It’s so, so easy to judge other parents. And when those parents are really and truly bad — not “I yelled at my kid in the grocery store” or “I let them watch craploads of TV” bad, but really really bad, like “I lost my kids to foster care because I’d leave them for days at a time while I went in search of more meth” bad — it’s impossible not to.
But this very well-written column from the LA Times looks at the hurdles many mothers face as they attempt to get their lives back together and win the chance to parent their children again. The biggest one isn’t the insidious nature of addiction or even the pressures of poverty. It’s the lack of decent, affordable housing.
Housing aid is based on household size, so when a mother loses her children to the state, she loses aid and usually ends up back on the streets. Once she gets it together and stops using, she’s at the end of the line again for aid, and the wait can be months or even years. And few facilities exsist to help people in that transitional period, where their recovery is still so, so new and fragile. Many women end up back to where they were before, using, dealing or selling their bodies.
I understand the idea that these women need to have some consequences for their behavior. But there’s a difference between someone who likes to party and needs to grow up before she can even think of having her kids back and someone addicted, who can’t make it through a day without using. Add in poverty and the fact that many of these women grew up in pretty chaotic situations themselves, and the deck’s well stacked against them.
I’m a big believer that more needs to be done to get kids out of dangerous situations fast. In my state, the child welfare system is just broken. But when mothers do all the right things to get their lives on track and be of use to their children again, it’s sad that there’s just not enough of a system in place to help them out.