With less than three percent of foster youth graduating college nationally each year, many youth who are, or were, in foster care find themselves dangerously disadvantaged educationally.
The numbers are stark. According to Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest operating foundation on foster care issues, it is estimated that 30-50 percent of youth exit the foster care system without a high school diploma or high school equivalent. Meanwhile, only 30.7 percent of children who grow up in foster care graduate from high school.
Across the country, families will be hitting the roads for holiday visits with relatives and warm weather vacations. In fact, nearly 51 million Americans traveled 50 miles or more last week for Thanksgiving, according to AAA. For most, traveling in cars, planes and trains are a mild inconvenience of traffic jams and bad airport food. But for parents traveling with children in care, these vacations can turn into nightmare full of screaming kids without proper planning.
Traveling with children can be difficult because travel takes them away from everything they know and feel comfortable with and exposes them to an entirely new world. For foster children, whose routine has already been completely uprooted due to being removed from their homes, traveling can be extremely stressful and emotionally draining.
The temptation for many foster parents is to stay close to home to avoid adverse and unpredictable reactions, as well as the possibility of meltdowns in public places. But sometimes traveling is unavoidable, and the truth is, a child with anxiety, autism or any other hurdle is still a kid who wants to be part of the family vacation.
Foster care is not something that just happens in the United States. It is a global issue and each country handles the caring of children in need in different ways. We spoke with Collie Crisman, a Foster and Adoptive Family Services staff member, who grew up in the UK and has seen how the foster care system works on two continents.
1. How is the foster care system (including adoption) different in the UK compared to NJ?
One of the biggest differences that I’ve noticed between the UK and the US adoptive processes is the presence of private adoption agencies in the US. In the UK, regardless of whether a child is removed by the state, or voluntarily placed for planned adoption at birth, the case will always be handled by either a local agency or a “Voluntary Adoption Agency” (a charity-run, independent agency that specializes in adoption and post-adoptive support).
Agencies across the world, including foster care providers, have implemented a behavior management strategy aimed at transforming socially, academically and behaviorally challenged children. This technique, known as the Nurtured Heart Approach, is aimed at awakening the greatness in all children.
Originally created by Howard Glaser in 1992, the Nurtured Heart Approach was developed for working with intense children, including those diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and other behavioral, emotional and anxiety related disorders.
Intensity, according to the Nurtured Heart Approach, is a powerful quality that, if developed correctly, can help children excel.
“When a child learns to feel great about his or her intensity, the incidents of challenging behavior dissolve,” according to the training. “Now the intense child is using his or her intelligence and energies in constructive ways, and he or she often turns out to be an intensely gifted young person.”
The technique employs three stands, or guiding principles, that are aimed at transforming children. The first revolves around the refusal to give time and energy to negative behavior. For example, instead of focusing on what a child did wrong and yelling, the caregiver will save that energy for something good. Continue reading
The number of children entering the foster care system across the country has steadily increased from 396,430 in 2012 to 427,137 in 2015. Most races, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, were victims of this surge, including children of Hispanic or Latin origin.
As of 2015, there were 91,101 Hispanic children in care, up from 83,637 in 2014. In fact, Hispanic children made up 21% of the children in the foster care system across the U.S.
This influx, due in part the nation’s opioid epidemic, has put added stress on the foster care system, especially those foster parents who struggle with English and are not familiar with the system.
That’s why, now, more than ever, non-native English speaking foster parents are looking for support services to help them navigate a complicated system.
Most states have their own agencies to help Hispanic foster care families. In Washington, the nonprofit agency Friends of Youth specializes in helping Hispanic families become licensed. In California, the Latino Family Institute aims at preserving the integrity of Latin American cultures among adoptive families while promoting kinship adoptions. 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