Foster Care Term Paper

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Foster Care in the United States

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The difficulty in studying foster-care in the United States as a topic is that foster-care falls under the auspices of different agencies in different states, and some are not even operated by the states. For instance, Kristen R. Humphrey, Ann P. Turnbull, and H. Rutherford Turnbull III (2006) report that in the state of Kansas, foster-care is being conducted by privatized interests, which was very controversial in that state because it means that the state transferred its interests in foster-care to privatized organizations to operate and manage foster-care (p. 2). In the first three months of privatized foster-care in Kansas, some 3500 children were transferred to the private system, except for the Child Protective Services (CPS) component of the program, which remains within the state. Private research conducted by Sarah Geenen and Laurie E. Powers citing numbers from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (2005) put the number of children placed in foster care over the past 20 years has doubled from 276,000 in 1985, to an estimated 523,000 in 2005 (p. 233). The PEW Charitable Trusts reports that in 2004 new federal guidelines concerning foster-care at the state level was forcing states to rethink their foster-care programs and to find ways to meet the federal government's new and strict guidelines or risk losing billions of dollars in foster-care program funding (Winniker, T., 2004, found online at: (http://www.pewtrusts.org/news_room_ektid17834.aspx).As we look at the individual states and attempt to get an overall picture of foster care in the United States today, it is a very sad picture, a haphazard picture, and there is a need for everyone to be very concerned about the fate of children in America's foster-care system today.

The History of Foster Care

TOPIC: Term Paper on Foster Care Assignment

There was a time in American history when young children roamed the streets, homeless, hungry, and having to fend for themselves. Charmaine Brittain and Deborah Esquibel Hunt (2004) talk about the early years of what was the first children protective service in the United States (p. 36).

From late in the nineteenth century through most of the first half of the twentieth century, private nonprofit societies for the prevention of cruelty to children initiated and took responsibility for child protection efforts. In 1877, humane societies from across the country -- including the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) and the ASPCA -- convened in Cleveland, Ohio, and founded the national American Humane Association (AHA). In 1886, American Humane (AH) amended its constitution to include the protection of both children and animals, a mission that it supports to this day (Douglas, 1998) (Brittain and Hunt, 2004, p. 36)."

From there, advocacy by private groups and through individual philanthropy helped raise the collective social conscience in a way that caused Americans to become concerned about the fate of the country's young children who were suffering a full range of social ills. In 1909 President Theodore Roosevelt responded to the American people's concern for the young children in the country by convening the first "White House Conference on the Care of Dependent Children, but the federal government did not enter the child welfare arena officially until 1912, when it established the Children's Bureau (p. 36)."

In the mid 1900s, 1946-1959, physicians and healthcare providers joined the advocacy of child protective services (p. 36). And in the 1960s a distinct and directed progress in addressing the needs of abused, abandoned, neglected and suffering children was being made and was receiving extensive media interest and coverage (p. 36).

By 1966, due to the efforts of child welfare professionals and the medical community's recognition and publicizing of the "battered child syndrome," 49 states passed mandatory reporting laws obligating certain professionals working with children to report child abuse or neglect to public departments of social services (Pecora et al., 2000) (Brittain and Hunt, 2004, p. 36)."

The interest at the outset was to help families stay together, to provide families the support and assistance they needed in order that they not become separated (p. 37). However, the systems that were implemented were not color blind, and minority children and families were not given the same attention as were the families and children of non-minority families (p. 37). Brittain and Hunt report the following racial bias in the CPS systems:

Child protective services agencies receive and substantiate more maltreatment reports on children of color and provide fewer services to them. Statistics show that these children spend a longer time in care, have a higher rate of reentry into care, have less stability in their out-of-home placements, and wait much longer to be adopted (Courtney, Barth, Berrick, Brooks, Needell, & Park, 1996).

1980 Youth Referral Survey conducted by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights showed that prevalence rates for out-of-home placement per 1,000 children were highest for black and American Indian children.

According to a 1986 nationwide survey, American Indian children entered the foster care system at a rate 3.6 times higher than any other group of children.

Data from California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Texas indicated that in 1990 black children were more likely to be placed in out-of-home care (Courtney et al., 1996).

1999 analysis of data in the Multi-State Data Archive found that black children stay in the foster care system longer than white children in 11 states (Alabama, California, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, and Wisconsin) (Derezotes & Poertner, 2002).

In 2000, the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that while blacks represented only 17% of the country's youth, 42% of the children in foster care were black (Roberts, 2002, p. 8) (Brittain and Hunt, 2004, p. 38)."

Brittain and Hunt concur that there are circumstances that sometimes convey a sense of differential treatment, but those circumstances and instances by number do not explain the overall statistical data that demonstrates there is racial bias in the system at the institutional level, and in the outreach initiatives (p. 38).

Today, with the individual states' child welfare systems in seeming jeopardy or being placed into the management of private enterprise, there must remain concern as to the racial bias that reveals itself in the system.

Likewise, just as we see adoption becoming more and more popular, we need to see greater philanthropy on the part of minorities who hold positions of power and wealth in order to bring the focus on the needs of the minority children of the nation.

Foster CareToday

James G. Barber and Paul H. Delfabbro (2003) explain the concept of foster-care as "the mark of civilized society" that recognizes there are instances, hopefully temporary in nature, when children are better served by being removed from their homes and families and placed in foster-care (p. 3). The first choice, they say, should be a family-based foster-care option (p. 4). This means that a child identified as in need of temporary removal from his or her immediate family, can be placed with an extended family member until such time as the child can be safely returned to the immediate family. Barber and Delfabbro cite McDonald, et al., (1996) and Minty (1999) in suggesting that the extended family-foster-care is the preferred placement option for a child temporarily removed from custody of a birth parent(s).

One reason why family-based foster care deserves to be the preferred mode of temporary out-of-home care is because it is as close as you can get to the way most of us actually live. Besides, there is now considerable research evidence to suggest that conventional family-based care is the best option for most children (see, for example, McDonald et al. 1996; Minty 1999). Generally speaking, the research indicates that children from foster family care are more likely than children in group or institutional care to grow into well-functioning adults, as demonstrated by a wide range of social indicators such as high school completions, crime rates, drug and alcohol usage, divorce rates and satisfaction with life generally (Ferguson 1966; Festinger 1983; 1984) (Barber and Delfabbro, 2003, p. 4)."

Of course placement within the family really is not what foster-care is about, and those occasions when placement within the extended family can happen, are not frequent as society might like or hope them to be. The majority of children in foster-care today are placed in the homes of families and individuals who, for the most part, volunteer to be adjuncts of the child's family until such time as the child can be returned to his or her family, or placed in a permanent adoptive home. Today, as mentioned in the introduction, states are looking to relieve themselves of the burden of the foster-care program, and the well being of these children is being put into the hands of managed care private organizations, presumably for profit. In Kansas, the system was privatized without the consultation of the many social workers, therapists, or even the family court judges who must approve the removal of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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