Foster Care Community Assessment Essay

Pages: 8 (2774 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Children

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National research shows that these youth from foster care may not have acquired the life skills necessary to handle adult tasks and few have a family support network to fall back on when problems and challenges arise.

In comparison to other young adults, youth with a foster care history are at greater risk of low educational attainment, homelessness, non-marital pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, joblessness, poverty, physical and mental illness, and engaging in or being victims of crimes (Krinsky, 2010). Foster youth who are also involved in the juvenile justice system are at even greater risk. These youth very often are released from the juvenile justice system on their 18th birthday with little or no family support, no home to return to, and few, if any, services to help them live successfully on their own. Continuing education and where to live were the major concerns as foster youth made their plans toward independence. Even with careful planning, youth found that life circumstances made changes in the plan necessary. Youth with resources (such as money saved) and a support network of friends, family, or a case manager were better able to shift plans and cope with unforeseen obstacles.

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Foster youth count a supportive network as essential to a successful transition (Collins et al., 2010). Foster parents, extended family, teachers, and case managers are among those foster youth say they need to help them make their way to independence. Youth without strong ties to others said they felt at a disadvantage and less able to cope with the challenges of transition. Youth need specific, reliable information regarding resources that may help them succeed on their own. Many expressed frustration that case managers were not often the source of the information they needed. Youth credited this situation to the frequent turnover of case management staff and the lack of a strong history between case managers and transitioning youth (Collins et al., 2010).

TOPIC: Essay on Foster Care Community Assessment: Foster Assignment

In 1983, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provided a discretionary grant to DES to create a pilot program to provide living skills and assistance to foster youth to prepare them to live independently once they left care (Williams, 2011). With these federal funds, DES created the Arizona Young Adult Program (AYAP) and offered transition services to selected foster youth in Phoenix and Tucson. For the first time, youth were assigned to specially trained AYAP case managers who worked with youth to develop an individualized case plan structured to help them live successfully on their own.

In 1986, Congress enacted the Federal Title IV-E Independent Living Initiative, which provided funding to all the states to establish independent living services for foster youth (Williams, 2011). DHHS established directives to states regarding the types and scope of services to be provided. By 1999, Arizona was receiving approximately $350,000 in annual federal funding to provide these services statewide. In 1999, in an effort to encourage states to do more for transitioning youth, Congress passed The John Chafee Foster Care Independence Act (P.L. 106-169) (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.). This legislation:

• Doubled federal funding for the Independent Living Program.

• Requires states to use some portion of their funds for assistance and services for older youths who have left foster care but have not reached age 21.

• Allows states to use up to 30% of their Independent Living Program funds to pay for room and board for youth ages 18 to 21 who have left foster care.

• Allows states to extend Medicaid health insurance coverage to 18, 19, and 20-year-olds who are in or who have left foster care after reaching age 18.

In 2002, Congress authorized specific funding to support the continuing education and training needs of foster youth. Federal funds are available so that states can give education and training vouchers (ETV) to youth who have aged out of foster care or are otherwise eligible for services under the State's foster care independence program. Eligible youth may receive a voucher for up to $5,000 annually to be used for tuition, fees, books, room, board, transportation, child care, medical or dental care and other approved support (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d.). In 2005, Arizona received almost $2 million in federal Chafee Act funds to support independent living programs and services. In addition, $680,358 in federal funds was received for the Education and Training Voucher program.

Currently, youth who are involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems have many people involved in their lives, but there are no clearly delineated communication protocols or processes for coordinated case planning and case management (Collins, 2010). For youth committed to the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections (ADJC), DES case managers do not meet regularly with incarcerated youth as required for other children in foster care. Joint treatment and services planning is not well coordinated between the staffs of the two agencies, and planning for transition is too often delayed until the youth may be ready to leave an ADJC facility. Yet, DES remains legally responsible for these youth, and unless there is a Court Appointed Special Advocate involved, no other person is available to advocate for the youth's needs.

No access to independent living services is an issue; Dually adjudicated youth placed in detention or in ADJC facilities are not participating in, nor receiving, DES-sponsored independent living skills training and supports as required and available for other foster youth. Although ADJC may have some skills training for youth, this training does not address the specific and comprehensive needs of dependent foster youth who will not return to a family network once they are released from ADJC custody. Community-based providers under contract with DES for Independent Living Skills Training and Services have reported an inability to gain access to youth in secure juvenile corrections facilities.

Conclusion

While current state law allows foster youth to voluntarily remain in the care of DES after reaching age 18 and receive additional support and guidance toward independence, the reality is that some youth are discouraged by their case managers from staying in foster care, or they may be told they cannot stay in care (Krinsky, 2010). The law does provide that youth need to accept personal responsibility for preparing for and making the transition to adulthood. Many Arizona youth are shuffled from placement to placement. More than half the youth involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems have experienced more than 11 placements before reaching the age of 18 (Collins, 2010). An over-burdened and under-resourced system is not accommodating the needs of a growing number of youth that will "age-out" of care. Case managers should encourage older youth to remain in care until they have the capabilities and resources to successfully live on their own. Providing them with comprehensive information to make an informed decision will prove beneficial. As a result, all youth in transition or exiting care should have a realistic plan that supports housing, health care, education, and/or employment opportunities, and mentoring connections (Krinsky, 2010).

References

Collins, M., Spencer, R., & Ward, R. (2010). Supporting youth in the transition from foster care: formal and informal connections. Child Welfare, 89(1), 125-143

Hope and A Future, Inc. (2010). Foster care statistics. Retrieved from http://azhope.com/about/foster-care-statistics.php

Krinsky, M. (2010). A not so happy birthday: The foster youth transition from adolescence into adulthood. Family Court Review, 48(2), 250-254. doi:10.1111/j.1744-1617.2010.01306.x

Norris, D.S., & Schwartz, C.L. (2009). Needs Assessments: An Integrated Assignment in Civic Service. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 29(4), 373-382. doi:10.1080/08841230903022027

North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. (n.d.). Chapter 2: Conducting a community assessment. Retrieved from http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/envrnmnt/css/ppt/chap2.htm… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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