David and Michelle Buchanan of Gaston County, North Carolina have been fostering children through the local Department of Social Services (DSS) for the past two years. However, their home has been childless since August 31st , when the 21-month-old toddler they hoped to adopt was unexpectedly removed. The Gaston Gazette has more:
The Buchanans are not alone. They are among a group of former or current foster parents who are frustrated with what they see as an unfair system, ruled by DSS with an iron fist. A number of those residents plan to speak out during a Gaston County commissioners meeting…though many are still fearful of it coming back to haunt them.
“It’s been so heart wrenching. We can’t clear our name or get a true answer,” said Michelle Buchanan. “I feel like if DSS really wanted to do what was best for (the child), they could have worked it out with us.”
The couple says their issues with the system began when they needed DSS to find a new home for an 8-year-old boy with behavioral challenges. When DSSfailed to respond after several weeks, Michelle voiced her frustrations, which, she claims, resulted in social workers suddenly taking issue with their parenting skills.
Despite successfully completing the required training and recently having their license to foster renewed, DSS soon removed both children. While foster parents have no legal right to the children they foster, the toddler’s birth mother and father had given up their parental rights and the Buchanans believed they were on their way to adopting the toddler they’d grown to love:
“Reunification [with the birth family] was the first priority,” said Michelle Buchanan. “But they told us from the beginning it was also a pathway to adoption.”
“They took my heart and ripped it out and stomped on it,” he said. “And they acted like we were demons.”
The Buchanans say they wanted to appeal DSS’ decision in court, but found local attorneys were unwilling to take the case because it could imperil their relationship with the agency. With seemingly little recourse left, the couple now feels they have lost hope:
“This has been like a death for us.”