Upstream. A Mohawk Valley Blogzine.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Foster Parents Falsely Accused Of Child Abuse

More news happens than one person can possibly comment on. Consequently, I have a folder full of news clippings that I would like to write about but never will. One item, however, which was published in The Daily Gazette on Jan. 13, 2006, I need to say something about because, while the primary focus of this blog is the Mohawk Valley, another focus is injustice.

The title of the article is Couple files lawsuit against foster care agency about teen. The gist of the story is this. Tammy and Charles Albrecht of Northumberland in Saratoga County took a foster child into their home from Northeast Parent & Child Society in Schenectady in September of 2003. The child, actually a 16 year old male, then accused the foster parents of abuse. The Albrechts were charged with abuse and spent $35,000 to defend themselves. They were found innocent and now have brought suit against Northeast Parent & Child Society for failing to communicate to them “the teen’s history of emotional and/or metal problems and/or afflictions.”

The lawsuit also claims that the society “breached its contractual relationship with the Albrechts in failing to represent, indemnify and protect them against the wrongful and improper allegations made by the child.”

Could this lawsuit partly explain why there is a continual shortage of foster parents, why Northeast Parent & Child Society has to continually advertise far and wide for foster parents and why KidsPeace has a huge billboard on Route 5 advertising for foster parents?

Children, teens in particular, have been given increased power by our society over the past three decades, but not always with an increased sense of responsibility. Many teens, including foster teens, know that if they want to get their way, all they have to do is holler abuse and everyone will drop what they are doing and come running.

While the media focuses continually on child abuse, which is admittedly a serious problem, they rarely focus on parents and families that have been destroyed by false allegations of abuse. This in spite of the fact, that for every three reports of child abuse and neglect, two are found to be without substance. The investigative process alone, even if no charges are brought, can exhaust a family's financial and psychological resources.

Indeed, it is possible to make the argument that the people involved in protecting our children and investigating charges of child abuse and neglect--social workers, Department of Social Services workers, Child Protective investigators, police and D.A.s--in the process of investigating complaints (mostly made by anonymous callers to a hotline) commit child abuse themselves. The notorious Fells Acres Day School case in Massachusetts and the Kelly Michaels case in New Jersey are good examples of this. Although the defendants were eventually found innocent, after being railroaded and spending years in jail, much damage was done not only to the defendants but to the children they were accused of molesting but did not molest. Investigators using what could only be called pornography filled these children's minds with stuff that they should never have known about at their age.

When you read or hear about people who have been accused of child neglect or abuse, don't be too quick to judge. The real abusers might be the people bringing the charges.

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