaced Again, © New Mexico News Services 2012

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