Foster Care and Its Effects on Young Children in the U.S Term Paper

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In the past few decades, the negative long-term effects of foster care associated with young children in the United States has reportedly steadily increased, raising concern among parents, governmental programs and policy-makers alike. The United States federal government estimated that 542,000 children were placed in foster care as of September 30, 2001 (Pecora et.al, 2003). The numbers of children in foster care have risen substantially since 1980; the average age of a child in foster care is 10 years old with an average length of stay of about three years. A review of the literature indicates that the length of time that children are spending in foster care has began to diminish in recent years, however, the reported effects of foster care on young children are substantial and irreversible. The media has continued to publish foster care horror stories, such as social workers from the Department of Children and Family Services snatching children out of their mother's arms for suspected abuse and unfit parent claims. Thousands of Web sites post tragic stories of neglect, sexual abuse and an outward lack of love written by the children themselves placed in foster care homes. This reported neglect, abuse and overall lack of love has devastating impacts on the young children placed into these homes, and continues into their adult life. A review of the literature reveals that some of the most serious long-term effects of foster care include abuse and neglect of their own children, criminal tendencies and drug or alcohol abuse. The foster care system appears to be much overworked and stretched beyond its' limits, as rarely do we hear the success stories. This paper will analyze the effects of foster care on young children in the United States.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Foster Care and Its Effects on Young Children in the U.S. Assignment

Foster care is a service that is often required when children are seriously abused or neglected. Children in foster care typically enter the system because of abuse, neglect, or some other serious dysfunction in their family. In 2001, nearly five million U.S. children were reported as abused and neglected, with 903,000 confirmed victims (Pecora et.al., 2003). This represents an increase of 48% in officially reported victims since 1990; child welfare costs associated with child maltreatment totaled $14.4 billion, with the Federal Government spending $13.1 billion in 2002 for programs within the Administration for Children and Families, which does not include state-only funded programs (Pecora, 2003). Currently, half a million children are living in foster care nationally and 118,000 are waiting for foster care placement. Nationally, the number of adoptions has remained relatively stable, while the number of children in foster care continues maintain a steady pace. The effects on these children include the negative impacts associated with growing up without a permanent home, lack of education, and mental health problems.

Effects of growing up without a permanent home review of the literature indicates that when children grow up without permanent homes, they are in great danger of emotional trauma, problems in school, risky behaviors, trouble with the law, and poor life outcomes. If foster parents are committed to children, foster care can be as permanent as adoption, as long as it is provided with stability. Children, even the very young, are being placed in shelters and children's homes; even when foster homes are available, sibling groups are rarely placed together leaving children separated from the only other people they know, breaking very important bonds. Research indicates that every child undergoes challenges from different stages of psychological development. In addition to the normal obstacles, foster children are faced with other psychological demands to master (Weldon, 2001). In order to experience all the emotions presented in changing homes, foster children must master and deal with feelings provoked by separation from their biological parents and the feelings resulting from being presented with new parents (Weldon, 2001). They must process any consequential feelings aroused from separation of any kind from the new parents, and also overcome the fear of developing closeness with the new parents (Katz, 1987). Research by Weldon (2001) concludes that for younger children, a lack of time perception adds to the struggle of placement and separation. A small child becomes upset at parents leaving for only a few hours; young children are unable to perceive and have the ability to process being taken away from parents permanently. Katz (1987) states that no foster care placement can be truly considered temporary if it exceeds the period of time during which the child can conceptually retain previous emotional ties. Additionally, a later separation will be potentially as damaging as the initial one and will inevitably lead to a diminution of the child's ability and willingness to become attached again. Finally, after so many separation and placements occur in the life of a foster child, a child becomes so scared that he or she loses all in hope in finding a permanent home (Weldon, 2001).

Effects on education and job skills

Children who are neglected or abused and children who are in foster care are at high risk for school failure; among the risk factors facing youth in foster care, low educational achievement may have the most adverse effect on long-term adjustment (Pecora et.al., 2003). Youth who are at risk for school failure are also at high risk for drug abuse, delinquency, and violence. Research indicates that educational achievement is a powerful determinant of future life success for all youth. According to statistics, high school dropouts are seriously at-risk of being unemployed and on public assistance. One of the few national studies found 54% of foster care alumni had completed high school, and in a similar Wisconsin study, only 63% of the alumni had completed high school 12 to 18 months after discharge (Pecora et.al., 2003). Another study found a 65.2% high school graduation rate for youth in care in New York City, compared with 70.8% for 18 to 24-year-olds in the city general population in 1980. A recent Washington study found that of youth leaving foster care at age 18, only 34% had a high school diploma or GED, 38% were currently enrolled in educational or vocational programs, and 28% had dropped out of school (Pecora et.al., 2003). The Washington study further reported that youth in foster care scored, on average, 15 to 20 percentile points below non-foster youth in statewide achievement tests. Additionally, at both the elementary and secondary levels, twice as many foster youth had repeated a grade, changed schools during the year, or enrolled in special education programs, when compared with non-foster youth (Pecora et.al., 2003).

Mental health problems

This lack of education effects children in foster care because they are less likely to obtain employment and secure a successful permanent job that is adequate to survive on. Each year, more than 20,000 children across the U.S. turn 18 and must leave foster care. While resilient and strong in their own ways, too often these youth face life-changing decisions without the resources and support to make good choices (Pecora et.al., 2003). Pecora et.al. (2003) reports several social and economic implications of not providing effective transition services to youth in foster care. Pecora et.al. (2003) reports an increase in national data showing that children who leave foster care, especially those who leave early, are at risk of subsequent homelessness. These children may have been likely to be at risk of homelessness by virtue of their exposure to the family disorganization that resulted in their need for foster care. In addition, substantial numbers of foster care children suffer from disproportionate rates of some mental health problems such as major depression, drug dependence, panic disorder, bulimia, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Statistics indicate that removing children from biological parents is a result of three main causes taking place in the original home; abuse, neglect, and… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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