Charity Biggs is just one of many parents Judge Nan Waller has seen from her bench. It’s hard to pin down exact numbers, but Waller and others in the family court system say it’s not uncommon for them to see multiple generations of the same family in and out of the system over time.
Charity’s father has been in prison since she was a toddler. Her mother developed a heroin habit, and Charity and her brother and sister were separated and sent to live in foster families when Charity was eight years old. Charity developed a drug problem herself and her own young daughter was taken into state custody as a result. She ended up getting clean and getting her daughter back, but it was hard road. She now helps other parents who are struggling with similar issues.
What are the factors that make it so hard for families to break the cycles that land them in the child welfare and family court systems again and again?
Have you had contact with the child welfare system (as a parent, child or foster parent)? What kind of interaction have you had inside the system? If you’ve been in the system yourself, what kind of support do you think would make a difference in your experience?
- Charity Biggs: Volunteer with Parents Anonymous
- Katharine Cahn: Director of the Child Welfare Partnership at Portland State University’s School of Social Work
- Carrie Medina: Long time Oregon foster mom*
- Nan Waller: Multnomah County Family Court Judge
*Editor’s note: Carrie Medina has since changed her name to Medina Cardona.