Children are part of a family, while a family is a basic unit of social structure representing a single household in a community. The need to address the issues and problems surrounding these two social groups is a social concern that has led to the creation of different social welfare and development organizations and units.
For the purpose of identifying the issues and problems surrounding family and child welfare, let us not take family and child as two different social actors. As Shireman wrote in the book “Critical Issues in Child Welfare,” “There is no dichotomy between the welfare of the child and the welfare of the family. Any policy that supports family life supports the welfare of children. Child welfare is, therefore, about the welfare of children and families” (1).
In the United States, despite the continuous attempt of the government and other welfare organizations to eradicate the problems related to family and child welfare programs and services, different issues still persist to question the policies created to address such problems. In order to identify this problems and issues, let us first briefly discuss the background of this problem.
Family and Child Care in U.S.
According to a press release from US Census Bureau News, in 2004, 61 percent or approximately 45 million of the United States’ 73 million children population, with ages 18 years and below, were living with their biological parents. Of these 45 million children, over 42.2 million lived with married foster parents, while approximately 4.1 million lived with stepfather and biological mother. Meanwhile, 19.3 million children in the U.S. lived with one parent particularly with single mother. More to this, an estimated 12.2 million children witch is 17% of children’s population lived with half sibling, stepparent, and/or stepsibling.
Concerning the family and child welfare services program, the U.S. government in the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1993 created the Family Preservation and Support Services which aims to encourage the State “to develop, establish, and operate a program of community-based family support services and family preservation services” (Layzer, Goodson, Bernstein, and Price ii). The family support program offers related services and programs to families in the given communities. Meanwhile, the family preservation services give assistance to families who are experiencing family problems and crisis. Moreover, this program also encompasses the children’s issues and problems.
Issues Surrounding Family and Child Welfare
Family and child welfare policies, being a social concern, have been subjected to criticism by different groups in the society like media, non-government organizations, cause groups, and even state legislators. Consequently issues on family and child welfare surfaced, ranging from difficulties in identifying and measuring the extent of involvement and intervention of the state in solving marital and familial issues to the availability of funds to support the different programs relating to family and child welfare.
With regard to state intervention in cases of child abuse and violence, unless the family violence has been judged seriously enough for court intervention, the child could be detached from his or her parent’s home and brought to a foster home. In this situation, problems arose concerning the basis of measurement used in identifying the seriousness or weight of the abuse or violence inflicted on the child. The child’s separation from his or her family, particularly from his mother, was perceived to be critical and dangerous to the child.
Thus, it is the abuser who should leave the home and face the consequence of his action. As Schechter and Edleson put it, “intervention should ensure the child’s safety, help the mother protect herself and her children, and hold the perpetrator of the violence accountable” (qtd. in Shireman 44).
The issues of whether a child should stay short-term or long-term in the foster home or with their foster parent or kinship’s care is also subjected to critical issues concerning the possible effects of their detachment from their family. Most child welfare services are confronted with hard decisions of whether to satisfy the other needs (including the education) of children or just provide them with what is necessary like safety, nurture, guidance, food, and clothing. Linked to this issue are the roles of the courts, law enforcement, and child welfare services (Shireman 53).
The state’s budget allocation for family and child welfare is also a subject of controversial issues. Financial analysts noted that the funds for family and child welfare programs were often misused. An estimated $20 billion is being spent yearly for different child welfare programs and services. While a huge amount is being dedicated to child welfare support programs, only little amount is allocated for preventing child neglect and abuse (Urban Institute n.p.).
In addition to this, despite the budget allocation for the health component of child welfare, many foster children are not provided with an access to needed mental and health care services (Geen, Sommers, and Cohen 1). Furthermore, the low budget allocated for hiring social workers often leads to employment of staffs that are less qualified and are not professionally trained to work in such program and service (Shireman 3).
Another problem is related to the issues involved in kinship care being an alternative foster care for abused and neglected children instead of placing them in child care homes. Like in child care housing, the kin care givers are also entitled to child-only payments coming from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families as fees or incentives for their hardship and services. Among the support services that kin care givers must receive are state subsidies for child care and housing and food stamps.
Yet, many kin care givers fail to receive such support services (Urban Institute n.p.). In addition, the state is unable to monitor the condition of a child placed in kinship care. As a result, the child care programs designed to “reunite them with their parents or find them an adoptive home” were not implemented (Macomber, Geen and Main 1).
Lastly, the shortage of foster homes due to increased number of referrals and increasing number of women employment also poses problems in child care program. Such scarcity questions the protection and safety being provided for children. In addition, foster home shortages also make it difficult to conduct thorough assessment on children whether they should stay long-term or short-term in foster home (Shireman 253).
Looking at these issues and problem, we could say that without properly addressing the problem of family and child care welfare, the occurrence of family abuse and neglect, homelessness, family conflicts, and others is likely to continue. Thus, proper solution should consider prevention than cure.
Geen, Rob, Anna S. Sommers, and Mindy Cohen, M. “Medicaid Spending on Foster Children.” The Child Welfare Research Program Brief No. 14 August 2005: 1-11. 7 Apr. 2009. <http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/311221_medicaid_spending.pdf>.
Layzer, Jean I., Barbara D. Goodson, Lawrence Bernstein, and Cristofer Price. National
Evaluation of Family Support Programs Final Report: Volume A: The Meta-Analysis. Cambrigde: Abt. Associates Inc., 2001. 7 Apr. 2009. <http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/abuse_neglect/fam_sup/reports/famsup/fam_sup_vol_a.pdf>.
Macomber, Jennifer., Ehrle, Rob Geen, and Regan Main. “Kinship Foster Care: Custody, Hardships, and Services.” Snapshots of America’s Families III No. 14 Nov. 2003: 1-2. 7 Apr. 2009. <http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/310893_snapshots3_no14.pdf>.
Shireman, Joan F. Critical Issues in Child Welfare. New York: Columbia University Press,
Urban Institute. “Child Welfare: A Program of the Urban Institute.” Urban Institute: Issues in Focus. 2009. 7 Apr. 2009. <http://www.urban.org/toolkit/issues/childwelfare.cfm>.
U.S. Census Bureau News. “Majority of Children Live With Two Biological Parents.” U.S. Census Bureau. 17 Nov. 2008. 7 Apr. 2009. <http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/children/011507.html