My response to a column in my local USAToday network paper this weekend. The original column, linked here.
I believe that the column your paper chose to run in the March 25 Living section, by Ana Veciana-Suarez, under the headline “Crocodile Tears for Teen After Suicide,” was a deeply flawed piece that should never have been given national attention.
While I agree with Ana Veciana-Suarez’s thesis that the mother of her piece is clearly trying to make a cash grab in the wake of her personal tragedy, I find it appalling the lengths to which the article goes on about demonizing the woman. The texts quoted in the piece are justly horrifying. But the article’s insistence on naming only the woman involved, and none of the other people who had wronged young Naika Venant seems to me to be doing just what the mother claims, recasting her as the sole villain in this piece.
If this article had been bought, and paid for, by the State of Florida’s DCF it couldn’t have been a better attempt to shift blame away from “the black hole of the system.” The acceptance that foster care is going to involve rape, and neglect, and that “[Naika’s] journey through foster care made her even more disrespectful and rebellious, too. Her behavior, however, was an expected result of the great trauma she endured,” is frankly horrifying. This shouldn’t be seen as an opportunity to pile upon a woman who is herself deeply flawed, but a chance to shine a light upon the often desperate straits that the whole nation’s foster care system is facing – often enough because of inadequate funding and impossible caseloads, as has been highlighted by the investigations locally in the wake of the Brook Stagles case.
It seems to me to be not merely unfair to send this article out nationally where it is falling into the public’s purview without any context, nor any direct follow-up to be expected, but a dangerous over-simplification – presenting the parent of a child who died while in care of the state’s as the sole named villain of the piece – when anyone who took the time to think about it would realize that the parents of all the children who find themselves in the foster care system are going to be deeply flawed individuals – and excusing failures of the system by blaming them for blatantly predictable failures is going to leave us with a system that isn’t bothering to ask what can it do better, and what resources does it need to meet the real-world demands placed upon it.
Michael D. Taub