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.”
Thanks to advances in technology making DNA testing a more affordable option for many, a growing number of people across the country are now using it to trace their genealogy. While many are checking to see if royal blood runs through their veins, adoptees — from private adoption agencies and foster care alike — are using it for a much humbler cause: to find their biological parents.
The Link Between DNA Tests and Foster Care
While many may consider DNA testing as something adoptees from private adoption agencies might use, adoptees from foster care are no different. Many adults who were formerly in foster care may not remember their parents, while others may have been spared details from their adopted parents. In most cases, adopted kids want to know the same thing: where they came from. Continue reading
In their most recent study, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 5.4 percent of pregnant women aged 15 to 44 across the country were current illicit drug users, marking an increase from their last study. This statistic only just begins to paint the picture of the epidemic that is running rampant in the country and leaving no group more vulnerable than the unborn, who are subjected to prenatal exposure to drugs. The uptick in substance abuse has resulted in more children being placed in foster care, some of whom entered the system at the time of their birth.
The nation’s drug epidemic has been steadily increasing since the start of the new millennium. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that heroin use increased across the country among almost every demographic since 2004, particularly among women whose usage has doubled. While an increase in any demographic is concerning, an increase among women is cause for alarm when considering the innocent victims of prenatal exposure to drugs. Continue reading