Tag Archives: rant

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Foster Care

There are well over 2,000 children in foster care in Idaho and according to State Rep. Christy Perry, “Foster children in Idaho have the worst outcomes of any child demographic in our state.”

Rep. Perry, along with a group of foster families, think Idaho can do better by these children and they are now calling for major reform to the foster care system.

from the story “Advocates push for foster system reform”

I don’t normally use this blog to get “political” or deal with “social issues,” at least ones that have no apparent connection to my particular brand of faith, but once upon a time, I worked in social services and had plenty of contact with foster parents and “the system.”

First of all, let me agree that even though children are removed from parental custody by the state due to imminent danger of injury or death, foster care doesn’t mean “smooth sailing” for children.

Even infants are bonded with their parents, and once you remove a child from those they’re bonded with, the child inevitably does worse emotionally and behaviorally. Add to that the problem behaviors the child may enter foster care with due to sometimes years of abuse, any issues that accompany the mother using alcohol or drugs while pregnant with the child, a history of medical neglect of the child, and sadly, you have kids entering foster care who are, by definition, “special needs.”

In other words, they will be a handful.

So what sort of reform would change all that?

Val and Brian McCauley are leading the effort as former foster parents who say their hope is to give children the voice they don’t have unless the people who know them best, their foster parents and guardians ad litem, are respected and their input given its proper weight.

courtThe guardian ad litem is the child’s legal representative before the juvenile court, so the child already has a voice, and so does the guardian. In other states, the guardian ad litem is a court appointed attorney, but for some strange reason, in Idaho, it’s a private citizen who, after some hours of training, volunteers to represent the child. Fortunately, the guardian is appointed an attorney, but it seems like redundancy at best and a lack of professional perspective at worse. Not all but some Idaho guardian ad litems have thin or no boundaries when it comes to the child and impose their own personal values system on what they believe should be the outcome of the dependency case.

Seriously, one extreme example was a guardian recommending to the court that the parents undergo treatment to stop them from smoking (tobacco) cigarettes because second-hand smoke is unhealthy. The child in question had no respiratory disorder or other medical reason that made it more dangerous for him/her to be around a smoker than any other child. It was just a “values” thing.

Foster parents have no standing before the court, but they can give limited input since, after all, they are the primary physical caregivers of the child. However, they are not nor they should be parties to the legal case since their recommendations, because of their feelings for the foster child, it’s difficult for them to be objective in what they recommend (In worst case scenarios, can anyone say “foster-to-adopt?”).

They, along with Rep. Perry, want Idaho law clarified to restore judicial oversight of Health and Welfare decisions regarding foster children.

Everybody assumes that the children’s social services department has the last say about what goes on in a juvenile dependency case, but this isn’t true. Social services, the guardian ad litem, and of course, the child’s birth/legal parents are all legal parties, they all are represented by attorneys, and they all present evidence before the court. It’s the juvenile court judge who has the final say and who issues the legal orders.

I can’t say that all juvenile court justices are impartial or free of bias, but I can say that social services doesn’t always get a free pass either. Far from it in some instances.

So I’m not sure what “judicial oversight,” these foster parents and that state representative are talking about.

Second, they want a time frame established in which birth families must act to adopt. They say that way foster children won’t languish in limbo without the advantage of the bonding and attachment they believe is so necessary but often discouraged.

safe place for kids
Photo: safeplaceforkids.org

Some foster parents, probably most of them, just want to provide a safe place for neglected and abused kids while their parents go through whatever program the court orders them to and (hopefully), make themselves safe enough for their child’s eventual return. But a few foster parents become very attached to some (but hardly all) of their foster kids and want to keep them forever.

Besides attachment, the other motivation for foster parents to want to become a child’s permanent placement is the foster parents’ lifestyle vs. the birth parents’. Foster parents tend to be middle class with pretty traditional values, while some of these birth parents have a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, criminal behavior, have spent time in jail and/or prison, cuss, smoke cigarettes, and are anything but a match for what some foster parents think of as being able to provide a “good home”

And there are already strict federal guidelines regarding the time limit by which permanency, that is a permanent placement for the child, is to be achieved, either by being returned home, being adopted, or being placed in long-term care (not all kids are easily adoptable, especially those who aren’t newborn infants and white). Social services takes plenty of heat from the court for not completing a permanency plan for foster children within legal time frames.

I also should say that sometimes the barrier to returning a child to the home is the court itself, even when social services is in favor of said-return, so again, the court is the gatekeeper here.

But here’s the kicker:

And third, they want some way of preventing foster children from being moved from foster home to foster home unless there is a compelling safety issue behind that decision.

I don’t have statistics, but if memory serves, there have been many, many times when the foster parents themselves requested that social services remove a foster child from their home. It might be because the child was violent, threatened other foster kids, peed down the air vent, would horde food under their beds, were unruly, disobedient, kept running away, and so on. In other words, they were abused and neglected kids acting out their abuse and neglect. Go figure.

foster homeSocial services can’t force foster parents to take or keep a foster child. If the foster parents request or even demand a child be removed, that child will be removed and (again hopefully) be placed in a foster home that can manage the child’s behaviors more effectively.

OK, I get it. Being a foster parent is hard, damn hard. I’d never want to do it. You have to put up with a lot, and you get to know the child better than the assigned social worker and guardian ad litem. After all, the kid lives in your home and you see them all the time, not just on periodic visits.

The vast majority of foster parents are terrific. But a few give me a big case of heartburn.

This online article on foster care reform only tells a small part of the story, and frankly, it could look like the foster parents pictured in the news article are feathering their own nests a bit.

I briefly glanced at “Idaho Foster Care Reform’s” Facebook page, so I’m sure there’s more information about their point of view than was provided by the brief news story I’m referencing.

I also have to say that child social workers have an almost impossible job. Many/most are overloaded with cases (children/families) they are responsible for, and under legal time frames and regulations, have to see the kids, have to see the parents, have to visit the foster home, have to consult with the guardian ad litem, their attorney, the courts, develop time limited case plans, carry them out, often take a lot of guff from the parents, the guardian ad litem, sometimes from the foster parents, from the general public who think they’re a bunch of “baby stealers,” and still go home at night halfway sane.

For instance, on the Facebook page I mentioned above, someone made this comment:

The case workers know for a fact that bouncing a child from home to home cause attachment disorders, and yet with the cruel hearts that they have they do it. They cause their own turmoil on these children on top of what their own bio parents do. Idiots at their finest.

That’s nuts. Social workers want kids to be in a stable foster placement, not only because it’s in the best interest of the child, but because (I hate to say it, but it’s true) it’s a lot of work to keep moving a kid around. It takes time and resources that the social worker just doesn’t have. It’s crazy for people to blame the case worker when they’re the last person who wants to move a foster kid, especially out of some strange sense of spite or due to “cruel hearts.”

safeplaceYeah, there’s a lot of problems with “the system”. The first problem is that some kids live in homes with parents or caregivers who are so dangerous, they hurt the kids and neglect their basic needs. If the kids stay there, they’ll keep getting hurt, beaten, sexually assaulted, and a few may die.

The second problem is that, to protect these children, the state is empowered to remove them from their homes under the authority of the juvenile court system.

But then what’s supposed to happen, where are these children supposed to live, how are they to be treated, and broken, messed up little kids that they are, what home is going to be able to tolerate all of their behaviors and their needs?

That needs to be fixed. I’m not sure the people behind the above-referenced news story know how to do that, especially if they see children’s social services as the sole thing that’s “broken”.

Sorry to dump this on my audience, but every once in a while, I need to vent about something that has little or nothing to do with the stated purpose of this blogspot.

Let the comments begin.

Easterphobia or Why Do You Have to Throw Christians Under a Bus?

i-hate-easterYour newfoumd (sic) respect for a holiday named after a goddess is coupled with a newfound (sic) contempt for Hebrew Roots.

While you say your new book is about respecting others, I notice in your blog posts, comments, and writings, the Hebrew Roots whom your organization once seved (sic) is referred to almost exclusively in the negative light. Your above comment is no exception.

Judah Gabriel Himango
from a comment on the blog post
God Fearers: Easter Ham or Passover Lamb?

If you’ve been reading my blog over the past few days, you’ve seen how my own recent Easter experience went as well as my own inability to make a connection to the observance. Nevertheless, I don’t think Easter is evil, wrong, bad, or pagan, whatever the origin of the name of the observance. I suppose my Pastor used terms such as “Resurrection Day” and “The Lord’s Day” last Sunday to get around that little problem, but since there were absolutely no bunnies or eggs present (well, eggs were probably served for brunch, but most likely they were scrambled), I didn’t see any obvious idolatry involved.

I didn’t want to write on the conflicts between some minority expressions of Hebrew Roots Christianity and the more traditional Christian churches, but when I read some of the comments on Toby’s blog post, including the one I quoted above, I couldn’t let it lie (and I didn’t want to start something again with Judah because I actually like the guy). My personal struggles are what they are, but I get a little tired of Hebrew Roots people playing the “superiority” card and saying that Christians in churches are terrible people because they won’t embrace some of the Hebrew Roots priorities. Frankly, such bigotry against Christians by these groups is ill-befitting of anyone who claims to be a disciple of Christ (or Messiah if that’s your preference).

I was just talking about this issue a couple of weeks ago when discussing the problem with religious people. If a religious person, particularly in a minority variant of Christianity which sees itself as above or superior to the majority of Christians, encounters other believers who hold different views, sooner or later, there’s going to be a “spitting match” in the blogosphere. I have tried avoiding blog posts such as this one because I didn’t want to participate in such a match, but where do I draw the line when I see unjust comments being made against believers by other believers?

I suppose I could have ignored this poorly considered jab against Christians who celebrate Easter and that would have ended it, at least from my point of view, but it was included in a collection of remarks that were direct responses to something I’d said on Toby’s blog. Yes, I still should have ignored it.

But I chose not to.

Boaz Michael, author of the book Tent of David, which I mentioned on Toby’s blog, corrected something I said:

TOD addresses Easter, “Another area of difficulty involves the observance of Christian holidays. Some churches heartily embrace some of the pagan-derived aspects of Easter and Christmas. Understandably, this makes many Messianic Gentiles uncomfortable. The simple solution is not to go during that time of year. It should not have too significant an impact on your relationships there to miss church for one or two weeks; in fact, it’s quite common for people to be out of town during holidays.”

tent-of-davidLate last year, I deliberately didn’t go to church for Christmas services for more or less the reasons Boaz stated, but to my way of thinking, Easter is the “higher” tradition as far as the church is concerned. The crucifixion and resurrection of the Master is at the center of all things and without these events, there would be no salvation for all of mankind. That the church should ignore something so vitally important seems ridiculous and while I believe the Passover Seder could have much meaning for Christians, it doesn’t always cover the full, expansive intent and glory of the risen King.

So I chose to attend Easter Sunday services at my church and did not consider such services optional. As I mentioned above, it wasn’t a spiritual “power surge” and I ended up feeling more disconnected from the community because of my lack of emotional attachment, but that has more to do with me than the importance of fellowship and the beauty of watching a new day dawning and knowing that the tomb is empty.

One of the other comments Boaz made addresses this point very well:

Actually, the consequence of Tent of David is not necessarily the celebration of Easter but rather a respect for those that do honor the resurrection of the Messiah. It is about learning to see the good in others, appreciating and valuing people’s attempts to connect with God. It is about learning to manage things Easter with love and care of the individual that is sincere in their intentions and efforts. It is about building relationships that will create bridges of dialog.

At the end of the day TOD is about respecting others, not assuming evil intentions, and a mission of transformation.

He said, It is about learning to see the good in others.” Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing?

Nevertheless, I’ll probably get “slam dunked” by my critics and my friends alike for how I’m wording all this, but what I’m writing at least has the benefit of sincerity and transparency. If you disagree with how different churches do things, then don’t go to those churches. If you have a problem with church in general, you don’t have to go to church. I don’t complain about where you go to worship. Why do you (whoever you are, since I’m addressing more than one disgruntled person at this point) have to complain about where I choose to worship?

I know Judah was complaining more to Boaz about TOD than he was to me, and I don’t think Judah intentionally disdains all people who go to church and call themselves “Christian” instead of “Messianic,” but the Boaz has a point. Even if we struggle with some of the practices in the church, we cannot dismiss her or her service to Christ. We must, since we also call ourselves disciples of Messiah, learn to see the best in others. After all, Christ died, even for those believers we may not like or don’t agree with. If Jesus thought his sacrifice, even for “those people,” was worth it, who are we to say he was wrong?

The Problem with Religious People

rob-bellThe former pastor and founder of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., made the comment during a guest appearance this past Sunday at The Forum at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to discuss his new book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God.

Grace Cathedral is the Episcopal Cathedral of the Diocese of California and describes itself as “an iconic house of prayer for all” and is home to an “inclusive congregation.” The congregation’s dean, the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, moderated The Forum discussion before a live audience.

When asked by Shaw if he was in favor of “marriage equality,” the politically-charged term used by some who want “marriage” redefined, Bell said:

“Yes, I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think that the church needs to just … this is the world that we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.”

-Nichola Menzie
“Rob Bell Supports Same-Sex Marriage, Says He Is for ‘Fidelity and Love'”
March 18, 2013 | 2:42 pm

As for Acts 15, this is not a set of different instructions for Gentiles. But salvation is by faith, for Jew and Gentile alike. We believe they will be saved the same way we will be saved. The Torah is not the yoke that we nor our fathers have been able to bear, but rather, specifically, the Torah “according the custom of Moshe.” So it is that Paul recalls his words to Peter in Galatians, that Peter did not live “like a Jew.” The followers of Messiah Yeshua inherently cannot submit to all of the traditions of Judaism. To do so would be to disobey the Master and the Commandment of God. In separating himself from the Gentiles, Peter was submitting to Jewish halachic rulings that are not in step with the gospel, and requiring Gentiles to do likewise. Gentiles should start with the four prohibitions in Acts 15—which people are cut off from Israel for breaking—so that they can join the assembly and learn the Commandment of God, which is read in every city every Sabbath. They do not need to become Jewish and submit to the Oral Torah, they simply need to have faith in God and His Mashiach and let obedience to the Commandment working through love be the expression of that faith.

-Charles commenting on my blog post
Moshiach Rabbeinu

Why is everyone trying to change my mind?

I saw the news item about Rob Bell a few days ago. The link was posted by a Facebook “friend” (I put “friend” in quotes since I’ve never met the individual and know him solely through Facebook). It wasn’t directed specifically at me, though I did comment about it a few times on Facebook and then dropped the issue.

But Charles came to me or more accurately, to my blog to comment on his views and to disagree with mine. He seems like a nice guy. I don’t doubt that he’s sincere. But in reading my blog, he should have known from the start that we were coming from two different points of view.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect to be universally accepted, agreed with, or liked. Especially in the world of religion, it’s almost a given that if you’re outspoken at all, people are going to “hunt you down like a duck” (to quote Buford Tanner from the third Back to the Future movie) from the four corners of the earth just to tell you that you’re not only wrong, but a total blockhead (with apologies to Charlie Brown, who’s been called a blockhead more times than I can count).

But it occurred to me to ask, and especially in the context of Charles and people like him, people who don’t know me or have any particular reason to read, let alone comment on my blog, why do they care what I think, say, and believe?

I mean, the Internet is full of bloggers. According to dazeinfo.com, by the end of 2011, there were 181 million blogs on the Internet. That was well over a year ago, and I’m sure there must be even more by now (jeffbullas.com has some interesting info on the nature of the blogosphere in 2012, but nothing relevant to the religious blog space).

So why me? Do I comment on your blogs? No, and in fact, I’ve deliberately stopped commenting on blogs where I know my opinions will cause a small and virtual riot just because I’m sick and tired of all the arguments. Discussions? OK. But why charge down my throat just because you know you can?

And it’s not just the blogosphere anymore.

a-j-jacobsMy Pastor recently loaned me a copy of A.J. Jacobs’ book The Year of Living Biblically. I’ve just started reading it and so far, find it entertaining and humorous. Jacobs is Jewish and not religious in the slightest, but he was determined, for the sake of writing a book, to live as close to a literally Biblical life as possible for an entire year.

I might have taken some sort of offense to his approach, but apparently this is the type of book Jacobs writes. He immerses himself in a subject for a significant period of time in order to learn, often with amusing results, records his experiences, and then turns all that into a book.

But then I had a thought. Is it possible that Pastor gave me this book to read for a specific reason, one particularly related to whether or not the Torah is possible to observe by Jews in today’s world? I’ll have to ask him, but I don’t see him until tonight.

I can understand why Pastor would want to instruct me, enlighten me, edify me, since we have a one-on-one, face-to-face relationship and I attend his church, but why does the Internet care?

Even the people I agree with theologically have some sort of interest in maintaining my current belief system which dovetails into their’s. I’ve made a paradigm shift before. What if I do so again? Who will be affected? How will they react? How much of other people’s emotions and interests are tied to what should be a single individual’s personal understanding of God and faith?

And then there’s political correctness to consider. Atheists and the socially and politically liberal religious individuals and movements are interested in convincing me (well, maybe not me personally, but everyone like me) that not only “gay is good” but that being gay is biblical and that I should not only adopt that belief as a matter of religion but as a matter of politics, carrying it all the way to the ballot box.

Does my personal opinion about how “marriage equality” factors into my understanding of the Bible have anything to do with anybody else? It’s not like I’m protesting at gay weddings or writing letters to the editor. I’m not even vocal about the issue except when my hand is forced. I live in a nation of laws and when (I don’t doubt that it will happen, it’s just a matter of time) marriage between same-sex couples becomes legal nationally, I won’t say “boo” about it. Actually, it’s not a law I could break, even if I wanted to, since I’m in no position to affect such a law one way or another.

But some people want or need me to agree with them anyway. Go figure.

After finishing Jacobs’ book, I plan to start reading Carlos Castaneda’s The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge. No, I don’t plan to adopt it as my model for a personal spiritual journey, but Castaneda’s books are considered classics in their genre and I’ve been meaning to read at least a few of them for the past thirty years or so. I just never got around to it before.

I’m beginning to get disgusted again with all the little games that people play in the religious blogosphere. I’m really getting tired of all of the “I’m right and you’re wrong” pettiness that is going on out there. If it stayed “out there” it would be easy to ignore, but it’s invading my space. I’m not here to be a target. I want to be free of your chains. But it seems the only way to do that is to abandon contact with religious people and pursue God independently. Yes, that’s full of pitfalls and I returned to church just because of those pitfalls.

But I’m having second thoughts. If God wants me, He’s got me, but that doesn’t mean I have to join your particular club just because it makes you feel better to drag in more members, be ye “One Law,” Two House,” “Hebrew Roots” or any other “label” that comes with a dogma on a leash.

burning-the-sacredI can sort of see why Jacob Nordby wrote his book (which I’ll review shortly) The Divine Arsonist, since it’s the latest in a long line of attempts by people to reinvent God and religion in our own personal image. I can understand why concepts such as free range humans are coming to the surface. People want control of their lives and they’re tired of the environment defining the parameters by which we must live. That includes the parameters by which we must believe and have faith.

Christians like to say “God is in control” but when it comes to faith, it’s more like the religions and the people occupying their favorite religions that want to take control…of me.

OK, I’m exaggerating. I’m not that important to anyone, at least to anyone on the web. I could disappear tomorrow and probably not inspire so much as a raised eyebrow. Which makes it all the more mysterious to me why people want to control what I say, think, and believe.

If I don’t believe the same things as you and through my beliefs, I’m not harming you (I don’t visit you, yell at you, try to change your life, picket your weddings and funerals, pollute your holy water, or otherwise interfere in your life and the practice of whatever faith to which you’re attached), then why do you care about my religious convictions? Honestly, if I believe that God really doesn’t expect me to wear a tallit gadol when praying, doesn’t expect me to not mow the lawn on Saturday morning, doesn’t expect me to not eat a cheeseburger, how does that impact you even slightly?

Yes, I’m ranting. It’s my blogspot and I’m entitled to rant here. Tomorrow, I may wake up and feel better but right now, I’m a little tired of “religion” (and please, don’t drop by and tell me that Christianity “is a relationship, not a religion,” trust me, it’s a religion).

If you want to ask me a question, fine. If you want to deliver a polite and civil comment, fine. Even if you disagree with me and want to tell me why you do what you do, fine. Just don’t feel like you can tell me what I can, should, must do just because you’ve made those decisions for you.

When I refrain from eating bacon or sausage for breakfast, I’m not doing it because I think God will fry me in pork fat if I do. I’m making a personal decision based on my own convictions. Please feel free to enjoy a good pork chop or a steaming hot bowl of shrimp scampi. I won’t mind. If you’re a gay guy and want to marry your partner, fine. If you’re a through and through Gentile without a drop of Jewish blood in your veins and you feel you must pray in Hebrew facing toward Jerusalem and calling Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob your “fathers,” go for it.

But I’m not going to pretend they’re my fathers just because you want me to. My relationship with God is my relationship with God. I blog about it. So what? Deal with it. If you don’t like what I say, don’t come to my blog. I promise, I’ll never come to your blogs and I absolutely promise I’ll never comment on any of them.

I write because that’s what I do. I’m a writer. I write for my job. I write to process information. I write for fun. Maybe someday you’ll succeed in chasing me out of the blogosphere, but I don’t know what would compel me to shut up. On the other hand, there are days like today when I could happily pull the plug and just read and study by myself, no other human beings required.

Got it?