What ever happened to the word “orphanage?” It seems like a word that lives exclusively in the past, floating in-between songs in the musical Annie or sweeping chimneys in 18th Century England. With the media-sensationalized images of poor, dirty children crowded together in a dusty bunk room while wiping floors and singing songs, it can be easy to forget that orphanages are the ancestors of modern day foster care.
Today, through increased government oversight and involvement in the needs of displaced youth, the foster care system primarily focuses on placing children into families and away from generalized group housing. However, these communal living arrangements have not disappeared entirely and are now called “congregate care”. Group Homes, Residential Treatment Centers and other forms of community-based living have been embraced in place of the archaic orphanage in the hope that children will be better served. Despite the fact that these congregate care facilities are a vast improvement over the unregulated, impersonal and sometimes cruel orphanages of the past, they are not entirely problem-free. Why is it that group homes and treatment centers across the country are closing their doors? What services did these facilities provide and how will states care for the children who were making use of them? To examine these issues, it is critical to have a clear definition of congregate care in mind.
The notion of adopting a child can come with the illusion of a perfect newborn waiting to be shaped and molded into a model human being. However, the reality is many of the children waiting to be adopted from foster care are teenagers. Across the country, thousands of older kids in care are aging out every year. According to an article written by the National Conference of State Legislatures, youth who age out of foster care often have little to no support and are at a higher risk of ending up on the streets. Thankfully, there are national initiatives that support adopting older children and are working to get older kids in care forever homes.
Adopting Older Children: Why It Matters
In 2011, and according to A Family For Every Child, there was an estimate of 104,000 children in foster care who were available for adoption. Of that number, about 43,000 were in care for five years or longer.
Grandmothers’ roles are changing from beloved ancestors to authority figures with the recent rise in 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.
Imagine you’re a grandmother or grandfather and your daughter has lived on her own for a long time now. Maybe you have a good relationship with her, maybe you don’t, but she ends up in trouble – a drug addiction, a bad accident or some other tragedy – and can no longer care for your grandson. You haven’t been given time to plan or prepare, but suddenly there’s a caseworker on your doorstep with your grandson in tow asking you to take him in. He’s’ your grandchild, so of course you’re willing, but are you actually able? Do you have the legal relationship that would allow you to manage your grandson’s educational enrollment or immunizations or health care decisions? Did you settle down into a smaller home after your grandson’s parent moved away? Do you earn enough money to support the extra mouth to feed?
These are the questions facing the When thinking of foster care, it’s easy to boil the child welfare system down to two basic steps: First, a child, for whatever reason, cannot be cared for by his parents, and second, the government places that child with a new family. The truth is, however, that foster care is much more like an evolving organism than a simple series of processes. Every year, as data comes back and the various responsible agencies assess their abilities and achievements, the child welfare system is being modified and refined to help find the best possible outcomes for those children who enter it. As a result, child welfare professionals have been listening to kinship caregivers all over the country and are starting to help grandparents and kinship caregivers answer those frustrating yet supremely important questions.
Throughout the United States, many children experience trauma on a daily basis. The more than 400,000 kids in foster care who have been abused or neglected all have stories of pain. They have endured trauma that, if not addressed, will have an effect on them for the rest of their lives. Foster and Adoptive Family Services (FAFS) offers a trauma course for resource parents in NJ that equips them to help foster children after traumatic experiences.
According to the Mental Health Connection of Tarrant County in Texas, 26% of children in America experience or witness a traumatic event before the age of four.
A recently released federal study found that more than half of America’s homeless youth became homeless for the first time after a parent or caregiver forced them to leave. But for foster kids, the results of the study are even more startling. Almost half the homeless youth across the country have previously been in foster care.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, polled 873 youth, ages 14-21, in 11 cities, including New York City and Chicago. The goal of the study was to obtain information on service utilizations and needs from the homeless youth.