Sad day at the dog park

Aaron Weber reports on the day three cruisers and an ambulance showed up at the Cambridge dog park where he and some other regulars watched in shock as Jay, a 12-ish kid who'd taken to coming by to play with the dogs most days, was taken away:

Jay, it seems, had been running away from a foster home, repeatedly. To us, it didn't look like running away: It looked like unsupervised play. But the lady was his social worker, and when three police cars and an ambulance showed up, they were able to confirm her story.

Jay began to cry, buried his face in Cris's stomach, told her he didn't want to go. She and a couple of the other park regulars calmed him down, and eventually he agreed to get into the ambulance. The social worker said he'd be "Section-twelved." We had to look that up after they left: It means sent for psychiatric evaluation in a locked facility for up to 72 hours.

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      Sounds like either Jay wasn't

      Sounds like either Jay wasn't able to articulate his interests or his foster parents weren't interested in finding ways to positively engage their foster child. Could it be that they're in it for the money?

      Only half-cynically asking, by the way.

      #1 imperative for people in

      #1 imperative for people in the foster system is to make sure the kid doesn't do anything they'll have to answer for.

      #2 imperative is to make sure he doesn't sneak off to where he MIGHT do anything they'll have to answer for.

      A distant third imperative is to prepare him for the day he reaches adulthood and is out on his own.

      A very, very distant third.

      Too much adoption and free IVF

      results in fewer good foster homes. I think in the past, childless people or couples unable to have that third child they want would have been more willing to open their home for a child in need of a temporary home, but now all those families choose to adopt a child from China or have one made for them at a clinic, leaving only people who do it for the money. Prohibiting IVF and adoption would help needy children, but you won't hear liberals admitting that.

      Um yeah.

      That's nice. So you want to deny people medical treatment that may allow them to have biological children so that they'll adopt more? Wow. While we're at it, let's bring back...oh, let's say--tuberculosis. Because with more parents dying of TB, there will be more adoptable orphans out there. Wheeeee!

      I'm surprised the Cambridge cops

      didn't ask the kid to prove his residency to gain admittance to that dog park. When I was asked, I said to the cop, "Do you think the dog knows he's not from Cambridge?"

      Good story until we got the atypical Cambridge liberal whining about the struggle...

      Huh?

      Where is this "liberal whining"??? It sounds like they helped get the kid into the custody of the social worker without resorting to use of force, police tazing, etc. that often transpires in this country when it comes to mental health issues.

      What would be interesting to know: are any of these people willing to take this kid into their own homes?

      Maybe you missed this part...

      "Well, now Jay has learned some important life lessons: Never trust a social worker. Never trust a cop. Never trust an EMT. Never trust a nice white lady. Always be ready to run.

      And all the white middle-aged people at the dog park learned something we should have known already: That our society regards an unsupervised black child as a threat to public safety. We’ve seen once again how race, class, and the apparatus of government grind the humanity out of humans.
      I hope we see Jay again. And I hope he’s still got that wide-open smile. I don’t know how much longer he’ll have it."

      What a load of horseshit. YOU take the kid in, you want to make a statement...

      After reading the entire blog

      After reading the entire blog post, I feel like I need to comment on Aaron Weber's conclusions at the end.

      The police were not involved because Jay was viewed as a threat. His race has nothing to do with how this situation was handled. Had everything about this situation been exactly the same except for Jay's race, the response from the DCF worker would have been the same. I worked as a child care worker at a residential facility for emotionally disturbed children, many of whom where in DCF custody, and whenever we had to bump a child up to hospital level of care (section 12) this was how it was done. The protocol for a situation like this is exactly how it appears it transpired. Jay is exhibiting at-risk behaviors, and DCF is obligated to have him professionally evaluated to determine what is causing that/why it is happening.

      The involvement of police, and EMTs ALL comes down to how things get paid for (ambulance ride, hospitalization etc), and making sure there are enough mandated reporters present to avoid someone having a 51A filed on them if, for example, Jay decides to say that the EMT did something inappropriate. A 51A ruins the career of someone involved in social services and having police around protects people.

      Did Jay learn not to trust his DCF worker? Yeah, he probably did. It's a really awful and sad reality of the DCF system. He probably learned that long before this incident, evidenced by his resistance to interacting with her, and stating that he didn't know her.

      The author's comments about about society reflect a lack of understanding of the system. That's not a fault of the author by any means, but evidence that society as a whole is ignorant of what happens to systems kids, and how poorly funded the services for them are.

      Key word: protocol.

      Which is the polite term for "CYA."

      Nothing brutal was done to the kid, which is very nice. But everything that was done, was done in the name of protocol, and not in the name of Jay's best interests. And if 6 years from now, the system releases a kid who is not even remotely ready for it, so what? Protocol was followed. And that's all that matters.

      Glad to hear

      from someone in the field. It's a strange, sad story but I was bothered by the editorializing at the end, which seemed to be based on some out-there assumptions, including that a "middle class white kid" would fare differently or better in the same circs. I would assume that a kid in foster care is a kid in foster care and that they're all subject to the same ups and downs, rules and heartbreaks.

      Well, I have to quibble with

      Well, I have to quibble with your representation too.

      He's going around befriending dogs. I did that too at that age, and also because my home life was unstable. (Not in foster care, so nobody could stop me, though.) And I bet he did that for the same reason I did: dogs are more reliable than humans. They don't require as much discernment and judgement. They don't require more judgement than a 12 year old foster kid has.

      "Jay" seems to know that making friends with strange people is something best left for another day. His interest in dogs doesn't indicate "at-risk" to me. And the state's decision not to let him continue coming there seems driven more by protocol than by his best interests.

      Maybe if the system was better funded, the social workers would be more inclined to just let him. But I think I have good reason to be saddened by this story.

      It has nothing to do with him

      It has nothing to do with him befriending dogs. It has to do with him running away from his foster home without telling them where he's going, or when he's coming back. Who's to say he is ONLY going to the dog park?

      A 12-year-old who undoubtedly has mental health issues if he is in DCF custody and in foster care, IS at risk if he is wandering the streets unsupervised. Period.

      So ...

      Does this protocol include actually interviewing people who have formed bonds with the kid?

      Or would that, you know, actually be constructive and help the kid out rather than "facilitate robotic processing"?

      Generally not - that opens a

      Generally not - that opens a whole can of worms that, rather than make exceptions, DCF finds easier to just never address (again, as a rule). Why would some people at a dog park have this child's best interests at heart? How does the DCF worker know that these people at the park are "good" people in the first place?

      Furthermore, no one can know what behaviors this child was exhibiting in the home towards his foster parents, or at school (if he was even going). There may be way more at work here than just the running away. My bet would be that if he can't be safely contained in a foster home, he'll get screened up during his psych eval, and end up in a residential facility.

      I should also probably

      I should also probably clarify my use of the word "contain" as I think it can be misunderstood since I'm using it as social services jargon. Containment in this sense is just being able to keep the child in a safe environment. That means knowing where he is and what he is doing at all times, not literally keeping him contained inside a house.

      True

      It's a tough situation. In an ideal world--one which still had foster kids in it--this boy could bike around, befriend dogs, do his own thing and lead a kind of happy Huck Finn-in-Cambridge life. But we all know the possible flaws in this scenario. Yes, he's hanging out with a bunch of nice friendly dog owners. In the movies, one of them would adopt him. But in real life, who knows? One of them could end up being...too friendly. Kids like this are vulnerable in ways most of can't even imagine. We all hate hearing about a cadre of police and ambulances, but if something happened to this kid, wouldn't we all be wondering who was supposed to looking after him?

      Thanks for posting that

      Original poster here-- Thanks for your comment. I'm glad to know it's a protocol thing. Still, it seemed like an overwhelming show of force for a runaway. Obviously the kid's got problems-- I just feel like there must be a different solution than hauling him off to the bin for eval for being... well, for being what seems to me like a disobedient tween.

      Other notes: Other people at the park that day confirm that Jay is actually 10, which makes me worry more. The social worker said he'd run away from several foster placements, which also makes me worry for him -- and makes it more understandable that she'd be exasperated at meddling from well-meaning strangers who think they know more about the situation than she does. He claimed he had family in Boston and wanted to be there - an almost certainly honest, although undoubtedly ill-advised, desire.

      Is this any of my business? Not really.

      Could I take the kid in? No. I can barely take care of my dog.

      Any other ideas from the populace on how we might be able to help him?

      There are things you can do

      You can become a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) for him or another child in foster care.

      You can become an educational surrogate for him, being there during school meetings to make sure his best interests are being considered.

      You can send small gifts (like books) to him through his social worker.

      Find ways to mentor children in Cambridge. Find ways to mentor children before they are removed from their homes.

      It may be possible to find out who his case worker is but it would be hard due to privacy. They usually are from the city where the child was removed from their parents. There is a DCF office in Cambridge on the corner of Western Ave and Memorial Drive.

      And to the person who said his foster parents were in it for the money. It is extremely unlikely. The daily rate for a child his age is $17.96.

      There is definitely more to his story. It is likely very sad and started way before his current foster parents ever met him. It doesn't sound like it is going to get better anytime soon.