Logan* was five when he entered foster care for the second time. Nine years later, at 14, he’s still in foster care. This Georgia boy’s long stay in the foster care system started when his mother signed a temporary voluntary relinquishment of her parental rights because of her alcohol and drug abuse. Back then, the plan was to have Logan stay in foster care or placed with relatives while she worked on her rehabilitation. The goal was to reunify the family and the plan didn’t change.
Logan has had seven placements while in foster care. Today, he lives in a group home and has a close relationship with the director of that home and his court appointed special advocate. He has also maintained a bond with his mother over all this time. They talk by phone, have weekly family counseling by phone and last summer he spent a week in her home in Texas.
Logan’s mother has changed and improved her situation over the last nine years. She is no longer using drugs and she has had another child whom she is raising in Texas. She is fragile, but has been fairly stable for six years. She expresses affection for Logan, something that has sustained him during all these years of being so alone. Over the years, Logan has been diagnosed with several mental health disorders which has caused him to take more than several medications. The professionals working with Logan are questioning these diagnoses today, especially in light of Logan being so young at the time, and an independent review is in process. In spite of these troubles, he has also made pretty good grades for the most part and he is in ROTC which he loves.
Logan says he will go live with his mother in Texas as soon as he turns 18. He also said going home to his mother is his choice for permanency while in foster care. The Cold Case Project team reviewing his case in 2009, assisted with facilitating movement toward that placement now. Why wait until 18? Logan has even hand written a letter to Texas asking to allow him to go home and live with his mother.
Logan is older now and the risks of his mother relapsing are no longer as high, plus his mother is raising a six-year-old today in her three-bedroom trailer home. Georgia’s Division of Families and Children Services (Logan’s legal custodian) has submitted an Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children (ICPC) request three separate times to Texas. This ICPC law governs transferring civil child abuse and neglect cases between the states.
All three times, Logan’s ICPC request has been denied, citing his mother’s bad past behavior, her poor relationship history (past domestic violence history) and Logan’s mental health and behavior problems. The state of Georgia believes Logan’s mother could now raise Logan with the help of the Texas social service agency. Logan’s grandmother who also lives in Texas agrees with Georgia’s assessment.
Logan’s case illustrates the bureaucratic and legal morass that can block permanency for children. ICPC was set up to prevent states from “dumping” cases on each other, however, the stated purpose of the ICPC (Article I. Purpose and Policy) is to ensure that “each child requiring placement shall receive the maximum opportunity to be placed in a suitable environment…” [emphasis added] and that under the facts of this case that purpose has not be realized.
But there is no path for appeal at this time. A new version of ICPC governing these sorts of cases does allow for binding dispute resolution and we should look closely at the new law. At the moment, the many people in Georgia working on Logan’s case are stuck, but no one is giving up.
*Logan is not his real name, but his story is real. This teen was part of a statewide review called the Cold Case Project. The Cold Case Project is being conducted in full partnership and transparency with the Division of Family and Children Services. The project is made possible by the Casey Family Program funds.