Term Paper: Social Work With Children

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Social Work With Children

In an analysis of the non-secure group home system in the United States, one needs to look at the foster care system in New York City and the Juvenile Justice group home system in California.

Administration for Child Services in New York

In New York City, when a child is put into foster care and encounters problems, they re-enter the program at a rate of 8.8%. Administration for Child Services (ACS) has committed to reducing this re-entry rate through better training of foster parents and caregivers to provide safe homes for children in foster care. ACS certifies foster parents and has a program to provide homes for children in need of care. Foster parents receive funding to care for the foster children dependent upon the level of difficulty the child presents (NYC, p. 1).

The child welfare system in New York City is largely dependent on voluntary agencies, who find themselves responsible for 90% of the children in the system by social service contract. Theses agencies must provide ACS with relevant and current information and produce the outcomes that ACS expects. This system, which has been in effect since 2000, has put demands on ACS that have improved its participation and produced better outcomes for the children and families in the foster care system.

However, children drop out of the program to become homeless and often find themselves into drugs and/or pregnant.

A recent National Drug Research Institute (NDRI) study investigating the relationship between trauma and substance use among New York City homeless youth found that a substantial portion of the youth they interviewed had been in foster care at some point prior to becoming homeless. Of the youth who had been in foster care, some became homeless because they left the foster care system, and others were discharged to homelessness or "aged out" [turned 18] with no place to call home (NYC, p. 1)

New York finds itself underbudgeted and underfinanced for both homeless people, especially youth. There is no safety net for youth between 16 and 21, even though that is the crucial time for development of a stable life for them. Youth who enter foster care and youth who find themselves homeless have life histories that are similar and which include emotional or physical abuse, family violence, mental illness, drugs and poverty, which induces many other stressors. There are a disproportionate number of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth in the foster care program, the homeless youth and runaway youth. This may be caused by their sexual preferences being rejected by the family and being "kicked out" of their homes to become homeless or to go to foster care. However, in a foster care home, or on the streets the same conditions may exist or be even more severe (Ayala, p. 1).

Youth report feeling unsafe in foster care, but the shriveling budget for ACS has resulted in an overly strained system with poorly-run facilities and an underpaid staff trying to function with overly-rigid rules. Many teen-agers run away from this system and those on the street do not want to go into it. Unfortunately, on the other end, the foster care system does not want the homeless or street youth over 18, so they return to the street, if youth are in the system already, they may return until they turn 21, but if they have never been in the system, they may not enter after they turn 18 (NYC, p. 1).

ACS has an improved policy of giving teenagers a goal of "independent living" if they wish. Ties to a family provides a safety net and prevents some homelessness that happens when youth are out of the system without preparation for independent living. Youth may elect to stay in the system, if they wish, until they are 21, but many wish to get out of the system if they have been a part of it for many years. Caseworkers may not discharge youth who have no stable housing option and it forbids them to discharge them into public shelters. Actually, many go to relatives or friends who are unprepared to care for them or who are reluctant to care for them. There are no aftercare specialists to develop relationships with teens who are about to be or have been discharged. There is also no emergency housing for youth who have been in the system needing temporary care when things do not go as planned during the first two years out of care. In New York City there are few beds for youth in general (NYC, p. 1).

Youth complain to caseworkers and other officials that they have not been sufficiently trained in living skills, including where to find educational services, vocational training, budgeting, entitlements they are eligible for or for housekeeping. These youth are entitled to Section 8 housing and medical benefits, but they do not know it. ACS does not provide this sort of education and therefore youth coming out of the foster care system are less prepared for life than their peers. Reducing the numbers of cases that caseworkers have would improve services and reduce the number of youth who must or want to leave the system and are unprepared for the unsafe life outside. An increase in the ACS budget would make this possible (Margolin, p. 1).

An interview was held with a young man named Calvin, whose mother had hit him with a belt and he had been removed from his home. His mother had never done this before, though she had hit him with her hand, but he had been acting up in school and over time she had become more and more frustrated with his actions, until finally, one day, the teacher had called to say he cursed at her in class.

That made her so mad that she got a belt and hit me with the buckle end of it. I screamed, it hurt so bad. I got welts on my arm and upper thigh from it. When I went to school the next day I had bad bruises that the other kids saw and it was reported. They called my mom and a police car came to the school and took me to the juvenile services center."

Calvin stayed in the juvenile system for over a year without ever seeing his mom. The ACS went to his house and got his younger sister, as well, and his mother was left alone. That made Calvin sad and frustrated. He wanted to see his mother and he felt guilty for having gotten in trouble. His mother had been into drugs briefly shortly after he was born and he had been removed from the home and put into foster care until she was clean. She was so afraid of losing her children after that that she never took drugs, but the one beating had taken away her children after all.

Because Calvin had been in the foster care system as a baby for a short time, he was considered to already be in the system. But no case workers had ever gone to his home to see how the family was faring. There had been several caseworkers who had been given their case file over the ten years that had passed, but not one of them had visited to see how things were going. If one of them had visited, then the problems that had begun when Calvin turned 12 might not have happened.

In the ACS foster care system, Calvin received counseling and so did his mother. He liked his counselor, he said, and she helped him understand what had been happening when he got so mad in school. He did not really know his dad very well. But he had always gone for regular visits to his dad's home, where his dad lived with his parents. During the visits Calvin's dad was often not there, but his grandfather was and made a point to spend time with the boy. Calvin grew very fond of his grandfather and when his grandfather died, he became very upset. He could not understand what had happened and why the one man he had admired had been taken away. Not only that, his father did not seem to care that his dad had died and he certainly did not care about Calvin. So Calvin got very angry. He was mostly angry at his dad. His anger was acted out in school, where he treated other kids and the teacher very badly.

At last my mom got some help from a lawyer and went to court to get me and my sister back. She learned about how to do it and even helped in the Child Welfare Organizing Project. She came to my foster parents' home and took me to school every day and also took me to doctor appointments and to my counseling sessions. I was able to go home for weekends after awhile and my sister came home… [END OF PREVIEW]

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