Questions remain for Forestdale caseworker
Sep 28, 2011 | 2579 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We’re not sure how long it takes most parents to round up eight kids, get them all in a car and off to grandma’s house, but it takes families we know with even three children a good ten minutes. Maybe Shanel Nadal and Nephra Payne should be giving parenting lessons on how to get your family on the road so you’re not late for everything when you have kids in tow.

Something doesn’t sound right with the story by the Forestdale caseworker and security. Many are skeptical about the length of the distraction to get all those children out of the foster care agency, and more than a few are calling for the agency to be scrutinized.

That said, by all accounts it seemed Nadal and Payne, parents of eight children aged 11 months to 11 years, were getting closer to getting their children back after the Administration for Children’s Services took control of them after alleged abuse and neglect two years ago.

However, when they paid a visit to those children at the Forestdale in Forest Hills on Monday afternoon, September 19, Nadal took the opportunity to whisk the children out a back door, into an SUV and take off while a caseworker was apparently distracted.

The week-long manhunt ended in relief Monday, September 26, as the family was found unharmed in their SUV in Harrisburg, PA.

Forestdale Feature Story

As coincidence would have it, this newspaper was in the midst of preparing a feature story about the Forestdale Agency, which has a $15 million budget to provide family counseling services and find foster homes for children who have been taken from their biological parents by ACS.

Its beautiful three-plus acre campus in Forest Hills seems as inviting as it is necessary. A few of our editors visited the facility, watched families, caseworkers, and program supervisors, and got a real taste of how this misunderstood service provider can actually make a difference in the lives of families that are more dysfunctional than many can comprehend.

After an initial understanding of the purpose of Forestdale, it is indeed striking that the atmosphere is so lax, if not palpably open to the streets of Forest Hills. However, after digesting what a service like this needs to accomplish, its setting and the obvious openness culture makes perfect sense.

How any parent can handle a child being taken away and put into the care of another family is beyond what most can imagine. This agency provides hope for some of these parents to understand how to become a functional family again.

We see that the balance of having a setting, which provides biological parents a sense of freedom with their children, outweighs the need for the impression of walls and fences.

Anstiss Agnew, Forestdale’s executive director, was mum to us during the week the children were missing. We are sorry we could not get more information to our readers throughout this ordeal, however when we met with her before these children were taken, we sensed in her and the staff a true responsibility for helping these families.

Walls and barriers don’t bring together families who have lost their way, but patience, responsibility and openness just might.

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