Other researchers have also found that when the foster care placement arrangements were long-term or permanent, the outcomes were not significantly injurious to the children so placed (Barth & Berry, 1987; Smokowski & Wodarski, 1996); nevertheless, a substantial percentage of children who experience foster care placement may already possess significant physical, psychological, and/or emotional injuries. In these cases, such children are much more likely to remain in the foster care system for longer periods of time than their uninjured counterparts and may ultimately be required to be placed in a residential living facility to address their complex needs (Smith & Fong).
A study by Massinga and Pecora (2004) found that in the United States, an increasing number of young people aged 10 years and above reside in and are emancipated from foster care placements each year. According to these authors, "Older children face many of the same challenges as younger children, but they also have unique developmental needs. Programs that draw on community resources, promote a system of care, link children to mentors, and teach them life skills hold promise for improving the lives of these children" (Massinga & Pecora, p. 150). Based on their research, Massinga and Pecora concluded that:
Approximately 47% of children in foster care are over age 11 years, and in 2001, 20% of children leaving foster care were over age 16 years.
Older children need permanency, stability, and a 'forever family.' Maintaining connections with siblings and other kin can be a crucial resource for older children as they transition to independence.
Former foster children are at higher risk for a number of negative outcomes, such as substance abuse, homelessness, and low educational attainment, but the research on older youth is limited and frequently does not take into considerations the specific resiliency strengths these young people possess (Massinga & Pecora).
The research showed that each year in the United States, hundreds of thousands of children are placed in foster care settings for a wide range of reasons, all of which share the fundamental factors of the safety and welfare of the children involved. Many of these children come into the foster care system already abused, either physically or sexually - or both, and the removal of these children from such abusive family environments is a clear-cut decision that requires a long-term and multifaceted solution. By sharp contrast, other children may be placed in foster care settings for shorter terms based on transitory family problems or other issues that the authorities believe can be satisfactorily resolved. Nevertheless, the drastic nature of the intervention has appeared to constrain the use of such placements to cases where the neglect and abuse is clearly demonstrable and many children remain at high risk for violence and abuse in their natural family homes. In this environment, the decision to use foster care placement at an alternative represents a difficult decision, but in those cases where it is determined to be needed, the research to date suggests that long-term single foster care placement settings are the best approach when the resources are available, but most foster care children do not enjoy the luxury of such advantageous arrangements. On a final note, though, it should be emphasized the many young people manage to overcome whatever odds are presented them during their childhood to go on to achieve both their personal and professional goals in life. A study of the resiliency of these young people might therefore help identify how the foster care system can better address the unique needs of the hundreds of thousands of youths that become part of the foster care system in the Untied States each year.
Barth, R.P., & Berry, M. (1987). Outcomes of child welfare services under permanency planning. Social Services Review, 71-90 in Smith & Fong at 179.
Booth, a. & Crouter, a.C. (2001). Does it take a village? Community effects on children, adolescents and families. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Brown, W.K. & Rhodes, W.A. (1991). Why some children succeed despite the odds. New York: Praeger Publishers.
Hislop, F.H., Wulczyn, K.B. & Goerge, R.M. (2000). Foster care dynamics 1983-1998. A report from the multi-state foster care data archive. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall Center for Children.
Massinga, R. & Pecora, P.J. (2004). Providing better opportunities for older children in the child welfare system. The Future of…