Foster parents' perspective: "The system needs to change"

Since the tragic death of 2-year-old Jordan Belliveau, the Florida child welfare system has come under fire.  Many people are outraged and believe a broken system failed the toddler.

“I just know what happened to Jordan didn’t have to happen,” said Melissa Williams.

Melissa and her husband, Adam, became foster parents to 2-year-old Ariel when she was just 6 weeks old.  Since then, they have put all of their energy into giving the little girl a loving and safe home.

“They removed her because there were drugs involved, and shortly after that they became homeless,” Melissa said.

The Clearwater couple welcomed Ariel into their family.  Fighting to protect her, until they were finally able to adopt the toddler this February.     

“This is all the paperwork that we’ve had for the last two years,” Melissa said as she thumbed through a box full of papers and files.  “I look at this as a box of all the opportunities the parents had to get their act together.”

According to Melissa, the entire time they were battling judges and caseworkers, whose main focus was reunification and putting Ariel back into a volatile life.  She says, as the foster family, they felt helpless -- frustrated because biological parents get chance after chance, and it's not fair to the children caught in the middle.

“The system needs to change.  The children don’t have any rights; it’s all about the parents. And when you bring anything up to them, they don’t want to hear it,” said Melissa.  “Nobody wants to hear what the caregivers say; they treat the foster parents like the criminal.”

Theirs is a success story.  However, the Williamses say they want to see the entire child welfare system reformed, because children will continue to fall through the cracks, and be failed just like Jordan.