Foster Care: A Social Issue that Relates to Adolescent Development Essay

FOSTER CARE

Family is composed of a mother, a father, and their children. It is the most basic unit of a community. Through family, a community may attain success and progress, and so as the country. It is a social institution wherein every individual belongs.

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Every child needs to have a family to be with. It is every children’s right. They need a family who will accept them, guide them as they grow up, shelter and provide them their needs, and most especially, love them. But how can these all happen if their family is like a glass bottle–a broken glass bottle forced to be fixed again by putting the broken pieces together using glue. Would you think it is sufficient enough to bring the broken pieces back together? Would this kind of family can still give the right guidance, basic necessities, and love a child need?

Those questions started to build up in my mind as I wrote this paper about foster care. As an introduction, foster care helps children of those cases. Facts and details in this paper are more focused on foster care in urban areas. Many researches showed that there are more cases of foster care in primary urban areas, followed by secondary urban areas and non-urban areas (http://aspe.hhs.gov/daltcp/reports/fcsum91.htm). To have a deeper insight about foster care, I have discussed the major topics who would encounter with foster care.

What is foster care?

Foster care is a one of today’s social issues. It is a system wherein stand-in parents, the foster parents, take the provision for minor children or young people, the foster children, who have been taken away from their biological parents, due to some family problems, by state authority. Foster parents commit themselves in providing the children’s need including home for their foster children to ensure their safety (http://www.dpw.state.pa.us/Child/AdoptionFosterCare /003670365.htm). Although some says that foster care is a full-time substitute care of children away from their legal guardians (http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/foster-care), foster parents provide only the basic and critical needs that biological parents can’t provide rather than replacing the child’s family (http://www.fostercare.net/). A qualified environment for those children should be given by the foster parents (http://www.co.el-dorado.ca.us/humanservices/fostercare.html).

Why do some children need foster care?

            You would find plenty of reasons children would go to a foster care (http://www.answers.com/topic/foster-care). Researchers had examined different reasons why a child would enter into a foster care. The most common was neglect from parents or guardians, followed by physical abused and no available caretaker (http://encyclopedia.adoption.com/entry/foster-care/144/1.html). Also, protective reasons, physical and sexual abuse, failed placements, status offenders, and disabilities or handicaps are also included (http://www.uic.edu/classes/socw/socw550/CHILDWEL/tsld028.htm).

            Researchers also studied the age of the child entering into a foster care. 0-6 years, 7-12 years, and 13-18 years were the categories of the age bracket (http://encyclopedia.adoption.com/entry/foster-care/144/1.html). Reasons of majority of children belong to the first age bracket were neglected or abandoned. Those on the second age bracket varied with no dominating reasons. And in the last category, majority was because of failed placements (http://encyclopedia.adoption.com/entry/foster-care/144/1.html).

Also, researchers studied the characteristics of biological parents of the foster children and found out that majority of them are associated with substance abuse, followed by incarceration, and then psychiatric problems (http://encyclopedia.adoption.com/entry/foster-care/144/1.html).

More than one health problem were common to several foster children. Some of the children in the 0-6 age bracket have upper respiratory illnesses, skin problems, developmental delays, anemia, and poor vision. Some of the adults were positive for tuberculosis. Their researches also show that abandoned or neglected children have worse health than that of those who are physically or sexually abused (http://encyclopedia.adoption.com/entry/foster-care/144/1.html).

Length of stay in foster care also varies. Some took longer time due to reasons like the child is abandoned, physically impaired, or adoption is being planned. On the other hand, some took shorter time because the parental contact with the child continued, or reunification was the goal of the social service department (http://encyclopedia.adoption.com/entry/foster-care/144/1.html).

Can everyone be a Foster Parent?

            Not everyone can be a foster parent. There are several requirements for you to become one. Foster parents receive stipends. That is why requirements vary by jurisdiction. Foster care intends to provide support and care for a young person. Its goal is the reunification of the children with their family or another permanent living arrangement can be facilitated like adoptive home, guardianship, or placement with a relative.

Foster homes are certified or approved if they meet the following criteria or standards:

Age

            Applicants to be foster parents should have the age of more than 20 years (http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/fostercare/requirements.asp). This is to be sure that you are mature enough to handle such situation.

Health

            Foster parents should be physically and mentally fit and do not have any communicable disease (http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/fostercare/requirements.asp). They should provide a statement from a physician to prove that they are in good condition (http://www.hsd.racineco.com/Youth/FosterCare/FosterParentRequirements). However, physical handicaps and illnesses are negligible as long as they do not hinder the ability to be a foster parent (http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/fostercare/requirements.asp).

Employment and other Properties

            Enough income to provide their own family’s needs are also a requirement (http://www.hsd.racineco.com/Youth/FosterCare/FosterParentRequirements). Although must be employed, they should also have time for the children. Unless they are not working outside home, they should provide suitable plans for the supervision and care of the children (http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/fostercare/requirements.asp). An example is their plans during weekends, summer and summer vacations. In properties, they must have enough bedroom space and an extra bed for a foster child or in case the foster child shares bedroom with your own child, their bedroom must be at least fifty square feet per child in the room. Living in a house or apartment that meets a safety inspection and showing any proof of homeowner’s or renter’s insurance coverage should be followed. Owning a vehicle and showing valid driver’s license and automobile insurance coverage to prove it should also be done (http://www.hsd.racineco.com/Youth/FosterCare/FosterParentRequirements).

Marital Status

            Although foster parent could be married or single, marital status still affects one’s parenthood. Marital status matters only if it affects one’s ability to provide adequate supervision and care to foster children (http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/fostercare/requirements.asp).

Character

            They must have good moral character. They can judge maturely. They must have ability to in managing resources particularly financially. Capacity for developing a meaningful relationship with children should also be possessed. To prove that those characters are true, three individuals, who know them, should attest or be interviewed (http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/fostercare/requirements.asp).

Ability and Motivation

You need to be committed and motivated to become a foster parent is crucial. They must possess a good understanding of the children’s needs. They must also have the willingness to work with the others in order to achieve foster children’s permanence (http://www.hsd.racineco.com/Youth/FosterCare/FosterParentRequirements). Psychological readiness must be observed. Foster care responsibilities have different impacts in foster parents life and its relationships. They should be aware of these. Principles related to the development and discipline of children should be known. Each child needs guidance. Every child should be supported by their parents. All of these must be possessed by a tentative foster parent (http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/fostercare/requirements.asp).

History and Records

            They should not have any history of criminal or civil convictions related to children care and should not have any record or history of abuse or neglect (http://www.hsd.racineco.com/Youth/FosterCare/FosterParentRequirements).

Foster Care Orientation

            Foster care orientation should be attended by the applicants to be a foster parent. This orientation takes place when they already completed the application (http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/fostercare/requirements.asp).

Trainings

            After all of these, they must undergo several trainings for becoming foster parents. Trainings aim to orient them in many aspects. Enough sensitivity in dealing with the problems and reactions of children upon separation is required. Trainings give them a briefing about payments for foster parents for care. Expenses and the rights and responsibilities of a foster parent are also discussed and taught in the training (http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/fostercare/requirements.asp).

The stand-in parents take the responsibility for the young person. Sometimes, it is the biological parents who actually put the child into foster care until they have can already provide appropriate care. But in some cases, the biological parental rights are terminated and the child is adopted. Guardianship is another option. This sometimes happen in cases wherein when adoption is not right for the child, although his/her reunification with his/her birth family is impossible. Generally, this occurs when older foster children is strongly bonded to their birth family. In such case wherein parents are unwilling to care for the child, voluntary foster care can be used. For example, the parent has psychological problems and is unable to take care of her child. Involuntary foster care is used in circumstances wherein a child was taken away from his/her parents for his/her safety. Placement agencies give the foster parents an amount of money to help them cover the child’s needs.

What are the problems and issues encountered in Foster Care?

            Foster parents and foster children both encounter different problems and issues, from the start up to the end, regarding foster care. Although many foster care cases are successful, there are also that are not.

Due to their removals in their home and placing them in foster care, some foster children tend to feel guilt and blame their selves for their removal from their birth parents. Some wished to return to their home even if they were abused there. Upon being attached to their foster parents, different emotions were observed. Some felt unwanted if adoption waited for a long time while others felt helpless about multiple changes in their foster parents over time. They felt insecurity and uncertainty about their future. They often acknowledge feelings for their foster parents. These psychologies are found common to some foster children from unsuccessful foster care (http://www.aacap.org/page.ww?section=Facts+for+Families&name=Foster+Care). They sometimes do felt that they are belong and accepted. The love they were expecting from their foster parents were not provided (http://www.fostercare.net/)

On the other hand, foster parents, as they face certain challenges in foster care, also experience some difficulties. Some of them find it hard to recognize their limits of emotional attachment to the foster child. In the event of the return of the foster child to his/ her birth parents, they experienced difficulty in letting go. They had a hard time understanding mixed emotions towards the foster child’s birth parents (http://www.aacap.org/page.ww?section=Facts+for+Families&name=Foster+Care).

Foster parents also need to handle some problems they experienced like discipline for the child. Sometimes, they had no idea how and what approach they will do in supervising their foster child. They should consider the background of the foster child. Failure to give the right supervision and care may lead to lying and rebellion of the foster child (http://www.fostercare.net/).

Are there findings in relation to Foster Care?

            There were different findings in relation to foster care. Many researchers, public health officer have done their part in those findings. They showed and gave records of those evidences. In those findings, developmental outcomes of foster children in different aspects were studied.

Developmental Outcomes of children in Foster Care

            Variables are to be considered in showing developmental outcomes of foster children. Poor developmental outcomes were common to them. This is due to factors like gene, parental substance exposure, and other physical health issues (http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm).

            In addition to that, many scholars argued that negative outcomes were due to traumatic experience, like maltreatment, children had rather than the foster care itself, which in fact a protective factor for traumatic experience.  Foster care gave more positive results for children than those of children who have been reunited with their families. But despite of all of these, poorer developmental outcomes for children and foster care placement and foster care are associated (http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm).

Foster Care Experience and Developmental Outcomes

            There are several harmful effects on child’s health. Academic and cognitive functioning was also affected. Their socialization with others were poor. Higher level of morbidity throughout the childhood was present in the foster children. This is due to their prenatal experiences like prenatal substance exposure (http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm).

Although growth abnormalities and untreated health problems were common in most foster children, these were not distinct from those found in children living in poor biological families. However, health care providers should be more sensitive on medical issues of foster children (http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm).

Findings also showed that foster children have developmental and cognitive delays. Foster children also scored poor grades and have higher grade retention and special education placement. These may not be due to the foster care but to the pre-foster care experiences like maltreatment and abuses (http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm).

More compromised social-emotional functioning than those of high-risk children were present. Most of them have mental health deficiency. They were observed to be more depressed.  Their adaptive functioning was lower. They also tend to have many behavioral problems especially externally. Their poor mental outcomes are due to varied factors beyond their foster care experience (http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm).

Placement Characteristics and Developmental Outcomes

            Developmental outcomes were influenced by the type and stability of placement. In most study, foster child developmental outcomes were better when they are placed in kinship foster care than those placed in unrelated foster homes. (http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm).

            Because of placement instability, many foster children have poor outcomes. The higher changes in placement or disruption rates are, the longer the child would stay in the foster care and functioning of the foster child is affected. Although most foster children experience one to two placements only, most foster care placements were disrupted within the first two years (http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm).

            The type of placement and the placement stability always come together. Children in kinship care experience more stability. However, there were high disruption rates in situations with vulnerable children and/or families. On the other hand, higher number of moves was experienced by very young children because of attempts to find less-restrictive placements (http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm).

Are there questions left unanswered?

            We have discussed a lot of things about foster care. Almost everything about it was explained clearly. But although we now know a lot of things about it, there are still questions that were left unanswered.

            A broken glass bottle cannot be fixed again. Even how strong the bond is, you cannot bring it to its original form. Broken pieces are needed to be melted again in order to form another bottle.

            If you come to think of it, do these foster children deserve what they got? And even if they were put into foster care, do those years of separation with their biological family be compensated by the results of their stay in foster care? In case they were neither adopted by their foster parents nor their biological family still cannot be reunited, what would happen to them after their stay in the foster care? In case they cannot still live by their own, what would be their future holds? Many of adults today live their lives the way their parents did. Like in the saying “if what is the tree, that is also the fruit”, do they also have the tendency to have such problems like their biological parents do? What is the probability that they would have a better, much better, family than what they had experienced? And for the side of the foster parents, is it fair for them, after they provide what real parents to their child do, to be separate the foster children from them after the foster care? Controlling ones emotion is hard, especially if its love.

Foster care is just a temporary solution. It does not completely resolve such problems like those. It is hard to say that researchers, even the foster parents and foster children themselves, cannot answer those questions.

References:

Encyclopedia of Adoption. Retrieved June 8, 2007 from http://encyclopedia.adoption.com/entry/foster-care/144/1.html

Foster Care. Retrieved June 9, 2007 from http://www.aacap.org/page.ww?section=Facts+for+Families&name=Foster+Care

Foster Care. Retrieved June 9, 2007 from http://www.answers.com/topic/foster-care

Foster Care. Retrieved June 9, 2007 from
http://www.dpw.state.pa.us/Child/AdoptionFosterCare

Foster Care. Retrieved June 9, 2007 from http://www.fostercare.net/

Foster Care. Retrieved June 9, 2007 from http://www.futureofchildren.org/information2827/information_show.htm

Foster Care. Retrieved June 9, 2007 from http://www.healthline.com/galecontent/foster-care

Foster Care Dynamics in Urban and Non-Urban Areas. Retrieved June 8, 2007 from http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/fostercare-issues02/dynamics/index.htm

Foster Care Program. Retrieved June 8, 2007 from http://www.co.el-dorado.ca.us/humanservices/fostercare.html

Foster Parent Requirements. Retrieved June 8, 2007 from http://www.hsd.racineco.com/Youth/FosterCare/FosterParentRequirements

Requirements to Become a Foster Parent. Retrieved June 9, 2007 from http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/fostercare/requirements.asp

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