Weighing in on the Rights of Parents


A Cleveland, Ohio mother is losing her child for a pretty unique reason: the state has determined that her child is too fat.

The mother brought her child into a hospital sometime last year, citing concern over problems breathing.  The doctors at the Rainbow Babies and Children’s hospital diagnosed him with sleep apnea (a disease commonly associated with being overweight), contacted social workers, and enrolled the 200+ lb. youth in a program geared towards shedding pounds.  The youth experienced moderate success for a while, but quickly regained the weight. 

The mother of the child (whose name has not been released) was distraught, shocked at the fact that her child was being forced into the foster care system based on her weight.  The mother was quoted as stating, “It’s a lifestyle change and they are trying to make it seem like I am not embracing that. It is very hard, but I am trying”.

The Constitution places a high level of importance on the rights of parents to raise their children as they see fit.  Legally, the state must have a compelling state interest in removing a child from their parent’s care.  A “compelling state interest” can be the health and well-being of an individual.  What’s curious –and possibly dangerous- about this however, is the fact that America is facing an obesity epidemic.

For those of you on the side of removing the child from the parent citing the better good, consider the case of Adela Martinez.  A decade ago, her three-year old daughter, Anamarie was removed from her care. … <Read More>

Public Boarding School: The Seed School and the Model it Created

As a person who attended public schools from K-12, I only knew of boarding schools as being expensive alternatives to private schools. In my suburban community outside of Los Angeles, I only heard of children “being sent away” to boarding schools because they were “problem children.”  However, I never really understood the positive impact a boarding school could have on students and the community the school creates. Until watching the movie Waiting for Superman, the concept of a public boarding school never once crossed my mind. As the movie shows, the Seed School of Washington D.C. is a public charter school serving the community and surrounding neighborhoods.

Similar to other charter schools, the Seed School operates on a lottery system when space permits. However, the Seed School is unique- it is a boarding school, free of cost to those who attend and it is located within D.C., close to the students’ friends and families.  Students are permitted to go home on the weekends to spend time with their family, and during the week every student is involved in various extracirricular activities and experiences that they would never have access to without the Seed School.

As a supporter of many charter schools across the country and especially in New York City, I truly believe that New York City would benefit from creating a charter school that is a boarding school and is within the five boroughs of NYC. Having the boarding school within the City’s limits allows for students to remain part of their communities while being safeguarded from the streets of their communities.… <Read More>

Keeping Families Together & Paying Less To Do So

We have all heard of a sad story that goes something like this: a mother makes a bad choice and is now charged with a felony and her innocent children are faced with being placed in foster care and all that comes along with it. Now, imagine an alternative. Imagine a situation where this mother serves her sentence – while keeping her family intact.

In 2008, the Brooklyn District Attorneys office created a family incarceration program in order to provide an alternative for these mothers who would otherwise be incarcerated and separated from their children. Instead, these women have the opportunity to serve their sentences in their own apartment at Drew House with their children while being monitored and fulfilling the Court’s mandates.

The women at Drew House are homeless mothers who have committed crimes ranging from drug possession to assault. The New York Times recently published an article highlighting Drew House and the stories of some of its women. One such woman, Ms. Urquidez, is a 36-year old victim of domestic violence battling bipolar disorder who was charged with burglary in 2009. Drew House helped her turn her life around. Since entering the program she has overcome her drug addiction, learned how to cope with bipolar disorder, has a restraining order against her sons’ father, and has completed her court mandate to take part in the Drew House program. Ms. Urquidez is beyond grateful for the program and credits the program for providing her two sons with stability claiming, “They’re living life how a kid is supposed to live”.… <Read More>

Is Poverty Causing Increased Child Abuse?

http://www.charitico.org/images/hungry-children.jpgWhile few people doubt the devastating effects that poverty has on the well-being of families, poor teenagers in Texas are entering the foster care system at a higher rate than in the past.  The New York Times recently published an article about the poor economy in Texas and its correlation on the number of children in foster care.  Recent census data revealed that 1.7 million children, who make up 26% of the Texas population, are living in poverty.  Another startling statistic is that the number of child abuse and neglect reports has increased 6% in the past three years.  In one particularly poor county in Texas, the number of child abuse and neglect reports rose 36% in the last three years.

There is a strong correlation between the increase in poor families and the increase in child abuse and neglect reports, with no magic wand that legislators or judges can wave to make these families more affluent, or better able to care for their children.  Judge Darlene Byrne, a Texas judge who hears child protective cases, said the following to a poverty-stricken young mother who was pregnant with her ninth child but hoping to reunite with her other eight children who were in various foster care homes:

“These children did not make this mess; the adults in this room made this mess.  Love does not feed or shelter or clothe or take your kids to the doctor. Love’s a good thing, but it’s not enough to raise a kid.”  As harsh as this statement may seem, poverty can, and does, prevent parents from adequately providing for their children’s health and well-being, especially when a ninth child is on the way when she has eight siblings whom her parents cannot care for. … <Read More>

ACS Agrees to Implement New Unit to Obtain Housing for Children Discharged from Foster Care

http://www.google.com/imgres?q=homeless+youth&um=1&hl=en&sa=N&biw=967&bih=546&tbm=isch&tbnid=AFS3VC7qEkeKrM:&imgrefurl=http://looneytunes09.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/2286/&docid=O671lOUqm4axlM&imgurl=http://looneytunes09.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/homeless_youth-184x226.jpg&w=184&h=226&ei=FNuuTrvaKObV0QHK1Pm4Dw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=120&vpy=187&dur=1320&hovh=155&hovw=126&tx=93&ty=76&sig=113665597366745384941&page=4&tbnh=148&tbnw=124&start=24&ndsp=8&ved=1t:429,r:4,s:24Administration for Children’s Services recently reached an agreement which will settle a class-action lawsuit filed against the agency.  The lawsuit alleged that the city agency allows children who “age out” of foster care (between the ages of 18 and 21) to become immediately homeless.  Children who enter foster care do so for one of two reasons:  there has been a finding of abuse or neglect against their parents or their parents voluntarily placed them into foster care.  The agency contracts out to other foster care agencies which monitor and provide services for the foster care youth. The children are monitored, as well as their parents, and in some cases, the children are returned home; otherwise, the children remain in foster care until they “age out.” Regardless, the agency does not offer services for these children once they “age out.”  State law requires ACS to supervise and assist in providing housing for people who have left foster care until they reach the age of 21.  However, an alarming amount of people who have been discharged from foster care are discharged into homelessness.

In order to settle this lawsuit, after two years of negotiations, the agency has offered to implement a new unit in ACS to oversee that foster care agencies create permanent housing plans for youths living in foster care.  Specifically, ACS will develop permanent housing plans for youths living in foster care.  It will work with foster care agencies to create the plans in time to find adequate housing.  The city and the agencies will monitor the young adults discharged under the plans until they turn 21. … <Read More>