Early Childhood Court Fast Tracking Reunification for Youngest Foster Children

Across the United States, addiction to opioids is on the rise. What the public once perceived to only be a problem lurking in the alleyways of our cities has now taken root in the suburban yards and farm fields of our nation. Throughout the years, opioid use has been both glamorized and demonized in our culture, but the once popular heroin chic style of 90’s models doesn’t look so pretty on today’s moms who are struggling with addiction.

reunification
While the nasal spray Narcan can potentially save the life of someone who overdoses on opioids, there is no prescription for saving their family life once their addiction reaches the breaking point. More and more, children are being placed in foster care as a result of their parents’ addictions. In their July 2016 policy brief, Families in Crisis: The Human Service Implications of Rural Opioid Misuse, the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Health Services stated, “…the opioid crisis could exacerbate child abuse and neglect given that we’re seeing a link nationally. State child welfare systems have reported that they are experiencing an increase in families coming to their attention with substance use problems impacting their ability to safely parent.”
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Aged Out Foster Youth Need Skills to Survive and Thrive

Everyone loves a success story. Whether it’s the teenage mom who quits school, goes on to get her GED and eventually becomes a successful executive, or the foster youth who, after enduring a childhood of abuse and neglect, goes on to graduate college and become a child psychologist, we not only root for them; we hold them up as examples. We want to encourage our young people to overcome adversity, to get a good education and to believe that, with hard work, every dream is possible. But in doing so, are we setting them up for disappointment?

Aged Out Foster Youth Need Skills to Survive and Thrive
Statistics show that youth in foster care are 44 percent less likely to complete high school than their non-foster care peers. People have various opinions on why this is the case. Ronald Richter, of the JCAA (formerly known as Jewish Child Care Association) told Naomi Schaefer Riley of the Independent Women’s Forum, “More and more, we understand that the 0-5 [years old] stage is critical for young people to develop self-regulation. You learn when you get up, when you go to sleep. The brain is trained to understand routine,” but, he continues, in most cases foster children have “a very poor 0-5 experience.”

So, children who are victims of neglect, who have grown up with no rules and no positive reinforcement for good behavior, are unlikely to be able to adhere to a schedule and meet demands from authority figures. This, of course, impacts their ability to finish school and/or hold down a job. Unless they receive the proper support services to make up for the guidance they lacked at home, it is likely they will become a statistic rather than an exception.

So where can foster youth who are aging out of care go for help? Riley writes that a group called America Works, a national organization that was recently contracted to work with foster youth in New York State, believes that “the first step to getting people to be independent, productive citizens is getting them a job.” But instead of focusing on getting a college education as a means to secure employment, American Works places youth in low paying jobs with benefits, so they can gain valuable work experience and personal discipline. Supervisors not only teach job skills but also life skills, helping youth learn how to interact with customers and colleagues, how to build a household budget and how to manage their time.

Mastering these skills is essential for foster youth; it allows them to keep the jobs they have, and it prepares them for something better in the future. When they’re ready, America Works helps foster youth with obtaining a GED or with registering for college courses.

In New Jersey, eligible aged out youth can receive funds towards tuition and fees through the New Jersey Foster Care Scholars program. Youth who have aged out of care can apply to the program up until age 23 and can receive funds for up to five years from enrollment if they are attending a public NJ postsecondary institution and meet NJFC eligibility criteria.

. To learn more about assistance for aged out youth in your state, contact your local child welfare agency.

A strong foundation of experience, education and enthusiasm ups the odds of foster youth thriving once they age out of the system, giving them a better chance of becoming the example everyone loves to root for.

To read the full editorial, click here.

Dramatic Increase in Number of Children Entering Foster Care Questioned

When we think of why children are placed in foster homes, the first thing that comes to mind is their parents’ inability or unwillingness to care for them. A consultant in Arkansas, however, argues that the reason for a dramatic increase in the number of children entering foster care has less to do with the behavior of the parents and more to do with the decision making processes of the judges.

Dramatic Increase in Number of Children Entering Foster Care

According to The Times Record, Arkansas’ Department of Human Services reported a 30% gain in the number of children entering foster care over the previous year. Co-founder of Hornby Zeller Associates, Dennis Zeller, spoke to the legislative Joint Performance Review Committee to give his thoughts on what prompted this dramatic increase.

“Families in Arkansas had not simply all of a sudden gotten worse,” said Zeller. “But the way that decisions were made, whether by the department or by the courts, were different.”

Zeller claims that, in many cases, the motivation for the judges’ decisions to remove children from their homes is rooted in a desire to punish parents rather than keep children safe from imminent danger.

What we’re supposed to be about is promoting the welfare of kids,” Zeller said. “That’s why they call it child welfare. Sometimes we forget that…”

For the full story, click here.

Dangerous Data: The Use of Psychotropic Medicine on Foster Children

The use of psychotropic medicine on foster children remains a hotly debated topic. When we polled our readers in our September 2014 issue, the majority believed that the drugs, when given in conjunction with therapy, were an acceptable treatment option. Some, however, believed the drugs can do more harm than good. In that same issue, we reported on a story from Mad in America’s website that asserted the longer children are in foster care the more likely they are to be taking psychotropic medication. Recent news informs us that this trend continues.

Use of Psychotropic Medicine on Foster Children
The San Diego Union Tribune reports that a 2016 audit of the use of psychotropic drugs in the California foster care system raises serious concerns. The audit “…found that nearly 12 percent of California’s more than 79,000 foster children were prescribed psychotropic medication during the year studied, compared to an estimated 4 percent to 10 percent of non-foster children.”

But the number of children on psychotropic medications isn’t the audit’s most troubling finding.

The audit revealed a startling lack of oversight on the part of California’s county caseworkers. Incomplete and/or inaccurate case notes resulted in workers not knowing which drugs were prescribed to each child, putting children at risk for overdoses and dangerous side effects from drug interactions.

Additionally, caseworkers frequently violate California state law by failing to obtain parental or court approval before securing psychotropic medicine for children in foster care.

“We are failing our foster children,” said California State Auditor Elaine Howell in an interview with KCRA.

In My Tribe: Kinship Care Among Native American Families

Grandmothers’ roles are changing from beloved ancestors to authority figures with the recent rise in kinship care among Native American families.

Kinship Care Among Native American Families
For too many Native Americans, life’s prospects are grim. In 2014, The Washington Post reported that young Native American adults are twice as likely to die before they turn 24 than young adults of other ethnicities. Just as alarming, they also reported that Native American women are more likely to be assaulted and/or sexually abused than other women, and young Native Americans are three times as likely to commit suicide than their counterparts of other races. These devastating statistics can often be traced back to substance abuse.
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Introducing the Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act

For a foster child who cannot safely be reunited with his birth parents, and who will not be adopted by his foster parents, it is often a very long wait for permanency. Even if there is a relative, family friend or foster to adopt family willing and able to take him in, if they live in another state, bureaucracy can slow the process to a near halt, leaving the child unnecessarily waiting for his forever family.

Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act

In an attempt to lessen that wait, United States Senators. Kirsten Gillibrand, Al Franken and Gary Peters recently introduced the Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act. This legislation would make it easier for child welfare agencies to place children in out-of-state homes by requiring all States to have a centralized database of children in foster care. Continue reading