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Foster children advocates take to the streets

First, they took their concerns to the Davie County Board of Health.

Last week, they were on the streets of downtown Mocksville.

On Thursday, June 25, the “Protecting Foster Children” movement gathered at the courthouse to raise awareness of the importance of bringing the needs of foster children of Davie County into focus.

This was the first of many community efforts in which this movement will act. “We are raising awareness, one day at a time,” says spokesperson, Christie Ponjican.

Protecting Foster Children has created an advocacy group of community leaders who will help direct planning efforts. The primary goal is to see agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services  do what they were created to do, to protect the best interests of those in their care, Ponjican said.

On Tuesday, June 23, representatives of this group spoke in the public comment section of the Health and Human Services Board of Directors Meeting. Five shared concerns. This agency had not heard comments from the public from what the board meeting public records show – since the beginning of 2018. There are no meeting minutes published prior to that date.

During that public meeting, Ponjican said: “Not only is there  a lack of critical thinking on the part of your agency, to find someone to handle adoptions when next to none are being done, there is a glaring lack of passion for doing what’s best for the children in your care, who are depending on you to find safe, loving homes for them.

“I have had nearly 20 families reach out to me to share the experiences they have had with your social workers. What I have heard has been gut-wrenching.

“Your social workers have threatened to revoke your foster family’s license and remove their foster children if they voice their concerns.

“A fellow Guardian Ad Litem told me that they made a social worker mad and they were even treated differently for shining the light on a job that wasn’t being done, that should have been done to help a child in the foster care system, by DSS.

“While I have many foster families reaching out to me, they are frightened to speak out, of injustices or threats they have received, because they live in fear. This leads me to the idea of, no wonder social workers are placing children in untrained, non-licensed, non-kinship homes. They are burning bridges with some amazing families right now and may have no other choice.”

“What about the safety of the children though? Don’t they matter to your agency anymore? The unlicensed home situation certainly cannot be thought of as best practice – and could never be assumed to be what is in the best interest of the foster children of Davie County. It’s time to see change, not for us, but for our children.”

Another person said they are not a trained foster parent but have fostered three children from Davie over the past three years, all with special needs.

“Our time with these children was a wonderful experience for our family. However, I do have concerns for future children who go through the Davie County DSS System regarding the way things were handled.

“Not having any training or previous contact with Davie County (DSS), I can see how these placements could have gone terribly wrong for the children in a different (yet similar) placement, especially for a non-verbal child or a child with limited communication abilities. Having been more educated on the foster care system over the past few years, I want to be sure that future placements are made more carefully.”

Peggy Wallace said: “There does not seem to be compassion shown by DSS to foster parents and their (foster) children. Foster parents are told not to ask questions.  How can that be ‘the best for the child?’ A special needs child was taken from the only home the child has ever known – taken from the only parents the child knew. Taken with no questions asked about the needs of the child. The child was loved and thriving. A home where the child was never in any danger. Taken from the foster parents that wanted that child to be their forever child.   

“I can only imagine the trauma felt by this young child that day and until this day. The child and foster parents will live with the consequences of the actions taken that day for the rest of their lives. Where is the best interest of the child in all this? The actions taken that day were horrendous – they were wrong and the heartbreak continues. It is a sad day that these words have to be spoken – sad for the child – sad for the family – sad for us all,” Wallace said.

“There’s nothing more important than a child’s life,” said another speaker. “My son deserved better while in the foster care system of Davie County. Davie County did what they did to my son for years, left him in a home to stay forever, but never to be adopted, or to feel wanted, until they had no choice but to move him. That’s when they tried to rush us into adoption without even having a way to process his adoption paperwork. This was heartbreaking, for him and for us.”

The youngest of the speakers that day was a 10-year-old girl, who said: “Every child deserves a permanent home. I’m speaking from experience, because I was a foster child and I have been adopted. If more people like me, who experienced severe abuse and neglect, became social workers, this world would be a better place. I am a survivor.”

To learn more about this movement, visit the Facebook Page Protecting Foster Children.