From Foster Care to Prison Essay
From Foster Care to Prison
Young adults who leave the child-welfare system at age eighteen face steeper challenges in becoming independent adults than those who stay in foster care. National studies have found that young people who “age out” of the child-welfare system at eighteen are three times more likely to be unemployed and not enrolled in school than young people overall. They are also much more likely to struggle financially, suffer from mental illnesses or drug or alcohol disorders, bear children they can’t take care of, or end up in prison (Borja, 2005).
The literature demonstrates that there is a direct correlation between children aging out of foster care and entering the prison system. The state of California is the largest state housing foster care children in the country. Still, there is a high demand for research to demonstrate methods by which the cycle of destruction can be broken, as little research has been conducted on foster care youths beyond the age of 18. As a result of this, an exploratory study will be conducted to define parameters that should enable and convince states extend foster-care services to youths until age 21.
Literature Review Bruce Willis once said “too many children in foster care are falling through the cracks…Be a hero – take the time to learn about adoption today” (Thinkexist. com, 2006). Foster care is meant to be a temporary living situation for children who are awaiting the opportunity to be reunited with their parents or another suitable guardian. In some cases, children are placed in long-term care placements. For older adolescents, a foster care program can be designed to provide education and resources to prepare the adolescent for the transition into independence (Wikipedia, 2006).
As of September 30, 2003, there were an estimated 523,000 children on record in foster care. Of these, 46 percent lived in non-relative homes, 23% lived in relative homes, 19% lived in group homes or institutions, 5% were in pre-adoptive homes and 7% lived in other placement types (Wikipedia, 2006). When a child enters the foster care system, the role of the parent is no longer held by a single individual or even the household. Rather, multiple parties are involved. More often than not, the state assumes custody of the child.
A court appointed attorney or child protection services agency is given the responsibility of the decision making. The foster care provider is assigned the duty of the physical custody. Judges other court officials may also have a say in the care and welfare of the child. The child’s biological parents or guardians may also remain involved through visitations and can also be informed of their child’s well-being and care plan (Molin and Palmer, 2005). There are two types of foster care: voluntary and involuntary.
Voluntary foster care occurs when situations arise where the parent or guardian is temporarily unable to care for a child and seeks help. Involuntary foster care often occurs when the child is taken from the parent or guardian in order to ensure safety. The end result of the large number of decision makers in the foster care system has been shown to have further detrimental effects on the well-being of the children. The cost to maintain a system with so many players raises financial concerns, and often puts the immediate needs of the child on the back burner.
Additionally, foster care children may not necessarily receive the type of care they need and may be “particularly vulnerable to not receiving care for their mental health needs because they often lack a person in their life who feels responsible and accountable for their well-being” (Kerker and Morrison, 2005). Because of the lack of individual attention on focus on the child’s well-being, children in foster care are continuously ending up homeless, in prison or in mental institutions as yearly as adolescents. Many children in foster care exhibit mental health problems.
These can range from difficulty achieving sustainable relationships, coping problems, emotional and behavioral disturbances, attention disorders, depression, autism and bipolar disorder, thus causing these children to be defined as a vulnerable population in serious need of consideration and protection. The most common problem exhibited by the children in foster care are called “externalizing disorders” (Kerker and Morrison, 2005). Externalizing disorders frequently occur when children have been abused physically and, as a result of the abuse, demonstrate outward aggression towards others as well as towards themselves.
There are statistics to support the case that there are factors in the foster care system that contribute to the impeding mental health of the children in care. It is most important to note that few of the children in the system are screened for mental health problems. One study showed that over 94% of the welfare agencies sampled assessed the children for physical health problems, but only 47. 8% checked for mental health problems (Kerker and Morrison, 2005). It is important to mention that being removed from their homes and placed in a foster care setting is a difficult and stressful experience for a child.
“Many of these children have suffered some form of serious abuse or neglect. About 30% of children in foster care have severe emotional, behavioral or developmental problems” (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2005). While most foster children show signs of remarkable resiliency, many also suffer from physical health problems as well as physiological and emotional problems. These children frequently blame themselves and feel guilty about being removed from their birth parents and wish to return to their parents even if they had been abused by them (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2005).
In evaluating the effect of foster care children who are aging out of the system and entering the real world, it is important to note that many of the children in the system have grown up with their parents in prison. Consider for example, Former Parole Officer Marilyn Cambrell. Cambrell plays surrogate mom to children whose parents are in prison at M. B. Smiley High School in Houston. About half of the students attending the high school have all had to face the reality that they are among the 2 million U. S. children with a parent behind bars.
Many of these students are now in foster care, leaving them with feelings that they are unloved and unsafe in the world. Cambrell has begun to institute classes at the school, which have given more than 300 students a chance to vent their frustrations, share coping skills and, most importantly, feel they aren’t alone (Aguayo and Sewing, 2003). Many states have begun to implement strategies to break the cycle of vulnerability among students that age out of the foster care system and have begun to impose systems of self-care in the foster care system.
In Iowa, a new law has been implemented that mandates the extension of financial support to youth in foster care to 21 years of age. In essence, the new law serves “as a model for other states to enact the same law and improve the services for youth who are making the transition from foster care to adulthood” (Policy and Practice, 2006). In order to qualify for the extended care and support, the youth are mandated to participate in an education and training program or work full time.
To be able to qualify in the law, the youth must participate in an education or training program or work full time. This program falls under the standard of self-care that Orem describes as essential to the success of individuals seeking out optimal health, as the adolescents and young adults are taught means to provide for themselves and are given the resources needed to develop independence. Legislatures and other advocates have begun to get involved in the fight on then national level to protect the vulnerability of foster care children aging out of the system.
Similar to the program in Iowa, The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 was passed to help provide children who are aging out of the foster care system the life skills necessary to provide for themselves. The act provides further access to health care professionals, as the act “extends Medicaid coverage past age 18, and requires states to prepare foster kids for employment or for further education before they are emancipated” (DeLay, 2000). Another step that can be taken to ensure the well being of children in foster care is to focus on the need for assessment.
Foster parents can be taught by health care professionals such as nurses to look for signs of mental problems. The California Institute for Mental Health has developed screening tools that consist of “a series of questions regarding indicators of potential emotional and/or behavioral disturbances in preschool (0 to 5 years) and school-age (6 to 18 years) children”. The screenings are designed to assist in the observations of the children, and to alert the parents and others in the foster care system of a need for more extensive evaluations (Kerker and Morrison, 2005).
People magazine recently published an article on a couple, Julie and Mike Deitch, who made the decision to take on foster children. They became licensed as foster parents after seven months of classes. In 2004, they took in three siblings whose parents were hooked on meth. They have since adopted the children and took on two more children, whose parents were schizophrenic (Jerome and Marquez, 2006). There are several issues that come of out the Deitch’s story that can be used as prime examples of the success of the modern foster care system.
First and foremost, the parents received the training they needed to care for the children themselves. Secondly, the children were placed with foster parents who intend to adopt. And, while the Deitch’s had much to overcome in dealing with children whose parents had mental health problems, they put the needs of the child first and stuck with providing a high quality standard of care regardless of the obstacles at hand. It is evident that the child welfare system needs to undergo some redevelopment to best address the needs of the mental health condition of foster children.
Emphasis should be on the day to day, starting in the home. Foster parents need to be trained to care for the children by health professionals. Older children need quality attention so that they can one day care for themselves as adult. Any and all mental health problems need to be detected at an early stage and care for. Advocates need to continue to take notice of the needs of the vulnerability of the foster care children and create legislation and develop programs that serve their best interest.
If these things occur, perhaps the cycle of vulnerability of children in foster care can be overcome. Young adults who have aged out of the foster care system have left the system only to be faced with significant health, social and educational deficits including homelessness, involvement in juvenile crime and prostitution, mental and physical health problems, poor educational and employment outcomes, inadequate social support systems and early parenthood.
These poor outcomes reflect a number of factors including ongoing emotional trauma resulting from experiences of abuse and neglect prior to care, inadequate support while in care, accelerated transitions to adulthood and lack of guaranteed ongoing financial and other assistance to help facilitate this transition. Young people leaving care do not currently receive the ongoing support that a good parent would be expected to provide for their children (Mendes, 2006).
Children in the foster care system have been found to be associated with the probability of becoming a rapist or other type of sexual crime predator. As a result of this, the literature demonstrates that the prevention of rape may usefully be associated with enhancing the life chances of fathers and sons by greater support for those offenders who have spent time in foster care. Additionally, the fact that the risk factors for future violence are similar to those for rape endorses the point that rape is essentially a violence offence rather than a sex offence.
It further demonstrates that prevention programs for rape will have associated benefits (Christofferson, Soothill and Francis, 2005). Many children who have been identified as having deviant or behavior problems spend time in therapeutic foster care programs. In these programs, the youth are placed in the care of foster parents who have been trained to provide a structured environment that supports their learning social and emotional skills. An assessment was conducted on the effectiveness of such programs in preventing violent behavior among participating youth.
The Task Force on Community Preventive Services conducted a systematic review of the scientific literature regarding these programs, finding that reported and observed violence, including violent crime among the children in therapeutic programs declined (Hahn, et. Al, 2004). Due to the issues that they faced throughout adolescence, young adults who leave the child-welfare system at age 18 face steeper challenges in becoming independent adults than those who stay in foster care.
National studies have found that young people who “age out” of the child-welfare system at 18 are three times more likely to be unemployed and not enrolled in school than young people overall. They are also much more likely to struggle financially, suffer from mental illnesses or drug or alcohol disorders, bear children they can’t take care of, or end up in prison (Borja, 2005). The literature demonstrates that there is a direct correlation between children aging out of foster care and entering the prison system. The state of California is the largest state housing foster care children in the country.
Still, there is a high demand for research to demonstrate methods by which the cycle of destruction can be broken, as little research has been conducted on foster care youths beyond the age of 18. As a result of this, an exploratory study will be conducted to define parameters that should enable and convince states to extend foster-care services to youths until age 21. The parameters that will be defined include the education levels, current living conditions, socioeconomic status and employment statuses held by the young adults aging out of the foster care system.
The survey will then serve as a tool in support of the literature in order to shed light onto the missing link between children leaving the foster care system and attaining financial independence and success in mainstream society. Methods The county of Sacramento extends from the low delta lands between the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers north to about ten miles beyond the State Capitol and east to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (County of Sacramento, 2006). The southernmost portion of Sacramento County has direct access to the San Francisco Bay.
Respondents for this research will be selected from aged out foster care children in the county of Sacramento. In order to identify the sample population, social workers and foster care agencies within Sacramento County, including the County Department of Health Assistance as well as the Criminal Justice Department will be contacted. The representatives of the agencies will receive information detailing the importance of conducting the survey, and will be asked to provide or pass on the survey questions to interested participants between the ages of 18-21.
The local prison will also be contacted in order to identify target samples who have come through the foster care system and who are now in prison. The representatives will be asked to avoid bias, and to balance those selected among males and females. In order to calculate accurate percentages and accurately represent the number of young adults aging out of the foster care system, the ideal sample size will consist of fifty male and fifty females. For confidentiality purposes, those sampled cannot be randomly selected, as all names and information of those individuals participating need to be passed on through a social work related agency.
Due to this, the results may be slightly skewed. However, the skewing of the results will most likely balance themselves. That is, it is expected that an individual receiving technical training coming out of the foster care system (an example of a success story) will most likely be balanced out by an individual in prison coming out of the foster care system. That being said, it is essential that there be some control in selecting the sample, as having 100 responders all in prison will sway the results. Due to this, the survey will be distributed to a variety of agencies, so as to best manage the results.
In conducting the survey, questions will be posed to address the respondent’s attainment in areas of education, employment, friendship and family. The questions will be posed utilizing a Likert-type scale to determine response categories. Questions involving demographics, ethnicity and gender will be essential in providing useful information as to other factors (outside of being in foster care) that separate individuals in the population. For example, a question in the survey should identify the demographic location held by the foster child during the time in care, as well as well as identify any potential moves or changes in location.
In doing this, it will be possible to identify if demographic changes are an independent variable or dependent variable in effecting the results of the survey. If it is an independent variable, then it needs to be accounted for in the survey results. Similar questions will be posed in regards to ethnicity and gender, in order to determine their impacts on the results of the survey. The surveys will be distributed to contacted welfare agencies in the Sacramento area to then be passed on to target samples.
If needed, and if approved by the agencies, the method will include taking time to travel to the place of residence of the selected population to ensure that the surveys are accurately filled out and returned. The responses will then be entered into SPSS. An analysis of the surveys will be conducted looking for significant differences, relationships and correlations. In doing this, key-word searchers will be conducted. At the same time, the responses will be grouped based on socioeconomic class, education, gender, living conditions and employment status and then cross referenced to identify key correlations in the data.
The purpose of the survey will be to clearly define target triggers that caused the foster care children to end up in prison. A comparative analysis of results will be conducted in order to drawn lines of association between family values, views on friendship as well as socioeconomic status. At the same time, the answers to the survey will be used to compare and contrast methods and exposures faced by those young adults who did not go to prison after leaving the foster care system versus those who did. In conducting the survey and evaluating the results, levels of success within the foster care system will be revealed.
For example, if it is found that many of the young adults were mainstreamed into a job-training program and still entered prison, the survey will be used to reveal triggering factors that caused the downfall. Due to the sensitive nature of the survey as well as the sensitive nature of the questions posed to the target population, the survey will need to be submitted to a human subjects committee for review. Overall, the survey test the hypothesis in an attempt to assess the needs of legislators to pass policy to extend foster care benefits to the age of 21.
population’s overall attitude towards the future. That is, it will provide insight as to whether oror not the population has successfully overcome the cycle of destruction (coming out of the system and ending up in prison as a result of no where else to go), or if it appears that the individual needs further training to in order to be financially independent and lead a stable lifestyle. Anticipated Findings It is expected that the survey will reveal a clear cycle of destruction occurring from the transition out of foster care.
The survey is anticipated to support the literature that there is a missing link between children leaving the system at the age of 18 and finding success in the mainstream society. Due to this, the survey will provide a tool to better define what the missing link is, and provide insight as to what can be done to break the cycle of destruction. This is good, you should include similar language at the end of your literature review when you are discussing the intent of your research. Finally, make sure to attach your survey as an appendix item to your proposal References Aguayo, Anna and Sewing, Joy.
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Child Welfare Information Gateway (2005). Foster Care: Numbers and Trends. Retrieved December 5, 2006 from http://www. childwelfare. gov/pubs/factsheets/foster. cfm County of Sacramento (2006). About Sacramento County. Retrieved December 5, 2006 from http://www. saccounty. net/portal/about/areafacts. html CMS Network (2006). Medical Foster Care Program. Retrieved December 5, 2006 from http://www. cms-kids. com/CMSNMedicalFosterCare. htm Delay, Tom (2000). Fighting for Children. American Journal of Psychiatry, p. 120-124. Jerome, Richard and Marquez, Sandra (2006). They opened their hearts and home to babies born of meth-addicted moms.
People, 66(15), p. 83-84 Kerker, B. , & Morrison, M. (2006, January). Mental Health Needs and Treatment of Foster Youth: Barriers and Opportunities. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 76(1), 138-147. Molin, R. (2005, January). Consent and Participation: Ethical Issues in the Treatment of Children in Out-of-Home Care. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 75(1), 1. Policy and Practice (2006). New Iowa Law for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care Seen as Model for Other States. Policy and Practice of Public Human Services, 64(3), p. 28. San Francisco Chronicle Editorial (2005, October 14). Governor signs foster-care bills.
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