- » Conference Calendar
- » 13th National Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect
- » Plenary Abstracts
- » Plenary Session III
Plenary Session III
"Trouble Don't Last Always": A Study of Survival in the Child Welfare System
Shane Salter gave a powerful personal account of life in the child welfare system. "I was four years old when I became a parent," he began. He described life for his brother and himself as they moved from foster home to adoptive family, and back to another foster home, to a group home, to another adoptive family . . . .
"As a little boy, I could not imagine what I had done that was so terrible . . . that I had to give up the opportunity to have a home, and to have a family, and to be in a place where I was loved, and nurtured, and supported," Salter said.
He continued, "I used to wonder 'Why me?' Why are all these things happening to me? Why do I have all this trouble in my life?"
Salter overcame his challenges and went on to become a college graduate and a successful professional. As an adult, he swore that he wanted nothing to do with the social welfare system. "In time, though" Salter said, "I came to realize that a major purpose in my life was to put a face on the child welfare system—to remind people that it is more than just 'children' we talk about. That these are human beings with incredible potential. And that when we fall short of doing our absolute best, we can do incalculable damage."
Commenting on the conference theme of different approaches, Salter stated, "It is important that you have clients at the table, helping you to learn from their experiences so that you don't make the same mistakes over and over again. That is how you truly demonstrate that you value different approaches to child welfare and service delivery."
Salter concluded by sharing his crowning accomplishment: he has a loving family with three birth children and two adoptive children. But looking at what his adoptive sons went through in the child welfare system rekindled his anger and frustration with the system. "It renews my commitment and my passion to make this the greatest priority of my life," Salter stated. "To remind people about the lives that we are ruining, and the human potential that is not being tapped."