Foster Care Series Hopes To Put Human Face On Government System

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If you were fortunate to have at least one parent stick around, and if that parent stayed sober and kept it together enough to feed and clothe you, you are one of the lucky ones.

In Arizona today, 9,902 children are living with foster parents.

Hundreds of those are here in Payson.

Some of them are born into the system when their mothers enter the delivery room addicted to methamphetamines, as you'll read in today's story, "The foster care crossroads" on 1A.

For some, the government wheel begins turning when a child knocks on the door of a neighbor, begging for food, or when a landlord enters a home and sees an infant living in filth.

For the next three weeks, the Payson Roundup will look at this part of the world that most of us never see -- a world where children are neglected and where parents struggle to keep it together to avoid losing their son or daughter.

This week, reporter Michael Maresh spent the day with the staff at Child Protective Services. They told him about the difficult, and sometimes not so difficult, decision to remove a child from the parent's home.

Next week, Felicia Megdal will look at the parents who have lost their children. She will attempt to answer the questions: How does a family situation get to the point where children must be taken away? Is there a multigenerational element? Do they try to change? Is the CPS knock on the door a wake-up call? And what resources are available for those families?

And in the third week, Carol La Valley will spend time with a family who takes in those children who need a home. She will ask what kind of person has the emotional capacity to take in other people's children? How do you become a foster parent? What are the rewards? Do some foster parents abuse the system? Does it often end up in adoption or are all foster homes temporary?

At the end, we will not draw any conclusions. We will simply share what we learned.

This series began with a conversation -- as so many newspaper articles do. We were discussing the changes Gov. Janet Napolitano promised to make in the foster care system when she initially ran for office.

As we talked, we realized how little we knew. From there, our curiosity was sparked and we decided to fill in the gaps of our knowledge.

We are not sure what we will learn, but as we learn, we hope you learn with us.

And we hope that through that learning, our next conversation will be more informed.

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