Can Foster Care Be Fixed?

Churches partner with parents to care for at-risk children.
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Angelica Hubbard's six-year odyssey—from a Los Angeles emergency room, where she arrived eight weeks after birth with broken bones and brain damage, to the security and nurture of her adoptive family—reveals in stark detail how the foster-care system can harm as much as it helps.

"Over the past 20 years a whole state of limbo has come into existence where no judgment is made, where the child is neither fish nor fowl," says Patrick Fagan, senior fellow in family and cultural issues at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. "He's neither, as it were, the proper child of his parents who are raising him well, nor has he become the adoptive child of somebody else who is going to raise him well. Instead he's the ward of the courts, and he's bounced frequently from one foster home to another to another."

In 1991, Los Angeles County placed Angelica through a private agency in the home of Doug and Kathy Hubbard, an American Baptist youth minister and his wife. The couple gingerly embraced Angelica for the first time in a hospital room, where tests revealed bone fractures and neurological damage. For the next five years, Angelica was at the mercy of a state system, which put the rights of her birth parents ahead of her needs.

Eventually, Angelica's Hispanic birth parents satisfied state requirements and she returned to her original home at age two. But six months later, Angelica was back in a hospital, malnourished and with bruises and bite marks. From jail, her birth mother telephoned her case worker and pleaded for Angelica to be sent to the Hubbards. The agency rejected her appeal and placed the child with another Hispanic family. "To Angelica we were Mommy and Daddy, but their answer was, She's already been placed; ...

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