Foster Care Negligence, Abuse and Death: Without Oversight, Children Suffer

Between 2005 and 2014, 86 children across the country died while in foster care under the supervision of The Mentor Network (Mentor) according to a story published by Buzzfeed that alleged massive foster care negligence. Although some children face medical issues that can make these unfortunate circumstances more likely, at least six healthy children, including two-year-old Alexandra Hill, murdered by her foster caregiver in 2013, are confirmed to have died while in a placement through Mentor. Though each state handles contracted agencies differently, Mentor, a for-profit company, operates at a national level and is responsible for an average of 3,800 children in foster homes across 15 states.

Mentor’s Involvement in Foster Care Negligence

In Hill’s case, after a failed first placement through Mentor where she seemed to suffer neglect, the little girl ended up in the custody of Sherill Small. Small, who’d already had five failed placements, had reported to Mentor that she was “feeling stressed out and will express that she is unable to care for the children in the home.”  The same report contains a warning from the Early Childhood Intervention program, which “expressed concern about Mrs. Small being very frazzled and not certain what is going on with the children” and that “children should not be in the home at that time.” 2-year-old Hill would arrive in Small’s home one month after this report was filed.

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Report: Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Need More Services

A new national survey commissioned by two Virginia nonprofits found that youth aging out of foster care need more services as gaps in current assistance leave many vulnerable youth to fend for themselves.

Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Need More Services
According to an article by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “the 22,400 children who turn 18 and age out of state foster care systems across the country annually without a permanent family face grim prospects: Within two years, about one in four wind up incarcerated, one in five become homeless, four in 10 drop out of high school and 71 percent become parents by age 21.”

The survey, conducted by the national nonprofit Child Trends and the Better Housing Coalition, discovered that the increased number of youth transition out of youth are receiving “spotty services” that leave them vulnerable.
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Haunted by the Past: Foster Children with PTSD

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.

Foster Children with PTSD
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.”
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The Finances of Foster Care in the Opioid Age

The number of children in foster care is often talked about, but the cost of keeping them there is less discussed. As the number of parents addicted to opiates continues to rise, so does the number of children and youth entering foster care. The finances of foster care in the opioid age are a concern across the nation.

Foster Care in the Opioid Age
Ohio, in particular, is having a crisis. The Times Gazette reports that, according to Highland County Job and Family Services Director Katie Adams, there were 101 children in foster care at an annual cost of $1.9 million for her county alone.
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Texas Legislative Bill Brings Foster Care Immunization Questions to Light

Foster care immunization has gained the spotlight in Texas recently as the state attempts to reform its foster care system. The Texas child welfare system has been under fire since 2015, when a Corpus Christi judge delivered a 250-page ruling that declared that long-term foster care in the state was, as she put it, “broken.” The ruling came in the wake of 144 deaths of children in care between 2010 and 2014. According to the judge, this violates the 14th Amendment – the right to be free from, as the judge said, “rape, abuse, psychotropic medication and instability.” After receiving this criticism, the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) of Texas began reform efforts, and House Bill 39 was introduced with a number of stipulations intended to keep children in foster care safe. Amidst the debate one hot-button issue has gained attention on the national stage: foster care immunization.

The legislature will have to determine where they stand on foster care immunization.

Immunization has been a controversial topic in the United States for years, with many groups across the country voicing opinions over the implementation of vaccines for children. Arguments tend to fall into two categories: “Are vaccines safe?” and “Should vaccines be mandatory?“ Proponents of immunization argue that vaccines are effective in preventing disease. They also have faith in major medical organizations like the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and others that verify the safety of vaccines. They believe that vaccines are the primary way to protect future generations from possible disease outbreaks. For those that believe vaccines are safe, the question of whether the government requires them is moot – if vaccines are good for society and protect future generations, a mandatory vaccine schedule is entirely reasonable and acceptable. For those who doubt the safety of vaccines, however, government-based immunization schedules (including a foster care immunization plan) represent a threat to their children’s well-being.
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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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