Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Children & The State: Foster Care in America

This Foster Care Month, take a min, hour, week or more to get involved to support youth & parents in foster care.

By Cleo Brown

Foster-Care is never an ideal situation for any parent. Many factors contribute to a child not remaining with their parents. Drug and alcohol addiction, AIDS, Mental and Physical Illness, Neglect, Domestic Violence, Abuse, Abandonment, Incarceration, and Homelessness are amongst some of the factors which can contribute to a child’s placement in The Foster-Care System.

In addition to all of these reasons, however, is the superficial and poor training provided by auxiliary support staff (police-officers, paramedics, social workers, health care professionals, teachers, clerics, etc.) that are expected to intercede in altercations in which children and families are involved.

According to statistics compiled in 2005, there are a little over 500,000 children in Foster-Care currently in The United States. While, African-American and Hispanic Children are in the minority in the overall population; they comprise a majority of the children in the Foster-Care System.

Research suggests not only that more of these children are in the Foster-Care System but they also remain in the system for a longer period of time. African-American children comprise 41% of all children in Foster Care while they are only fifteen percent of the population Nationwide.

In the state of Connecticut, similarly, Hispanic children comprise twenty-five percent of the Foster Care Community but are only eleven percent of the overall children’s population. Nationally, fifteen percent of The Foster-Care population is comprised of Hispanic Children.

The failure of support services to professionally and expertly intervene in situations which threaten to destroy the family structure has been cited as the reason for such high numbers of African-American and Hispanic Children in Foster-Care. Not only do those children, who usually enter Foster-Care between the ages of six years old and eighteen years old remain in Foster-Care for a longer period of time, it also takes longer for those children who cannot return home to their parents to find adoptive families. Foster-Care, therefore, is temporary with the child remaining as a ward of the court or of The State.

The State makes all decisions concerning the child. Adoption, on the other hand, is permanent with the adoptive parents assuming all decision making responsibilities for the child. “Of the 400,000 children entering Foster-Care in six states between 1990 and 2002, 24% of African American Children were eventually adopted, compared to 16% of White or Latino Children.” It took longer, however, for these adoptions to occur. (Reform Foster Care Now: African American Foster Youth Are Being Adopted, p.1)

Similarly, children from urban areas placed with relatives were adopted at a higher rate of twenty-six percent. This was the eventual fate of the children in scenario two. Without the birth mother’s knowledge or permission, her children were adopted by a relative living in another state.

It has been suggested by The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry that “30% of all children in Foster-Care have severe emotional, behavioral, and developmental problems. Physical health problems are also common.”(p.1)

A more permanent situation is always considered to be more ideal such as:

1. reunification with the parents

2. adoption by a biological family member

3. adoption by a foster parent

4. adoption by someone not known to family

5. the permanent transfer of guardianship to a foster parent.

Foster parenting also differs from adoption in that Foster Parents are reimbursed on a monthly basis for expenditures they make on behalf of the children. According to some, “The Foster Parent is ‘remunerated’ by the state for their services.” (Wikipedia, “Foster-Care”, p.1) This remuneration and state-aid (Welfare Benefits) paid to Foster Families has caused one researcher to suggest that children are intentionally and deliberately taken from their parents by support staff and placed in Foster-Care Agencies for the money.

This is particularly true in states such as Texas which “paid mental treatment centers as much as $101,105 a year per child for care,” and California. The findings of The Grand Jury in Santa Clara, California concerning Foster-Care allocations were: “…the department (DFCS) puts too much money into ‘back-end services,’ i.e., therapists and attorneys…in other words, the Agency benefits, financially from placing children in foster-homes.” (Wikipedia, p.3)

Despite the failures, unfortunately there are situations in which Foster-Care remains as the best solution. The task ahead therefore, is to empower families to stay together and to provide well-trained auxiliary employees in recognizing situations which mandate “the careful” use of The Foster-Care System.

Our rallying cry should therefore be, “empower families before a child ever gets into foster care… not afterwards”.

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