Monday, December 14, 2009

Returning kids to abusive parents

Boy this is a hard one. Big front-page article in the Sunday LA Times about a new program in LA County. They are returning some kids from foster care to abusive parents, while giving the parent training not to be abusive. The idea is that foster care screws people up so bad that if we can just get the real mom to be enough better, the kid will come out with a net gain.

I don't know. It's risky, and the first kid who is killed will cause a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth, and likely a change of policy in the other direction. The idea is plausible in general. That is, there are probably kids who will be better off, either because their foster care was bad or because the real parent changes, but there will be other cases were it won't work at all. The first problem will be figuring out who are good candidates for it. The woman followed in the LA Times article was a little scary for me.

And because the abusiveness presumably stems from something organic in the brain, I suspect curing abusiveness would involve drugs more than training. Learning not to get angry and whack your kid is similar in some ways to learning Japanese or to ride a bike. Both involve repetition of stuff you want to remember. But I'm much less sanguine about the ability of practice to change basic personality traits.

So good luck to them. It's probably worth a try. But I can't say my expectations match my hopes. Not that I have any better ideas.

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