Note: An article by Emma S. Ketteringham that shows how the system traumatizes and re-traumatizes many children and their parents. My hope is that as we talk about trauma-informed, trauma-aware, self-healing and resilient communities we talk less about how people can do better, try harder and more about we can all be a safer, kinder and treat symptoms of adverse childhood experiences and adverse community experiences and focus on treating the causes of both instead.
When I met Eline, she described how the rats made it impossible to store fresh food in the apartment. She was a single mother with no family members who could help her. She struggled with depression and a chronic health condition that often required her to go to the hospital. She needed assistance. Instead, the city tore her children away from her and provided more than $1,000 each month to a foster family. After this, she turned to alcohol.
For more than a decade, my colleagues at the Bronx Defenders and I have represented thousands of parents like Eline in child-protection proceedings. A majority of them have never abused a child. Yet child services charges them with parental neglect, something of a catchall term that seems to cover poverty, substance abuse and untreated mental illness.