Foster homes, currently in the state of Alabama, house approximately 6,000 youth (under 21) in the foster care system. Internationally in the US there were over 670,000 in the foster care system. The idea of foster homes in America was birthed from the English Poor Laws. These laws, before Charles Bruce’s influence, made it possible for citizens to take in beggars and displaced youth in exchange for indentured servitude until adulthood. The origins of Elizabethan Poor Laws began “in 1500’s and instructing church parishes voluntary weekly collections to assist the poor.” The parish had been the basic unit of local government since at least the fourteenth century, (https://eh.net/encyclopedia/english-poor-laws/). There was a need to help to displaced children and women, as the number of diseases and crime grew; places like New York City being one of the worst. A 26-year-old missionary and Yale graduate Charles L. Brace organized a system in 1854 called “Placing out” which evolved into the now Children’s Aid.
Foster care has been around for many years and has evolved greatly throughout the years. America’s first foster child happened to be Benjamin Eaton in 1636 at the age of seven years old (NFPA). This opened the nation’s eyes on an occurring issue with children. A minister, Charles Loring Brace started the free foster care home movement in 1856. Brace was a minister and directed the New York Children’s Aid Society (NFPA). He also created the placing out system. The placing out system used any passenger train going in any direction that offered reduced fares for children. At stops along the way, farmers and shopkeepers would come to the station, inspect the children and decide if any would be a good match for their families – or businesses. (https://www.tpr.org/2018-07-03/riders-of-the-orphan-train-preserves-the-unforgettable-stories) Inspired by his love for philanthropy, theology and missionary work, the foundation of these organizations were extensions of Charles Brace’s theories that institutional care stunted and destroyed children. He believed the answers to transforming New York’s orphans and street children into self-reliant members of society were gainful work, education, and a wholesome family atmosphere” (https://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/people/brace-charles-loring/)This was going toward the right direction with foster care and providing homes for these children. In the 1900s the first laws to prevent child abuse and neglect was issued. For example, the Social Security Act of 1935 was the first approved grants from the government for child welfare services (Facts on Kids in South Dakota). In this following article it continues to explain various history about foster care in America. In the 1970s CAPTA–Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act became clear as far as what was expected and for investigations involving abuse or neglect. “CAPTA provides federal funding to states in support of prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities and also provides grants to public agencies and nonprofit organizations” (Child Welfare). In the 1990s the number of children in foster care increased tremendously. The probable cause of this spike was due to economic slowdown and the crack cocaine epidemic (FKSD). Foster care is its own issue itself due to children being taken out of their homes because of irresponsible parents/guardians. The issues in foster care continue even in this age of time.
Laws are very essential when it comes to foster parenting and foster care in general. There are laws in place to protect the children going in and out of foster homes. Over the course of years there were many laws put in place involving care for children. One of the first mentioned earlier was the Social Security Act to provide funds to child welfare services. Without these particular laws there wouldn’t be any stability within the foster care system in America. The political climate involving foster care is improving substantially state by state. If all the states were onboard with laws, it would improve the system even better. One gap within that is that not all laws are placed in different states. For example, the Foster Parent Bill of Rights, which is only established in 16 of our 50 states here in the U.S. (NFPA). The Foster Parent Bill of Rights in the state of Tennessee exhibits certain criteria that the foster parents must meet and different disciplinary actions that will happen if abuse or neglect has happened in a foster home (Tennessee Gov.). I feel that is extremely important for the wellbeing of the family and the child placed in the family’s care. There are weaknesses within our system that should be placed everywhere and not just in particular states. That’s where we fail as a country because a child’s wellbeing in a foster home is important and this is something that can avoid any issues in the future if enforced everywhere.
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Social Trends Influence
In some areas of the country foster care is a rising problem and continues to rise for multiple reasons. Drugs and alcohol will always be a factor when talking about foster care and why some children are in the system. With some states slowly legalizing drugs such as marijuana can cause an impact on foster care because of impaired judgment. If a child is constantly around someone who is using marijuana can be the cause of neglect that is happening within the home. As social worker in the Code of Ethics people have the “right” to do whatever they want in their home but when a child is involved it becomes an issue. Another trend is social media, it is not a bad social trend because it gives them the right to express themselves somewhere. Although it can become dangerous if children/teenagers are not supposed to have contact with their biological parents or guardians some find social media sites an opportunity to be in contact. In some states there are certain requirements that need to be met before posting images of foster children on social media sites and before the child themselves make an account. For example, in Oregon one the requirements is “before posting pictures contact your case worker or certifier for this approval. This will ensure posting pictures of foster children in your home poses no potential safety risks related to the child or to you. In some cases, the child’s family cannot know where the child is placed” (Oregon Government). Confidentiality is important when it comes to social media because some children/teenagers were taken out of a harmful situation and need to be kept safe in an environment where danger cannot find them. With social media sites and technology booming it may be hard to get control over these things, especially if everyone around them have a social media site or cell phone. It can impact children and families in a positive or negative depending how it is handled. There are resources to help gain knowledge on certain sites and to give advice on how to handle it with a child in foster care.
The gaps in the foster care systems are important because it’s involving multiple parties. It is the children who get the effects of aging out, poor foster parenting, abuse, and other gaps within the foster care system. It is the foster parents that potentially want to adopt that get the effects of biological parents purposely coming in and out their child’s life because they do not want anyone else to adopt their child. It is the biological parents who are working to get their children back and they find out that their children were being abused in the foster care system. A place where the children are supposed to be safe and well taken care of during the process. It is the social workers who get the effects of watching and taking care of all parties, telling them why or why not something cannot happen because it isn’t provided in their state or area. The reason why the gaps in foster care, all gaps in foster care matter is because it is not only affecting one person, but it is affecting everyone involved. In the NASW Code of Ethics 6.01 Social Welfare explains that social workers should promote general welfare of society, from local to global levels, and the development of people, their communities, and their environments. Social workers advocate for their clients no matter what the situation may be and if there are certain gaps within foster care then that should be brought to attention for the client’s wellbeing. Not all states have the same training or requirements when it comes to being a foster parent. Certain criteria must be met but different states have their own. Social workers have a commitment to the clients and to promote the wellbeing of the clients even if that mean advocating for a change in the foster care system to fill some if not all the gaps.
What is Offered?
As a country we have many different sources regarding foster care and foster parenting. There are multiple laws put in place for protection of children and their wellbeing. There are different organizations offering help for biological parents, foster children, and foster parents to advocate for them. In Tennessee specifically there are foster parent colleges to provide the proper training to become a foster parent to protect the wellbeing of the child. In our country, I believe there should be more support and training for foster parents regarding how to handle certain situations. There is always room for improvement within our system. Children in foster care remain in the system for an average of 2 years according the Children’s Rights Organization. I feel that as a country there should be more effort to get children out the system faster and lower the amount of times they are in and out of homes in order to see the statistics to lower. All the services that are offered nation-wide are there for a reason but to make the services more beneficial there needs to be an effort from everyone; from the government to regular U.S citizens.
Ways to Improve
It does not matter what is going on in our country there is always room for improvement, especially in the foster care system. For example, the fact that only 16 states have the Foster Parent Bill of Rights is a problem. That is a gap in our system because that Bill of Rights can be beneficial and helpful in the long run. There can be an improvement on the training for caseworkers, so they know what is best for the child’s safety. There needs to be more advocacy for all parties associated with the foster care system. One organization focusing on the needs of multiple parties is the Children’s Right organization. Their mission statement explains it all, which includes: “We are a national advocacy group working to reform failing child welfare systems on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of abused and neglected children who depend on them for protection and care” (Children’s Rights). In order to build a sufficient foster care system, all parties need to be taken care of for the sake of the children. The children are being put under a magnifying glass, but people are looking at the other surrounding factors that can be prevented. There are circumstances where children will need to be put in the system but if the system would tighten policies, training, and management everywhere instead of certain locations it would be a more enough system.