In a report by the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a branch of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it was found that 7 to 8 percent of the U.S. population will experience PTSD at some point in their lives. Typically, when thinking about those suffering from PTSD, many think of war veterans as the demographic hit hardest by this mental health condition. However, a study by Casey Family Programs, the University of Michigan and the Harvard Medical School found that former foster children are nearly twice as likely to experience PTSD as veterans.
This study reported that 1 out of every 4 children who spent time in foster care dealt with PTSD at some point during the previous 12 months. Beyond PTSD, more than half experienced at least one mental health condition, such as social phobia or depression. In a report on the study, Ronald Kessler, a co-author of the project and a professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard, said, “…foster children’s greater likelihood of mental health risk is primarily based upon the experiences, such as neglect and abuse, that children face before entering the foster system.”
States across the nation continue to focus on increasing the number of foster children placed with relatives as more studies are finding there to be benefits of kinship care over traditional foster care. A 2015 study by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) found that 30% of the total population of children in care consisted of children being raised by a family member or close family friend. While the long-term benefits of kinship care are well documented, the time following the child’s placement in the care of relatives can be turbulent as both adults and children face a complex challenge: the medical issues of children in kinship care. These troubles can result in undiagnosed physical disabilities and developmental delays that may be harmful to the child’s schooling and day-to-day life.
Medical Issues of Children in Kinship Care
Most kinship cases happen unexpectedly, leaving caregivers with a short amount of time to take in all of the information covered during the licensing process. Even with the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoption Act (FCA) of 2008 easing the requirements for kinship caregivers, it can be a challenge for them to remember all of the intricacies of the policies.
Across the county, foster parents take children in need into their homes. In some cases, these same children become a part of their families forever through adoption. New Jersey foster parent Karen Booker knows this story well.
What has made such an impact on Karen’s life was her decision to foster over 50 children, 3 of whom she has adopted. Karen touched so many lives during her 5 years of being a licensed foster parent and continues to keep her home open to children in care.
The Booker’s journey to becoming the Outstanding Adoptive Family of the Year at Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) and the Division of Child Protection and Permanency’s (DCP&P) Annual Recognition Brunch began when her biological children were getting ready to go to college. Rather than having another child, she said she decided to foster because she “knew that there were a lot of children out there who needed homes and needed love.”
Most teenagers can’t wait to turn 18 or 21 to enjoy their freedom. However, for teens in foster care, these ages carry with it a freedom that isn’t always wanted. Every year more than 20,000 youth in foster care age out of the system and lose life-changing services in the process.
When youth age out, they become ineligible for the state funding they have received since entering the foster care system. This funding helps them with everything from housing to medical care. Youth also no longer have caseworkers to talk with when issues arise or foster families to welcome them home after a long day. Many go from having a variety of resources and people supporting them to being alone in the world.
Prior to the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 (FCA), only youth under the age of 18 were eligible to be in foster care. The FCA provided states the option to receive federal funding that extends foster children’s benefits to the age of 21. Since 2008, 26 states, including New Jersey and the District of Columbia, have passed the act allowing youth to choose to stay in foster care until their 21st birthday.
The journey from foster care to adoption can be a long, trying and uncertain road. The Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) annual Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report for 2015 found that the national average for time spent between becoming a foster child and being adopted was 31.7 months. While that may seem like a long time, it marks a noticeable improvement from 2003, when the ACF found the national average to be 44.5 months.
Spending close to two years in foster care may seem like an eternity, but the process takes this long to ensure the best for the child. Prior to 1997, states ran foster care systems in accordance with the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980. The act promoted permanency by requiring states to make reasonable efforts to prevent the removal of children from their homes, as well as reunite the children who had been removed. Continue reading
When teenagers think of turning 17, many probably think about getting their license, their first car and who they are taking to prom.
When Jacob Tucci looks back at being 17, he’s reminded of the year he entered the foster care system.
“It’s hard to think that I entered the foster care system so late,” Jacob says, “because there are other kids that enter the foster care system at such a young age, but I don’t think there’s a right time to have that happen.”