2). Parents can also use DVDs for training in the home; by using a DVD as a means of providing in-service training to foster parents at home, the research showed that they "gained confidence in their ability to understand and handle their child's anger outbursts" and moreover, this was "notable" because it is not easy for parents to "look past the stresses caused by a child with explosive anger" (Pacifici, p. 7).
Review of Literature: Professionalizing Foster Care
Dr. Thomas Waldcock, a university instructor at Trent and Nipissing Universities and a foster parent himself, writes that making foster care more professional is "a long overdue reform in child welfare." Writing in Canada Online (www.ica.net) Waldcock insists that the first priority should be to recognize the "changing problems of the children coming into care," and the importance of providing those children with the "best possible quality of care." Secondly as far as important considerations, is the need to "attract competent foster parents," and once they are on board work to keep them in the system. Too often, Waldcock goes on, "role confusion and other factors -- such as a lack of recognition within the system and in society generally -- contribute to the loss of competent foster parents."
The third consideration Waldcock mentions is to bring foster parents into the decision-making process regarding children that are in their care, and to do that to a far more involved degree than many foster parents are now involved. Clearly, foster parents will feel empowered if they are part of the process, rather than just being in the background and having regulations and changes dictated to them after the fact.
Waldcock goes on to raise the issue that foster parents are being asked to go well beyond what would be considered normal parenting. They in fact are being asked to -- even being forced to -- function as "parent therapists" (Waldcock, www.ica.net). By making foster parents more astute and more deeply involved in their foster children's psychological and emotional needs, social service agencies are in fact professionalizing the foster care experience. This is a good thing, Waldcock asserts, but forcing parents to become quasi-professional therapists is not the right approach. Whatever strategy social service agencies in Canada eventually adopt, it must be "proactive, not passive," Waldcock insists. Children do not have enough power in this matter to demand better care, so it is up to social service talent to work with foster parents to provide better services, and better care is "long over due."
Review of Literature: Kinship Care -- Better Option than Foster Care?
In many nations child welfare services are turning to resources offered by extended families (kin) when the environment at home has become an unacceptable / unworkable situation for the child. This trend towards family-centered solutions, according to Marie Connolly ("Kinship Care"), is due to the fact that governments around the world are realizing that "…greater valuing of family as a resource for the child" meets the child's needs for "continuity, familiarity, and a sense of belonging" (Connolly, p. 3). In the U.S., for example, Connolly states that each year thirty percent of foster parents "withdraw" for several reasons; one, "inadequate support" from the social service agencies; two, more women are going back into the workforce and hence cannot be at home to nurture the foster child; and three, there is an increasingly "negative public image of fostering" (Connolly, p. 3).
Germane reasons for social service agencies embracing kinship care include: one, it reduces the trauma of taking a child from its home (albeit an unkind environment) and placing the child with strangers; two, it avoids "inflicting further harm or maltreatment"; three, kinship care tends to help maintain "family, school, and other connections"; four, kinship care preserves family ties; five, long-term outcomes (social relationships; good physical and mental health) are more likely when the child is in a permanent new home with relatives; and six, kinship care helps foster "positive cultural and personal identification" (Connolly, p. 7). Connolly cautions against making broad generalizations that kinship care will prove better than foster care in most international situations; that said, she also points to the growth in kinship care in several countries.
In Australia kinship care accounts for 24% of care placements for children; in the UK the number of children placed in kinship care is 11% of all abused and neglected children; in the U.S. kinship care placement has jumped from 18% in 1986 to 35% in 1999 (although some states place over 50% of children to kinship care); and in New Zealand, data presented by Connolly (p. 10) shows that about 33% of children under state jurisdiction are place in kinship care (due in large part to the success of the Family Group Conference model).
Children are the future, and they will inherit what today's adult society leaves them, be it positive or negative, workable or dysfunctional. And so it behooves today's community leaders, political leaders and all responsible citizens to become involved in making the foster care system more efficient and more effective.
Chipungu, Sandra Stukes; and Bent-Goodley, Tricia B. (2004). Meeting the Challenges
Of Contemporary Foster Care. The Future of Children.
Connolly, Marie. (2003). Kinship Care: A Selected Literature Review. Submitted to The Department of Child, Youth and Family, New Zealand.
Marquis, Robyn A., Leschied, Alan W., Chiodo, Debbie, and O'Neill, Arlene. (2008).
The Relationship of Child Neglect and Physical Maltreatment to Placement Outcomes
And Behavioral Adjustment in Children in Foster Care: A Canadian Perspective.