Welcome to News From Our Heart! This newsletter is published by Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS). FAFS’ mission is to provide advocacy and enriching programs and services to empower families and youth to thrive. We hope that you will find this information to be both interesting and informative. To learn more about FAFS, please visit www.fafsonline.org. Have questions or comments? Contact Us
Foster care may come with a stigma, especially for older youth. In the minds of many, foster children can be thought to be “too much to handle” or unruly. Whether this is because of special medical needs or certain behavioral issues, the lives of these children are consistently misunderstood. As child welfare professionals have come to learn, many of the stereotypical behaviors people believe are innate components of foster children are the result of the way these children have been treated. As they grow from toddlers to teenagers, the childhood trauma they’ve experienced can and often does affect their behaviors and needs.
Foster Children Experience Childhood Trauma
Foster children experience trauma far more often than others, and this trauma can shape not only their behavior but also their worldview. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs in foster children at very high rates – a grim testament to their experiences. To give context to – and promote understanding for – their situation, it is important to know how trauma functions for children in care and what states can do to prevent these traumas before they can happen.
In May 2014, New Jersey joined eight other states in opening up access to adoption records for adoptees. Today, the nature of open adoption record legislation across the United States is still evolving. For those foster children who were placed in care at a very young age, these records can represent a vital link to the past. Sometimes, however, the release of these records can also represent a violation of the biological parents’ wishes; the conflict between the rights of the adopted and the rights of the parents is central to understanding why many states still do not allow adoptees to find adoption records. For this reason, adoption record information is generally understood as belonging to one of two categories – identifying and nonidentifying information. As adoption law grows and adapts, more and more states are opening up these records and finding ways of navigating the complicated legal situations that spring up from these distinctions.
Find Adoption Records Legislation In Your State
What do these distinctions mean? According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, nonidentifying information includes (but is not limited to) the adoptee’s date and place of birth, physical descriptions of birth parents and their education levels . For almost every state, nonidentifying information is available to adoptive parents or adoptees, and roughly 26 states make similar information about the child available to birth parents.
Instant Family, a film about the ups and downs of becoming foster parents starring Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne, hit theaters in November and brought with it a wave of interest in foster care throughout the U.S.
The comedy, which features Wahlberg and Byrne as a couple who decide to foster a teenage girl and her two younger siblings with the intention of adopting, presented an interesting recruitment opportunity for foster care agencies – and at a time when many states are dealing with a shortage of foster parents and an increase of children in care.
With moviegoers getting a glimpse into the lives of foster parents and the children who need them, recruiters in Ohio, North Carolina and New Jersey have set up shop at movie theaters to talk with prospective parents and answer any questions they may have.
According to the Tribune Chronicle in Ohio:
“Trumbull County Children Services officials hosted a special caregivers night Wednesday at Regal Cinema in Niles, which is showing the movie “Instant Family” — a comedy-drama about foster care.
Megan Martin, senior supervisor for foster care and adoption, said the meet-and-greet event was held for prospective foster parents to present them with information on programs as well provide an early screening of the movie.
She said about 50 Trumbull County residents interested in fostering and adopting attended. This is the first time the agency has held such an event at a movie theater, but noted the film relates to what services they provide to families.”
Interest in fostering is important in Ohio where there are almost 16,000 kids in care. The same can also be said about North Carolina, which has more than 10,500 children in care.
After hosting a recruiting event at Regal Cinemas in Gastonia, the Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services said more adults have expressed interest in becoming foster parents after seeing Instant Family, according to the Gaston Gazette.
“According to Julie Murphy, a licensing supervisor with Health and Human Services, the majority of individuals who attended the screening took applications.
“We had a great response and have continued to get phone calls daily as a result of the event,” she said.”
The movie is based loosely on writer-director Sean Anders’ life after he fostered (and adopted) three kids.
“I think the message of the movie is: no matter what, love first,” his wife, Beth Anders, told The Columbian. “They need parents, and we’re here.”
To learn more about the film, Instant Family, click here.
A recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation found the number of children in kinship care rose by 18 percent in the last decade across the country. However, only five percent of that number are living with licensed kinship families.
Currently, there are 2.5 million children in kinship care – both informally and formally (licensed by the state). This is five times the number of children in foster care. Continue reading
The goal of foster care across the country is always the same – reunify the child in care with his or her parents as soon as their home is a safe and stable environment. That’s why the Birth Parent National Network, through the Birth and Foster Parent Partnership, is working to improve relationships between both types of parents.
According to the Children’s Bureau, of the 250,248 children who left the foster care system in the U.S., 51 percent, or about 127, 626 children, were reunified with their parents in 2016. For those children, the assimilation back into the home of their birth parents was often made easier when foster and birth parents worked as a team.
“It is important that the adults in a child’s life coordinate and cooperate effectively, and nowhere is that more true than in the relationship between birth parents and foster parents,” the Birth and Foster Parent Partnership wrote in their official position statement. “Sometimes the child welfare system creates unnecessary barriers to engaging with each other. We believe that in order to be productive at strengthening families, we must collaborate, and have the support of child welfare professionals to do so.”
Born from The National Alliance for Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds, Casey Family Programs and the Youth Law Center/ Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI), the Birth and Foster Parent Partnership aims to identify strategies to help birth and foster parents work together to facilitate reunification and prevent re-entry into the system. The group also looks to increase recruitment of foster parents willing to work with birth parents.
The most recent Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that the number of youth in congregate care or group homes is down to 21,649, which marks a decrease of more than 10,000 children since their 2008 report. While the use of congregate care has been trending downward for more than a decade, the recently passed Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) will result in these figures dropping even more.
As previously mentioned in our newsletter, “Understanding the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA),” congregate care is slowly being phased out as funding is being redirected towards the “Foster Care New Deal.” Continue reading