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Broken Foster Care System in America

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Foster care system is one of the biggest crisis that America is facing today. Foster care refers to a minor who faced neglect or any abuse and is a place in a ward, group home, or a private home care giver. This event means the government has a sole custody of the child. The government governs the child’s well-being. Foster care was founded to provide the proper care of these children that were abused or neglected. According to the Psychology Today article (2017), “official statistics show as many as 28 percent of kids are abused while in the foster care system (Cavara & Ogren,2017).” This number can be even greater because most of these children are so vulnerable that they are conditioned not to speak up. Unfortunately, caseworkers are overwhelmed with the responsibilities of keeping up with their foster children, they are not given a limit to how many children they must monitor, and they also have to deal with the paperwork obligations. Since the staff of foster care are drowned with all these responsibilities in their hands, it results in the leniency in evaluation the condition of the foster home. Children who are in need deserve a better system. They already experience a troubled life before they entered in the system, and now that they entered in the foster care agency they get additional harm. These children deserve justice, better living conditions, and they need their needs met.

Brief History

Over the past fifteen years foster care agencies have been underfunded. Case workers have been overwhelmed by how many cases they have been assigned. “During my own time working with foster care agencies and group homes, I often witnessed the agency staff become overwhelmed with the number of children they were required to monitor -not to mention the pressure of completing mountains of paperwork” (Babbel, 2013).There are not enough recruitment of social workers. Foster parents are not properly trained to complete the needs of each child. This leads up children being moved around for multiple times. Sibling are also separated into different homes. This instability affect these children immensely especially children under five years old which are the largest groups to be placed in the system. “Foster children who have moved multiple times often develop detachment disorder: they become unable to attach to others as a defense mechanism” (Babbel, 2013). Stable early life plays a vital role of on the human development of these children. This will prevent long term behavior and emotional problems. Over the years the foster care system have been overcrowded. The government have not yet attempted to try to reunite these children with their biological families or place them with adoptive parents. Also children that are eighteen years and older are automatically discharged from foster care system without any legal help or supervision. “36 percent of youth in one study had been homeless at least once by age 26; nearly half of those youth had been homeless more than once and nearly 75 percent had been homeless four or more times” (NCSL, 2019).Before the discharge there are classes for teens to take to learn how to handle finances. The classes are still not enough. These children need help in the beginning of being independent. Once teens turn eighteen the foster care system tends to totally forget about them providing no help whatsoever.

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Case Studies

Kendrea Johnson was placed in foster in March 2014. Her dad died in a drive by shooting and her mother was neglectful. The little girl would miss school a lot and would live in a trashed home in the care of her mother. She was eventually placed in the Brooklyn Park foster home of Tannise Nawaqavou. The child was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depersonalization and adjustment disorder while she was in the care of the Brooklyn Park foster home. Knowing that Kendrea needed these high needs she was still placed with an inexperienced foster mom with no training on how to care for a child with serious mental issues and what makes it worse there have been report of her foster mother physically abusing a child in 2000. The foster mother still was awarded a foster care license after the incident in 2000. When Kendrea was placed in the foster, there was a boy already staying there. The foster mom eventually reported a possible sexual encounter with Kendrea and the boy. She found Kendrea partly naked with the boy in the home. The child protection records had this report but the workers did no investigation on this incident at all. They just brushed it off. There were also reports from the foster mother that Kendrea threatened to kill her with a screwdriver. Instead if taking the child to the proper care she needed the foster mother would lock her in her room instead. This would eventually lead to the suicidal thoughts that the little girl would often have. She would talk jumping out the window to her foster mother. In her art folder she even had a drawing of herself hanging from a rope. The little girl hung herself at just six years old. Knowing this, the foster care system did nothing to help this child. (Schmidt, 2018)

Naika Venant was placed into foster when she was six years old. Ever since the she has had an unstable environment. She was placed into foster care because her mother has beaten her with a belt. She has been placed with the mom a few times after that incident but it was unsuccessful. Naika has been placed more than a dozen times since the age of six years old. She was placed into group homes, foster homes and shelter. The teen was suffering from emotional distress and a dysfunctional relationship with her mother. Eventually this child ended up hanging herself publicly. Naika was on Facebook for more than two hours before committed suicide. Many people were urging her to do it. Sadly even her mom was watching her own daughter commit suicide. Her mom was even urging her to kill herself. Some viewers did in fact begged Naika to not commit suicide. Sadly the only person that was suppose to love her encouraged her to do it anyways which was her mother. Naika ended her life in January 2017 by hanging herself in the bathroom of the foster home she was staying at in Florida. After her death, there was a twenty page report published on the ways foster care could have prevented this from happening. Foster care system has failed to meet the needs of this child. (Phillips, 2017)

Elizabeth Henson was placed with foster mother Natalie Parker in Austin, Texas. At that time Ms.Parker was already taking care of four foster children and a baby. Ms. Parker left all five children under the supervision of her nineteen year old son. He wasn’t even licensed to take care of foster children. Under Ms.Parker’s son’s supervision the five month old infant was found unresponsive and turning purple. The cause of death has not yet been published. The Police Department also found pornography of the infant in Ms. Parker’s son’s phone. Ms.Parker is charged with endangering a child, injury to a child and witness tampering. A year ago before this incident Parker was cited for abandoning previous foster children that were in her care. According to the health commission it is unclear if any action was taken to fix these problems. National Association of Social Workers questioned why Ms. Parker didn’t get additional supports both in training resources and respite care. It is clearly seen that a single mother will not give proper care to five foster children and including an infant at the same time. It is too much supervision and responsibility for one person. There should be a limit per home. (Morris, 2019)

Compare and Contrast

In Texas once a child ages out they are set free without no funds or a permanent home. They are not taught with no life skills that will help them become independent. “After aging out of foster care, they disappeared and faced homelessness and unemployment” (Morris, 2018). These young adult face homelessness because they are own their own with no funds to help them find a place to live. Before release foster children are not taught on how to get resources. They are also not taught on how to get finically situated. They have not been prepared on becoming independent. Also they are not eligible for funds that provide free tuition for those who want to go to college. They are all alone with no experience how to manage an adult life and how to better themselves. Recently there was a bill passed that does help solve part of this crisis. “Approximately 25 states and the District of Columbia have enacted legislation to extend foster care beyond age 18. The 25 states include: Alabama, Arkansas,California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia” (NCSL, 2019). In Virginia, the foster care agency starts teaching their kids ages fourteen through twenty one important life skills that will help them live independently. “Areas of focus include personal development skills such as self-esteem, communication skills, decision-making, conflict resolution and anger management. Examples of independent living skills are career exploration, job skills, money, management, housing, transportation, and legal issues” (Virginia, 2017). Virginia is helping these children build a future and they’re providing these kids knowledge of adulthood. “In contrast with America’s “child safety” approach, the Australian system of foster care has a process that explores how the family in question can benefit from direct family support services rather than immediately taking the child out of the home” (Barron,2016).The Australian foster care system focuses on early intervention, providing early therapy parent education. Their focus is how to help the parents acknowledge the responsibility for the proper care of a child. They provide an early framework of early intervention services. If there’s maltreatment after the services, then the foster care system will revoke the child from the parents. This will be the last action the foster care system will take.

Opposition Viewpoint

It is hard for people to understand what foster children have been through. Instead of trying to understand them, people often judge them for the actions foster children take. “They might innately be aware of the sad truth that they are viewed by caseworkers and foster parents as potentially ‘troublesome,’ and that – unlike most children – they must prove themselves to be trustworthy before they will be fully loved” (Babbel, 2013). Foster children have already gone through tremendous trauma. They have gone through a lot of pain and are emotionally scar. Most of them experience long lasting impact in personality and development. Thus, the children become refusal to supervision of adults and often act out. Every parent knows raising a child is a challenged, but raising foster children is especially a challenge because of all the unique needs of them. In spite of the child welfare is supposed to improve a child’s life and integrate them to a comfortable home and into their original school, these two goals are often difficult to accomplish. There are many cases when foster children will have to be moved to a none familiar environment and a new school, therefore needing to make new friends again. These circumstances will make them uncertain about their future. People don’t understand that some of the defense mechanism these children use is to run away, be aggressive or even join in the wrong crowd. They are just trying to prevent themselves from getting more hurt than they already are. People believe that these children don’t deserve a chance in life because all they do is just cause problems. That’s the sad mentality of positions now a days. All these children need is help to cope with the past, love and stability. If all three of these needs were met, there wouldn’t be as many troubled children as we have today.

Solutions and Implementation

The foster care system is a growing problem today. Politicians don’t understand how much foster children have suffered.The main goal these politicians should have is family unification. It is not healthy separating a child from their parents for a long period. Some children were taken away from their parents since birth. What if the parent was able to fix their problems and now they are able to care for their children. The government should be finding ways to solve family issues. If the child is at great risk then the second option would be to find a family member that is willing to provide the proper care that the child requires. In 2018, there has been a law passed called Family First Prevention. According to the article This New Federal Law Will Change Foster Care As We Know It (2018), “The law, called the Family First Prevention Services Act, prioritizes keeping families together and puts more money toward at-home parenting classes, mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment— and puts limits on placing children in institutional settings such as group homes” (Wiltz, 2018). Parents will be able to see their children under supervision. For those children who did not get the chance of family unification. When they age out of foster care, they should be taught on how to become independent. Foster care system would provide classes to teach the kids that are going to age out of foster care system what it takes to live independently. How they’re suppose to manage their money, where to find support group, and have a banking account with funds to back them up, if they struggle to make ends meet. Some children who are in foster care receive social security because their parents passed away. While the children are in the foster care system, foster care takes the social security away from the children. Foster care caseworkers tell the children that the funds are returned through Medicaid. That money was left for those children by their parents. Instead of taking the money away, foster care should save it in a bank account until the child reaches of age which is eighteen years old. This money will benefit the child in a lot of ways. It could help them with their down payment for an apartment, buy a car, buy school supplies and many other different ways.

Conclusion

America is still facing a broken foster care system today. Congress has started implementing laws to improve the well being of these children while in the care of the government. In reality the progress in improving foster care system is painfully slow. More each day, children face neglect and abuse in the care of the foster care system. At times the pain they feel is so overwhelming they end up committing suicide, thinking that it is the easiest way out. These children are looking for an escape to prevent themselves from getting hurt. It is time to take a stand on protecting these children. It is time for foster care to take better care of these children.Another issue that the foster care system faces is that in small valleys there is no foster care centers. For example Brownsville Texas barely opened a foster care center. Before it got opened foster children were forced to relocate in different counties making it harder for them to adjust. “BROWNSVILLE, Texas – In January alone nearly 40% of children in foster care (ages 0-17) in Cameron County are placed outside of the county” (Cuadros, 2017). Moving constantly will traumatize a child. Children need stability to grow a healthy life. There need to be foster care centers in every county and city of each state. “Regional Director for ‘A World for Children’ Maricela Medrano said, “We want the children to stay here in the valley locally and even within their own city to be able own to have visits with their biological families” (Cuadros, 2017). Also politicians started noticing the crisis in foster care system. They realized how many cases caseworkers had which was overwhelming. In 2019 there have been several legislation passed that will help foster care. One of the bills implemented recently was The Foster Care Omnibus bill. The bill does several things, but some of the highlights are: it allows the Commissioner to implement a corrective action plan or assume temporary control of local departments when necessary, requires the Department to establish and update annually a caseload standard which limits the number of foster care cases that may be assigned to each caseworker, and requires the Commissioner to create within the State Department of Social Services a foster care health and safety director position” (Gilbreath, 2019). Foster care system will eventually become a safe place for the children of America.

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