This thesis reviews foster care in the United States: the reasons why children fall into the category of children who need to be taken out of their families and placed in care, the numerous emotional and psychological responses of children in foster care, and the psychological and emotional care that is given to children that are placed in foster care. The numerous laws covering foster care institutions and the policies they implement regarding the treatment of children in their care are also discussed. An extensive list of references is also given at the end of the thesis.
Everyday more children are born into this world. Yet everyday there is a mother or a father who child is placed in a foster care facility, for many different reasons. Children are taken from their home because of neglect or in cases of child abuse, yet others are left abandoned by their families and are left at the door of family services. The foster care service has continued to expand in the last decade, and there are so many foster children in the country that the facilities are overcrowded and under staffed. The age of the parents of children in foster care is most commonly found to range from 14 years to 44 years. Many children are placed in foster care by their parent or parents because the parents are on drugs or are not ready to take on the responsibility, or because they are not mentally, or financially, ready for a child. Other parents may just be afraid of the change that a child would bring to their lives.
The life changing decision to have a child often isn't thought out long enough by the parents. Parents don't consider the fact that they are giving up their flesh and blood in order to make their lives easier. They also don't consider the struggles that the child will go through in their life following a life in care. Struggles such as identity, wanting to know who their real family is, and also wondering why their real parents didn't want them. Also, not every child will receive the perfect loving foster family.
Chapter 1 - Issues of a Foster Child
In the State of Missouri, children are regularly removed from their biological family over the short or long-term. Some of the reasons that the state government has removed these children are due to suspected child abuse or neglect, an inability of the biological parent to provide a safe and nurturing environment, neglect of the medical or educational needs of the child, severe behavior and disciplinary problems manifested by the child, which the parents cannot cope with, or simply the children in foster care are children that are waiting adoption. Many times, children can be removed as a precautionary measure or while the local authorities investigate the validity of every report.
Foster care is a complicated service. It serves children who have experienced abuse or neglect, from their birthparents and families and their foster parents. Children in foster care may live with unrelated foster parents, with relatives, with families who plan to adopt them, or in group homes or residential treatment centers. The State of Missouri Foster care program is a temporary service that responds to crises in the lives of children and families. Children who enter foster care will either return to their parents as soon as possible, or become provided by the state government with safe, stable, and loving families through placement with relatives or adoption. 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 decade, the population of children and young people in foster care has grown dramatically.
Many 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 1960s and continues to the present. In 1962, Dr. Henry Kempe and colleagues published "The Battered Child Syndrome" (Kempe, Silverman, Steele, Droegemueller, & Silver, 1962), which raised public awareness about child abuse. Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which provided funding to assist states in developing their child protective services systems. As amended in 1996 (PL. 104-235), 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 (U.S. House of Representatives, 2000).
At the same time as child abuse and neglect reporting and intervention laws were govern by each states to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect. The general public and professionals responded to these efforts. Professions included individuals from pediatrics, psychology, child welfare, social policy, legal advocacy, speech-language pathology, physical therapy, theology, and early intervention. People from these professions work to help the children adjust to the changes in their life.
Loss issues appear to be a common theme among children in foster care and among foster care workers, as well as foster parents, and all need training in this area. Children must feel comfortable in expressing their feelings in a safe and nurturing environment. In many cases, the children in foster care homes become isolated by the state, and even punished for expressing the normal grief that is associated with leaving biological parents and siblings. If not detected and addressed early, the issue of loss can lead to angry outbursts, school problems, withdrawal, and depression.
The first key development is that the number of child abuse and child neglect reports are increasing. Neglect and abuse is still present in society, which has important implications for foster care. The second key development that has led to a greater number of families at increased risk of child abuse and neglect are drug abuse, teen pregnancy, and violence. Poverty, homelessness, discrimination, declining informal and extended family supports, and other forces are undermining the resilience and coping capacity of families (Freundlich, 1997). At the same time, the service systems on which families have traditionally depended on have not kept pace with demand. The capacity of key systems such as mental health and substance abuse treatment are being strained, meaning that service reductions and long waiting lists are commonplace.
Prevention and early intervention services are difficult to obtain, and treatment resources often are not available, except in crisis situations. 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, are redesigned for foster children so that financial and health benefits are not available to the extent to which they were in the past (Freundlich, 1997). As family needs increase and intensify and other service systems are unable to respond, child welfare both legally and socially, is expected to intervene.
The third development affecting foster care relates to the child welfare system itself and ongoing tensions regarding its role. These tensions play out at both the philosophical and service delivery levels and are evident in law, policy, and practice. Over the past three decades, child welfare services in general -- and foster care in particular-have changed, reflecting prevailing values about the role that such services should play in preserving and reunifying families or in promoting alternatives for children other than reunification with their families (example as adoption and long-term foster care). In this context, the child welfare system continues to struggle to define and achieve appropriate outcomes for children.
Training methods should include technology for self-discovery, in terms of how foster parents have dealt with their personal loss issues and a list of available resources for on-going assistance. Many people feel that the public child welfare systems are in desperate need of reform due to the lack of community involvement. This type of reform should include adopting a system that is less disruptive to the lives of the children and their families. The services need to be more community based, culturally sensitive, individualized, available as an alternative to institutional placement, and family oriented.
Child abuse is a problem that seems to be growing more rapidly every year. This problem increases the population in foster homes, which increases the need of children to have families. There needs to be more strict laws on child abuse and neglect, which could decrease the occurrence of recurrent crime. There are no guarantees that a child taken away from their home will be placed in a home that is any better from where they came from, or even that they will be placed in a home at all.
Chapter 2- Child Abuse
Child Abuse and Neglect
One factor impacting foster care is the steady growth in the number of substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect. Many children that are abused or neglected are placed in foster care, in friend's homes, or are…