The Wausau Word

Local, State & World News for Residents of North Central Wisconsin

FOSTER KIDS SERVING TIME IN MILWAUKEE

Posted by Admin on June 13, 2006

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel today brings us some disturbing news regarding foster children in that area: THEY'VE DONE NO CRIME, BUT THEY DO TIME – JUVENILES LOCKED UP WHEN PLACEMENTS ARE SCARCE – The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel – June 13, 2006

The story of Sara – briefly related in the article – points out that foster children for whom placements cannot be found are being locked up in Milwaukee County Juvenile Detention Facilities even though they have committed no crime. These same facilities are housing young criminals accused of things such as rape, and murder!

How can this possibly be in the best interest of these foster children, and who is really looking out for their welfare if the Bureau thinks these placements – however temporary – are suitable for at-risk children?


Here is a quote from the article;

Lonely and troubled, abandoned by her homeless parents years ago, Sara, 16, started running from one foster home placement after another. Finally, her options ran out.

This year, she was locked up for more than 30 days with children accused of murder and rape and robberies because case managers for the state-run Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare could find no placement for her.

Abused and neglected children who have not committed any crime – most of them in their teens – increasingly are being locked up in the juvenile secure detention facility, records show. Milwaukee County Children's Court judges said they are ordering that until safe placements can be found because they have no other options.

JS Online – They've done no crime, but they do time

Keep in mind now this isn't just a handful of children a year being temporarily housed in these centers – records show that between January and June 7 of this year 86 abused or neglected kids were housed in these facilities — their average stays being LONGER than that of the criminals they are being placed among.

(…) From January to June 7, records show, 86 abused or neglected children such as Sara were detained at a cost of about $209 a day each. That represents a 38.7% increase from the same time period in 2004, when 62 of these children were kept in detention, records show.(…)

(…) On average, the children were locked up 8.7 days, slightly longer than children being held for criminal activity.

JS Online – They've done no crime, but they do time

What's interesting (and somewhat relieving) is that this seems only to be occuring in Milwaukee County…

Ray Luick, director of justice programs for the Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance, said Monday that its data show that "these circumstances are occurring only in Milwaukee County." He said his office was "extremely interested" in looking at the issue.

Most of the chronic runaways are girls, and their cases reflect issues being discussed nationally, authorities said.

"There is a lack of appropriate services for juvenile girls," said Children's Court Judge Mary Triggiano. "Their mental health needs go unaddressed, they have been sexually abused by the age of 12 or 13, and they have no self-esteem. Some are looking for their mothers. They are looking for love, for attention. We cannot treat them the same as boys."

Denise Revels Robinson, director of the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, said her agency is looking at "a continuum of options" to address the problem. Among them are specialized group homes, professional foster parents and mentoring. Last week, she promised judges she would provide more staff at the assessment and stabilization centers for abused and neglected children to help deal with those who are chronic runaways.

Revels Robinson said there has been an 18% increase since late 2004 in the number of abused and neglected children 12 and older coming into the foster care system.

"This is putting a strain on our ability to provide the right services," she told the Children's Court judges at a meeting last week. "We are really struggling."

(…)

"Just give us someplace else so I don't have to keep them in detention," he pleaded at the meeting with Revels Robinson.

Chief Children's Court Judge Thomas Donegan said non-delinquents should not be in locked facilities, though ordering them there is legal if it's in the child's best interest and there is no suitable alternative.

"I think the blame for this can land on just about everybody," he said.

JS Online – They've done no crime, but they do time

Although it seems that they are trying to find a solution in Milwaukee so far it's just words and "good intentions". They need to figure out a solution to this problem, and quick.

These foster children obviously already have serious issues, they need to be in a safe place — one that helps to heal their self-esteem. They should not be treated like criminals, and they certainly shouldn't be in a place where they risk even further abuse at the hands of others.

As for Sara… After being locked up for nearly 40 days her lawyer filed a motion arguiing that her captivity in the detention center was illegal — miraculously a placement was found for Sara in a group home, just one hour before the motion was to be heard… What timing…

ON A MORE PERSONAL NOTE:

This subject hits close to home for me. The month before I was to turn 18, my father finally got charged with abuse, and my younger sister was placed in a foster home. At the time, I faced much the same situation as these foster children. Being so close to the age of maturity there were no resources available to me through Social Services. The social worker assigned to my family's case looked around, but in the end I was forced to choose between a life of moving from friend's house to friend's house till I got on my feet, or I could go live in a half-way house, courtesy of the State of Illinois — a facility full of adult-aged (17-21yo) female criminals, abusers, rapists, and murderers.

If had chosen the halfway house I would have been required to live by all the same rules and regulations as those who were still serving time for whatever crimes they committed. I honestly couldn't believe that the social workers were even suggesting such a thing to me. I probably would've chosen to sleep on the street before voluntarily surrendering my freedom. I just thank God I was old enough to have a choice, and that I had friends on whom I could rely — I can't imagine what it must feel like to be locked away when you have done nothing wrong…

RELATED RESOURCES:

If you have any suggestions or ideas to share with the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare regarding this issue you can try to reach them through the addresses listed at their CONTACT INFORMATION PAGE.

If you would like to consider being a Foster Parent please see this page at the Dept. of Health & Family Services website; FOSTER CARE IN MILWAUKEE COUNTY.

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One Response to “FOSTER KIDS SERVING TIME IN MILWAUKEE”

  1. good job

    Think you are on track with this post

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