Monday, February 6, 2012

A Foster Parent's Reaction to the Susan Cox Powell Tragedy

Yesterday afternoon the local news stations were buzzing with the horrific breaking news of Josh Powell’s cowardly suicide and murder of his two young children.  For those not familiar with this case, which originated in my home state but has received national attention, here’s the Cliff’s Note’s version:
Susan Powell is a Utah mother who "mysteriously" disappeared over 2 years ago.  Her husband, Josh, has been the main suspect in the case but there has not been enough evidence to convict him of her suspicious disappearance.  Susan and Josh had two young boys- ages 5 and 7- who have been in a nasty custody battle between their father (who conveniently decided to relocate to Washington State after his wife suddenly went missing) and their maternal grandparents in Utah.  The boys continued to stay in the custody of their maternal grandparents after explicit images were found on Josh's computer and he was were ordered to undergo a psychosexual evaluation. 

Yesterday morning a caseworker took the 2 young boys for a court-ordered supervised visit with their father who locked the caseworker out of the house and blew up his home, killing himself and his sons. 

Shortly after hearing the news my sister called me to get my reaction.  She also had some questions for me about supervised visits.   I shared some of my experiences with her, but told her that ultimately each case will vary by state policy.
Another friend of mine wrote the following as her facebook status:
May no other children come to harm from supervized visits in unsafe locations with dangerous parents. May the death of the Powell boys be a haunting reminder to judges and social workers. It is far better to be overly cautious than to let tender heartedness invite horror and unleash hell on the innocent.
To which I replied:
I absolutely agree with erring on the side of being overly cautious, but in defense of some of the more conscientious and tender-hearted social workers I've worked with sometimes they have no choice in child welfare matters but to follow a judge's orders even when they know it's NOT in the best interest of the child. That is what disturbs me most about this case: Josh's "rights" seemed to take precedence over the best interest, stability, and safety of his innocent children.
From a foster parent’s perspective one of my biggest pet peeves about child welfare and the legal system is when the rights and safety of children is not made a priority, but is put on the back burner until after their bio parents rights are considered.  That is why it is SO IMPORTANT for children to have committed caseworkers and guardian ad liteums who advocate for what is truly in their best interest-regardless of the wants, needs, or rights of the bio parents are.
Four other thoughts on the subject:
1)      My heart aches for the family of Susan Cox Powell- I can’t even imagine the pain they’ve been through because of their selfish son-in-law. 
2)      Drugs & alcohol are not the only addictions that can tear families apart- it sound like pornography was a likely factor as well.  
3)      I feel so bad for the caseworker at the scene.
4)      The only silver lining to come from all of this is that the Powell boys can now be with their mother again.


Jennifer said...

Such a sad, sad tragedy...

Katrina said...

When I heard this it broke my heart. I remember being so upset that I had to drop our foster daughter off at the halfway house where no one had to be fingerprinted or background checked. Here were 6 adults living in a house that were all recovering drug addicts and I would have to go and just drop her off for the weekend.

As a foster parent I had to report and have background checks on anyone staying in my house for more than a week and I was never allowed to leave her in the care of someone unless they had been approved by the foster care agency.Yet known of these rules applied while she was in her parent's care.

The rules they have for foster care stink. And as a foster care parent when you love a child and know that they will most likely be harmed because of the system it breaks your heart.

I am sure that is why so many SWers become numb.

Praying that one of these days they wake up and do something about all that is broken in the foster care system.

Carlene's soon to be momma :)

Megan said...

This is so heartbreaking! I have read writings of mothers whose children have been placed in Foster Care, and they complain that they are doing everything right, but can't get their kids back.

And then there are cases like this one that tragically illustrate why social workers and courts should be cautious.

Mary said...

Very's been on my mind since it happened. As a social worker, I've never worked in the child welfare system, but I know those who do find their hands tied by court orders and service plans which they are obligated to follow. As a therapist, I'm often asked to make recommendations in cases of children I see in therapy. Often those recommendations are ignored. I've heard guardian ad litems frustrated by the same thing, although I do appreciate those who will fight. I have worked with parents who move mountains to get their lives in order and get their children back, but sadly there are many, many other parents who only demand rights and feel entitled to their children, regardless of their commitment to parenting. In cases where families can be preserved, they should be, but the state's hands are often tied because of cases in a number of states where the decisions of states have been litigated, which states just can't afford...both from a PR and financial perspective. In this case, there is nothing the social worker could have done...possibly they could have requested that a professional supervision agency be involved in a more public location, but I think then that this crazy man would have taken his personal battle into a public setting. Every possible scenario we can think of comes from reasonably sane citizens trying to think through how to stop a crazy man. There were fears this could happen, but no one could have anticipated this. Evil is just that...evil. said...

Susan has been missing for 2 years and 2 months today. Not that it's vitally important to anything but I just wanted to let you know.

She sucked me into her disappearance 2 years and about 1 1/2 months ago and I have not been able to shake her. I know he killed her, the boys were saying what we believe happened that night of the "camping" trip and I just want to find her. She has become like a friend in spirit I guess. I talk to her all the time and beg her to tell us exactly where she is. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about her.

Thank you for saying what you all had to say from your perspectives. It's nice to hear from the other side of the coin. I too feel horrible for the case worker, I can't even imagine what she must be dealing with. I would not be surprised if she changed careers after this.

Thank you again for a different perspective and for trying to protect children, you are my hero's.