There is no question one of the toughest jobs ever is raising children.  They have minds of their own, and sometimes those minds head in different directions than those we might advise.  As a parent, raising children can be like a roller coaster:  up and down, swinging all around, thrills and breathtaking near spills at every turn.  But at the end of the day, all that really matters is, How is everybody doing?  What is the state of being between parent and child?

How is the child really doing, and is everybody’s best interests being served by the exchanges between parent and child?

And then there are those children who have no real parents, or at least not the kind that gave birth to them.  These kids are removed from their homes.  And then they’re moved again, probably from home to home, trying to make things work with perfect strangers, always searching to fit in, seeking connectivity, yearning for higher understanding, guidance, and, if at all possible, maybe even a little love.  Many of these kids are now under the control of a governmental system that is failing them badly, that is if you believe what Los Angeles Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash has to say.

In an OP-ED piece recently appearing in the Los Angeles Times, Judge Nash expressed his deep concerns regarding the systemic upbringing of children through the state’s system and courts, where the futures of young people in foster care are decided.  Nash expressed discontent over the swelling of the caseloads the judges are being forced to carry.  There is not enough time, the judge believes, to properly focus on the needs of the children whose futures he decides.

In Los Angeles County, each judge carries a caseload of roughly 1,350 cases at any given time.  Often, matters of serious consequence must be heard and decided in a matter of minutes, this, even if the case urges major deliberation.  In other words, children’s lives, fates, and futures must be decided in a matter of moments, if not split seconds.

On an average day, Dependency Court judges might handle cases that decide how much and what type of medication to authorize for a child; whether to remove children from homes after allegations of neglect or abuse; and whether to place them in the hands of strangers or relatives, or return them to unsteady parents.

Judge Nash feels that budget cuts are only part of the problem facing these kids these days.  He feels county social workers’ judgment, or lack thereof, when determining whether to leave children with their parents or to remove them from their homes might be the most critical factor of all.  And his concern is that those charged with protecting the children are operating out of fear of being second guessed by the judgmental media and/or an unforgiving public.  So more often than not, out of fear, the children are removed, young lives are disrupted, and an already overloaded court system is burdened even further.

And what happens to those kids?

They are placed in society’s margin at best, falling through the cracks of an antiquated system.  Through no fault of their own, many of these ‘institutionalized’ children have suffered through personal traumas and dramas involved in difficult upbringings, and they have developed emotional and mental imbalances.  They are then placed in the hands of medical and/or psychological “professionals” who often prescribe drugs to cure the child’s imbalances.  This usually leads to more emotional, physical, and mental difficulties for the child to have to overcome before ever reaching the age of majority.

Many of these children also end up in dysfunctional, sometimes violent foster homes that can destroy a child’s will, and exacerbate already growing emotional/mental issues.  Others end up on the streets, selling the very innocence they were never allowed to experience in the first place.  Child prostitution, child pornography, and child slavery become societal realities when a public system fails children in these kinds of ways.  And many thousands of kids are caught in the middle of this, right now.

That’s not to say there aren’t conscientious, passionate professionals out there, like Judge Nash, who are trying to make a positive difference.  But the problem is, there aren’t enough.  And there really isn’t enough time or money.  And the system is just too broke.  Just like the kids, and many of their parents too.

Many of the children have become ensnared in the situation because their parents have placed them in peril through their own destructive or problematic domestic behaviors.  Then, the parents become overwhelmed by the system, because the laws are too tough, too many, and it can be a very expensive process to try to overcome when the economy is sinking deeper than the Titanic.

If a parent can’t afford to hire an attorney to fight the system, which most can’t, then the court might appoint an attorney for them who is just as overwhelmed with a caseload that no ten people could reasonably have the time to give justice to.  Many of our children are being eaten up by a governmental system that is in desperate need of an overhaul.

More social services are needed for these lost children and their parents.  More judges and social workers with lighter caseloads, and more time to investigate and analyze each and every child and family’s futures are a necessity in any kind of healthy social system.  This system must be changed, before it’s too late for the kids, and their parents.

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