IT’S still such a shocker that there are roughly 200 Filipino children in the Los Angeles foster care system at any given month, with very few Filipino foster parents to take them in.
Whenever we share that statistic with kababayans who are interested in fostering or fostering-to-adopt, the first question we typically get is, “What happened to these children that they ended up in the foster care system?”
The number one reason children are detained by the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) is due to general neglect and/or drug or alcohol usage. Subsequently, the majority of Filipino cases that are referred to the Asian Foster Family Initiative (AFFI) also fall under this category, which is defined by a lack of supervision and/or providing the basic needs of the child.
In the case of our mga kababayan, sometimes children are detained due to parents not understanding that they cannot leave their children at home, unattended, while they go to work. This falls under general neglect. Sometimes, we’ll see Filipino homecare workers who are so busy working and taking care of their clients that they are unable to support their children in the way the law requires them to. It’s extremely unfortunate because neglect, in this case, is not intentional. In cases like these, the parents are trying to make ends meet, however, at the cost of their children’s safety and custody.
Take one case, for example, where the birth mother was a victim of domestic violence. For privacy sake, we’ll call her daughter Mary. Mary was just an 18-month toddler whose mother was abused, physically and emotionally, in her relationship. Given the conditions of their home, she didn’t have the capacity to provide Mary with her basic needs, thus Mary was detained by DCFS.
Mary’s mother was doing everything she could to get the custody of her child back. In the meantime, DCFS eagerly sought for a Filipino foster family to take her in…but to no avail. Mary was placed in a non-Filipino home. It would have been ideal if Mary was placed temporarily with a Filipino family who understands her heritage and who could provide her with a home, rooted in her mother’s culture. Stories like this break our hearts even more because while her mother was sorting out her custody battle in the course of many months, Mary forgot how to speak Tagalog.
Let me share one more case with you (names and key details will be omitted). There was a Filipino couple struggling with substance abuse, creating an at-risk environment for their baby. The baby was detained and placed in a non-Asian household. During courthouse hearings, the parents reluctantly took responsibility and admitted that they were unfit to take care of their child, thus terminating their parental rights.
In cases like this, the child is potentially up for adoption. From the very beginning of this case, Mary’s County Social Worker actively tried to find a Filipino family who can support this baby with a culturally sensitive home; however again, to no avail. This means this child will also likely lose their heritage and identity.
The irony of this all is that it’s part of the Filipino nature to support each other with an unparalleled level of hospitality – seriously, we know how hospitable Filipinos are. With that in mind, I’d like to raise that the main reason there is such a shortage of Filipino foster homes is simply due to lack of awareness of this reality.
Not enough Filipinos in Southern California know enough about how the foster care system affects Filipino children and our community overall. The AFFI team’s goal is to help raise that awareness and we could certainly use your help.
We all know a family member, relative, or perhaps even ourselves who have the resources and the heart to share with these children. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more, you are welcome to attend an informational orientation session hosted by the Asian Foster Family Initiative, which is the first and only Asian Pacific Island focused foster family agency in the nation. Please contact our Filipino social worker, Mariah, at email@example.com or (213) 235-4851 for any questions and/or to register.