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Foster Care Multifaceted Service Serving Children

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Foster Care Foster care is a multifaceted service serving children who have experienced mistreatment or negligence, their birthparents and relatives, and their foster parents. Children in foster care may stay with unconnected foster parents, with kinsfolks, with families who plan to take on them, or in group homes or domestic treatment centers. Since foster care is designed as a provisional service that retorts to crises in the lives of children and families, an anticipation exists that children who enter care either will return to their parents as soon as possible, or will be provided with safe, steady, and loving families through appointment with relatives or adoption. 

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Some children, however, remain in foster care for extended periods of time. Many age out and go on to live on their own. Over the past years, the populace of children and young individuals in foster care has grown vividly, and the encounters related with attaining longevity for them have mounted. As foster care faces new and increasing demands, theology has aimed to understand the factors affecting the children served through foster care so as to develop better ways of approaching these issues using the theological perspective. 

Numerous factors have shaped foster care over the past several decades. One key force has been the heightening of societal expectations and standards for acceptable family functioning, a social shift that began in the 1960 and continues to the present. Religion has contributed largely to this shift with most churches encouraging the formation of the traditional family set up. In the second half of the twentieth century Dr. Henry Kempe and his colleagues published a book which raised public awareness about child abuse. 

Over the following years, the states enacted some type of child abuse and neglect reporting law (Hacsi, 2017). In 1974, Congress passed the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which provided funding to assist states in developing their child protective services systems. As amended most recently in 1996, CAPTA requires states to have in place procedures for reporting suspected child maltreatment, investigating such reports, and taking immediate steps to protect children found to be at risk of harm. 

At the same time that child abuse and neglect reporting and intervention laws were being enacted, concerted public education efforts were being made to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect (Hacsi, 2017). The general public and professionals responded to these efforts, and the number of child abuse and neglect reports began to increase. That trend, which continues to the present, has had important implications for foster care. A second key dynamic that has shaped foster care is the convergence of factors that place great numbers of families at increased risk of child abuse and neglect. 

Poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, discrimination, declining informal and extended family supports, and other forces are undermining the resilience and coping capacity of families (Hacsi, 2017). At the same time, the service systems on which families traditionally have depended have not kept pace with demand. The capacity of key systems such as mental health and substance abuse treatment is being strained, and service reductions and long waiting lists are commonplace. Prevention and early intervention services are more difficult to obtain, and treatment resources often are not available except in crisis situations (Hacsi, 2017). 

In addition, previous safety nets for families, most specifically Aid to Families with Dependent Children and the children’s disability program under the Supplemental Security Income program, have been redesigned so that financial and health benefits are not available to the extent to which they were in the past (Reader, 2017). As family needs increase and intensify and other service systems are unable to respond, child welfare is becoming the system that, both legally and socially, is expected to intervene. Historically, broader economic and political realities have affected the welfare of families and children. 

These factors impact the overall functioning and well-being of families, and consistently play a key role in the extent to which child abuse and neglect occur and foster care is needed (Hacsi, 2017). Many of the same stresses that historically have been associated with increased risks of child maltreatment and the need to place children, away from their families and into foster care characterize the current economic and social environment (Franz & Murphy, 2016). These factors include poverty, homelessness, adolescent parenthood; parental substance abuse, and the effects of HIV/AIDS. Poverty has always affected the well-being of children and families. 

Although the U.S. is one of the richest nations in the world, it has high rates of poverty, particularly child poverty (Hacsi, 2017). Poverty severely limits the ability of some families to provide basic necessities for their children, including food, shelter, clothing, health care, and transportation to school and needed services. In the last twenty years, seventeen percent of United States children experienced hunger and thirty percent of children being raised by single mothers were determined to be food insecure that is, uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, adequate food sufficient to meet their basic needs at all times due to inadequate household incomes for food. Poverty and poor health also are related (Hacsi, 2017). 

The health of poor children is worse than that of their better-off peers, and poor children are less likely than non-poor children to receive adequate health care. Given the impact of poverty on the ability of many families to provide adequately for their children, it is not surprising that children living in poverty are far more likely to be reported to child protective services as victims of child neglect. Increasingly, the homeless population in the U.S. has come to include families with children. In the last ten years, families with children represented more than one-third of the homeless population. In a growing number of cases, homelessness leads to involvement with the child welfare system and children’s entry into foster care. 

Often, children either are involuntarily removed from their parent’s custody or families voluntarily place their children after they have lost their homes and find that they have no other option. Currently, homelessness was a factor in over forty percent of placements into foster care in the United States and the sole precipitating cause in eighteen percent of those placements (Hacsi, 2017). According to a study children whose families had housing problems were almost twice as likely to be in foster care as children whose families did not have housing problems (Moo & Moo, 2018). These trends raise important questions about the nature and quality of services provided to families confronted with homelessness or unstable housing (Hacsi, 2017). 

It is not unusual to find that housing services are not provided to assist families to remain together or that judgments are made that homeless families do not deserve to keep their children as, for example, when families reach the limits of allowable stays at city and county financed shelters for homeless individuals and families. Homelessness and unstable housing also pose challenges to the reunification of children in foster care with their families. The service deficiencies and biases that may result in homeless families losing custody of their children often stand as obstacles to reunification. At the same time, the housing issues that many families confront may be further complicated by parental substance abuse and mental health problems. 

Absent effective interventions that can address the combined effects of homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health problems, the ability of parents to work toward reunification may be severely compromised. Homelessness and unstable housing also pose challenges to the reunification of children in foster care with their families. The service deficiencies and biases that may result in homeless families losing custody of their children often stand as obstacles to reunification. At the same time, the housing issues that many families confront may be further complicated by parental substance abuse and mental health problems. 

Absent effective interventions that can address the combined effects of homelessness, substance abuse, and mental health problems, the ability of parents to work toward reunification may be severely compromised. Homelessness also has a significant impact on young people who leave foster care. Adults who, as children, were placed in foster care or another out-of-home setting; experienced physical or sexual abuse which is often precursors to out-of-home care; were raised by parents who abused alcohol or other drugs; or experienced homelessness or housing instability, often face an increased risk of homelessness (Hacsi, 2017). 

As many as three in ten homeless adults were formerly children in foster care. Parents who spent time in foster care as children and who experience homelessness as adults are almost twice as likely to have their own children placed in foster care as parents who are homeless but who were never in foster care. Since the twentieth century, parental substance abuse has increased markedly, with a significant growth in maternal drug use as a result of the cocaine epidemic. Based on a survey of women who gave birth over the last ten years, the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimated that two hundred and twenty one thousand women used an illegal drug and seven hundred thousand used alcohol during pregnancy (Hacsi, 2017). 

According to another research eleven percent of all infants born each year had been exposed to illegal drugs. Others estimate that approximately seven infants are born each year with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and another sixteen thousand to twenty two thousand infants are born exhibiting effects of prenatal exposure to alcohol. Based on prenatal drug and alcohol exposure data, calculated that a substance-exposed infant is born more frequently than every 90 seconds (Chan, 2015). The impact of parental substance abuse extends to children who, though not prenatally exposed to drugs or alcohol, are subject to their parents’ drug or alcohol-related behavior. 

By understanding these factors, a theological approach can be used in reducing these causes of increased children being placed in foster care by establishing ways of combating these issues. Theology plays a major role in shaping the whole society and based on that acts as a very important instrument in the fight against poverty, homelessness, adolescent parenthood and substance abuse. We live in a current society that believes caring for orphaned children is a good thing. The gospel also believes this. However, although the gospel and the church strive to make foster care and adoption a priority, the governmental system has not fully integrated the theological approach in supporting foster care. The matter of the fact is that the children are the future and so it should be important to care for their wellbeing and quality of life. 

They are who will make up society for years to come. Foster children deal with injustices on a daily basis and their care should be a prime concern for everyone (Scheib, 2016). The gospel and the churches response to this is based off of the brokenness of the child and although reunification of the parent and child is the goal, it is not always what is best for them and God will work to show them that he has a greater plan. The caring of a foster child has become a Christian priority. Just as foster care is a Christian priority it can also be described as the way of Christ. Foster care is a sacrificial love. “I am the good shepherd. 

The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:11-15). Fostering is hard for some families as they find it difficult to love a child and have to let them go. However, other families find it a reason to adopt. The church has helped with fostering and adopting by providing meals, prayer, and foster letters. 

There are very little people willing to foster which is in large part due to the lack of knowledge in the process, the children, and the language barriers. In the book Exploring Christian Ethics, Fedler discusses the ideas of ethics and morality in a broad sense. “Almost all Christians recognize that ethical egoism is a poor way to live life and that a life lived merely in pursuit of self-gratification is an impoverished one. At the very heart of Christianity is is the claim that loving and serving other human beings is part of the good life” (Fedler, 2006, p.14). Jesus calls people to put others needs above their own which is being righteous. 

The church pushes virtue as it is an act of nobleness. Children in foster care deal with a sense of brokenness. Not having those parental role models can be challenging mentally as well as moving from house to house. These children do experience injustices and is in part by problems with the foster care system. “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”(Psalm 82:3-4). Children need caregivers to thrive in society. This is part of the role of peacemaking in society. “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause” (Isaiah 1:17). 

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Reunification is the ultimate goal in foster care. In reunification, both the parent and the child hope to find forgiveness. This is also a form of peacemaking so that there is clarification and peace within both minds. God shows us that there is a need for the gospel in our lives. Foster care also shows us this. God also provides lessons for the families involved. Everything happens for a reason and that reason is one that God reveals when the time is right. Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward (John 13:34-36). 

“The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work”(2 Corinthians 9:6-8). Foster care is help for the child even if they might not see it yet. Each home they are placed in is a new experience and a new environment to grow and learn. “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him” (1 Samuel 1:27). 

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