Dear Dr. Yael,
My husband and I write to you in distress. We do not know where to turn and decided to reach out to you for your wise counsel, and to your readership.
A few years ago, my husband and I began to foster a fifteen-month old baby boy. He came to our home severely malnourished. He had been in the hospital for failure to thrive and the doctors and nurses warned us that the biological mom only wanted her child on formula. However, they were clear that he was perfectly capable of eating anything and everything. Even pizza. So began our journey into the heart of a beautiful child. And into the nightmare of foster parenting.
Little Dovid began to flourish right from the start. He gobbled up food – chicken, puddings, cereal to name but a few. He began to sit, crawl and stand and then painstakingly took his first steps. It was a long process with lots of intervention from amazing therapists. Baruch Hashem, he is now running and jumping with the best of them and he enjoys learning the aleph bais with gusto.
We were unaware at first of how mentally ill his biological parents were, but over the course of the five years that Dovid’l was with us we slowly began to see how detrimental it would be for him to return to their home. We actively discussed adoption and, at first, the courts and the foster agency were very much in our favor. They too realized that Dovid’s safety meant having only supervised visits with the biological parents. At some point, though, something changed and, despite many incidents of child abuse, intimidation, and outright cruelty to this child, the judge decided the goal should be returning the child home to his biological parents. Of course, this would take a while but now when we reported abuse, it felt like all the professionals were ignoring it.
As soon as we saw how our words had little value to the agency and court, we asked our rabbi what he thought we should do. His immediate counsel after he heard that the mother was to receive unsupervised visits was to have the child removed from our home. This was because we could no longer advocate for this child in an effective way; no one was paying us mind any more.
When we informed the foster care agency of our heartrending decision, they did not attempt to make amends. Instead, they tried to convince us that we should keep the child in our home despite the abuse. In fact, one of the officers told us that they were attempting to catch the parent in the act – perhaps with hidden cameras. In other words, the child should be a guinea pig.
Now, two years later, in another foster home, the little boy is suffering. There is new documentation of abuse, of which I will not go into detail. Yet, he still goes on unsupervised visits with his biological parents.
I miss my child deeply and daven that a true yeshua takes place. I welcome our community’s tefillos as well. If anyone knows of a way to help this child out of an evil bureaucracy, my husband and I would be truly grateful.
Parents in Distress,
Dear Parents in Distress,
To begin with, I do have some questions. Have you contacted any government agency about this situation? Are the new foster parents trying to advocate for this child? When was the last time you spoke to your rav about this situation?
Since I do not know you or the exact situation, it is difficult to advise you. On the one hand, there is no way that I can condone anyone allowing this abuse to continue and I want you to immediately get child protective services involved so that they can evaluate what is actually going on and intercede in court, if necessary. On the other hand, I am completely not involved in the situation and am only hearing one side.
I implore you to find a rav who is knowledgeable in this area, is open minded, and willing to do what is needed. I also advise that you daven to Hashem to help you make the right decisions. May this child find nechama and be able to get out of this abusive environment! Hatzlocha!