Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Federal Funding and Culturally Competent Services Needed for Tribes

By Lisa Wilson, former foster youth, Montana

I am the oldest of 11 siblings. When I was born, neither of my parents had a drinking or drug problem. After having five children, my mom started using to relieve stress. My dad started using, and soon, he was using and selling meth. My mom and dad were good parents when they were clean, but when they were using, they turned into completely different people.

Social services became involved in 1995 and sent my brothers and sisters and me to four different foster families. I felt like my heart had been ripped out of me when they took us all away.

My mom was court ordered into drug treatment. She went to treatment, took a parenting class, attended AA meetings and looked for a job. My mom was going to do whatever they told her to do to get us back.

My dad attended a parenting class too. He was the only father in a class full of mothers because there weren’t any services for fathers. After my dad took that class, he never hit my mom again.

My dad was the bad guy in the eyes of my mother’s workers, who thought that getting rid of him would be the best thing for her. They never took into consideration the fact that she had never parented without my dad. The workers expected her to stay sober, attend all of her meetings, work full time, and raise eight children – all by herself.

My brothers and sisters and I were reunited with our parents for a while, but there were no supportive services for me or my siblings. Everything in our family had changed and we didn’t know how to handle it.

My dad continued to struggle with drugs and relapsed. He was ordered to stay away from our family. My mom made some poor choices, and my parents’ parental rights were subsequently terminated.

My siblings and I were separated into different foster homes and I aged out of foster care at the age of 18. Four of my brothers are now living with me and we are gradually healing together. I am married and have two children of my own. As I raise my own children, I am constantly reminded of what I missed as a child.

I believe that if federal child welfare funding was available to tribes in my state, there would have been more culturally competent supportive services for my family and we may never have had to be torn apart. My family has endured a lot of pain and suffering that could have been prevented had my parents received the help they needed to successfully raise my siblings and me.

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