It's clearly a matter of too little, too late but Gov. Bob Holden has appointed a two-man task force to investigate the state's foster care program in the Springfield area. We hope their probe turns into a statewide investigation. Also under the spotlight will be the actions of the Division of Family Service.
The investigation comes in the wake of the death of a 2-year-old southwest Missouri youngster. The child's foster father is charged with second-degree murder for fatally shaking the child. The young boy died in August.
Authorities had earlier suspected child abuse and investigated the foster family. But the boy was returned to the home only to be fatally injured four days later.
Holden has appointed a retired circuit judge and a board member of the Children's Trust Fund to uncover details of the case. Our hope is that this investigation will shed light on this specific case and more importantly, put the entire foster care program under investigation.
The Division of Family Services said they followed appropriate procedures and policies prior to the death of the youngster. But if that is the case then the policies themselves should come under review. It appears from early news reports that this youngster should never have been returned to this home. Surely the investigation will point a finger of blame at someone or something in this case.
I get the distinct impression that our child care system in this state is broken. I find massive fault with the Division of Family Service. But most of that fault is not with the dedicated caseworkers but rather the policies that stem from Jefferson City. In this case I believe the problem does indeed start at the top. But that is a problem with a solution.
Foster parenting - as noble as it may be - is also big business for some families. There is ample evidence that the overwhelming majority of foster parents are dedicated and sincere individuals with a pure and true mission in life. But as with all other issues of life, with the good also comes some bad. Foster parents who simply warehouse youngsters primarily for financial gain should be condemned and eliminated. It will take work. But it is well worth the effort.