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Foster Care System: How Does It Work?

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Unfortunately, not all women who give birth to a child have the requirements or the proper conditions to raise one. Many children around the world are left with improper care due to inadequate parents. Parents that may have substance abuse problems or even physically abuse their young ones. Therefore, a system was put in place to come to those in need of help: Foster Care., introduced through ideology in religious books, the concept has been developed into a system where it takes in minors with unbearable conditions and raises them.

Although foster care may have proven to save many lives, its system also has many downfalls. The foster care system is failing those it serves due to the neglect of help to their integration back to society.

This research paper begins by enlightening the reader on the various aspects regarding the foster care system; how it works, it’s origin, and how the system operates today. It further highlights the challenges of minors integration back into society.

What is Foster Care?

Multiple types of social services have been put in place to allow the smooth running of our society. Foster Care has been a service provided to many since the mid of the 19th century. Also known as the “out-of-home care”, the foster care system creates an environment in which children can be nurtured and prosper despite the tough past living conditions they have endured. This system takes care of children whose parents can’t take care of or who have passed away.

During the process of biological parents obtaining the capability to take care of their own child, children are placed into foster homes, group care facilities or relatives. These alternatives are meant to be temporary arrangements until the child is able to be reunited with his/her biological family. Often times, if this isn’t an option, these children are put up for adoption and are integrated into a permanent new family. Despite this, children often spend around 2 years in the foster care system before being reunited with family.

How Does It work?

Every country has a different way of operating its foster care system. In the united states, this system is complex yet easy to follow.

The system places children into group homes or directly into a foster home. They are taken care of by “foster parents”. “A foster parent is a state-certified caregiver who looks after a foster child and provides him a safe home environment”. (How The Foster Care System Works) They are licensed by the state and are trained caregivers.

A foster home is a home away from home. It is a family willing to nurture a child. They are offered compensations from group homes to care for the child they have adopted. If instead of being placed in the hands of a caregiver, they are placed in a foster home the government offers direct compensation to the foster homes

The main goal of foster care is to be able to reunify the child with his or her biological parents. If this isn’t an option, they offer legal guardianship and parental rights to the foster parents.

Until then, foster care parents stay in regular contact with the biological parents of the child. Being a caregiver comes with a multitude of challenges such as dealing with the emotional trauma of the child. Being able to be gentle and sensitive to the child’s issue.

Many cases have occurred in which the child received worse treatment in foster homes than in his biological house. This is why registering to be a foster parent requires a multitude of background checks.

Why Would a Child Be Placed in Foster Care?

In most cases, children are registered into foster care due to neglect, abuse or lack of parental supervision at home. In some instances, parents voluntarily place their children into foster care because they know that this is what’s best for them at the moment. In other cases, child protective services have to come and remove them from the care of their parents. In these events, children often go through some trauma attached to the separation of their biological parents.

When placed into foster care, children – depending on the situation – have access to parental visits and are given the right to stay in contact with biological brothers and sisters. “Foster children report that being away from family and familiar surroundings, and not always knowing what’s next, are among the hardest parts of foster care”. (What Is Foster Care?) .

Having children ranging from the age of 3 to 18-year-old dealing with these situations can be very difficult and leave a lifelong impact. Everyone’s experience in foster care is different. Children all come in with different stories. This allows for bonds to be built and allows for a sense of group healing.

Origin of Foster Care

Caring for children under the law has been a concept that goes back to references from the Bible, Torah, and Quran. These holy books were written many centuries ago.

Laws in the early 1500s in England allowed orphaned children to be placed into indentured services’ until they turned 18. Indentured services consisted of working in plantation and rice fields. “Only about 40% of indentured servants lived to complete the terms of their contracts.” (Indentured Servants) . Although multiple died before reaching adulthood, this was their only option. They were fed and taken care of and in exchange, they had to work in indentured services. This law was passed onto the United States a few years later due to the alliance they had with the United Kingdom. This was the beginning of the idea of placing children in foster homes. Even though these services consisted of child exploitation it was an upgrade from almshouses. Almshouses were houses built by charities for poor people to live in. The living conditions were unsanitary and were run by abusive caregivers.

During that time, children entered foster homes due to the passing of both of their parents and not due to abuse and neglect in their households.

History of Foster Care in The United States

The Children’s Aid’s society was founded in New York, in 1853, by Charles Loring Brace. The objective of this association was to protect children who had experienced abuse or who were at risk of sexual, emotional or physical abuse. Also to provide help and support for families in need. When seeing so many homeless children in the streets of New York, he also started “The orphan train movement”. This movement consisted of babies and teenagers being sent to the midwest to work on farms. They would often stop in towns to try and get some children adopted. The caregiver, when arrived at a station would clean them up and dress them nicely. They then would go into an opera house – oftentimes into churches – and were put up for “showcase”. Thus comes the expression “put up for adoption”

In these situations, siblings would often get split and lose contact because people could only adopt one child. The inhumanity of these things was surreal. Children were showcased as animals and some would even dance to catch the eye of potential adoptive parents. Some were adopted into loving families while others were turned into slaves and were abused.

In the early 1800s, foster homes were a source of abuse and many would have rathered stayed in the streets. But the idea behind these foundations was to give abandoned and orphaned children some type of family life. This is the same objective of modern/recent foster homes. Charles Loring Bryce set the stage for the current way the foster care system functions

Mary Ellen Wilson’s story

Mary Ellen Wilson’s Story is a story that has shaken up the way the foster care system was operated and put in place a set of laws.

Mary Ellen was a young girl who was given off to a family friend due to her mother’s lack of ability to take care of her when her father passed away. When she reached the age of two, she was given off to the New York City Department of Charities. The New York City Department of Charities appointed her to Thomas and Mary McCormack. They were now legally in custody of her. Which only later was found out that they did so with fake documentation. When Mr. Thomas McCormack passed away, his wife remarried and all three: Mary Ellen, her and her new husband, moved towns.

New neighbors became aware of the eerie situations that occurred within that household. They would hear screams and cries. The poor young girl, Mary Ellen was victim to child abuse. She would repeatedly leave the house with bruises. This was Mrs. McCormack’s way of parenting.

They repeatedly moved households in hopes of not getting questioned for their behavior. One day, a neighbor from a past location asked Etta Angell Wheeler, “a caring Methodist mission worker who visited the impoverished residents of the tenements regularly, to check on the child.” (Prevent Child Abuse) to follow up with Mary Ellen. She arrived at the household where she found the 10-year-old with bruises all over, malnourished and with a face filled with trauma. Etta Angell immediately tried to seek legal actions.

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At that time there were no laws for the protection of children, yet, there were some in place for the protection of animals. She went to court and they denied her request due to the lack of evidence. So they brought in Mary Ellen Wilson to testify. That was enough to take her away from her foster parents’ custody and to send them to jail for twelve months.

Ellen was then placed into a juvenile home where she got the opportunity to heal. A few years later, Etta Angell Wheeler gained custody of her.

This story was a catalyst for the movement of child protective laws. “The dedication of several people saved Mary Ellen and started the Child-Protection Movement’ (Prevent Child Abuse)

Foster care today

Foster care has now taken a slightly different turn. It now focuses on the complete well being of the child and not just getting them off the streets. “In 2017, more than 690,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care.” (Foster Care) This drives a multitude of people in charge of the system to make this a friendly environment and one in which children can prosper.

A multitude of America’s child welfare systems is broken. Children go through a lot more harm and trauma then expected within-group houses. Some things never change. To this day, siblings are often split and sent to different homes. Others are sent jungled home to home, never obtaining a stable environment. The system claims that their primary objective is to reunify families as soon as possible, yet many are thrown around like toys between homes for many years. Until it is now too late to even receive foster care considering that they are now independent and of legal age.

Kinship Care

The foster care system has evolved into different branches. One branch is known as kinship care. This system is very similar to the one of foster care but instead of being placed with strangers or in a foster group they are placed with relatives or extended family members. That family member receives the same amount of financial support and holds the same amount of responsibility as a foster parent. The main difference is that the caregiver has already nurtured a relationship with the child. Kinship care comes with a multitude of advantages. It minimizes the child’s trauma, nurtures the child’s cultural identity and allows for the maintenance of sibling ties.

According to new research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: “Children removed from their homes after reports of abuse have significantly fewer behavior problems when placed with relatives rather than being placed into foster care” (Kinship Care More Beneficial Than Foster Care).

Should this be how the whole foster care system operates? Yes, this would be ideal. But many children enrolled in the system, don’t have this kind of family support. Completely switching the way the system is designed would be harmful to many.

What is wrong about this situation is that the system knows that there are better alternatives such as kinship care, yet they still allow for children to go through the hassle of living through the second-best option rather than trying to develop the idea of kinship care and expand the people who could have access to it.

Foster Families

Foster families can either nurture the child’s growth or nurture his/her pain. These factors depend on the pure luck of the families the child is placed in. Ideally, every foster family should be able to offer the same level of comfort. Sadly, this isn’t the case. A multitude of children leave the foster care system with more trauma then they came in with. When placed into a foster family, children should be treated as one of their own. Their caregivers’ biological children should become their siblings and gain an extended family.

Kids can’t be taken out of an environment, placed into new homes, and then expect to thrive. This is where the social worker comes in as they can provide support and services. (Nfyiadmin, 2017)

Abuse and Neglect in Foster Homes

Statistics show as much as 28% of kids are abused while in the foster care system. (Consequences of Foster Care Abuse and Neglect). This statistic may be higher considering that many foster kids are kept silent about the situations they go through by their caregivers. They suffer trauma in an environment meant to remove them from that kind of stress. Foster kids need caregivers who have time and are willing to offer them love and affection opportunity to heal. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Children are placed into the same or even worse environment then they had with their biological parents.

“A blind eye is often turned to this abuse and neglect in foster services due to the overwhelming responsibilities, the number of children they have to monitor, and extensive work paper social workers must deal with daily.” (Consequences of Foster Care Abuse and Neglect)

This neglect and abuse can lead to life-long emotional and psychological issues. Children who are abused, neglected and live in an unstable foster environment perform poorly in school and are more likely to begin at a young age the abuse of substances such as alcohol and drugs. These are some of the life-long consequences some foster kids carry with them when leaving the system.

Kids are victimized by the abuse and neglect they have received. In situations like these, people need to understand that there is a flaw in the system which needs to be revised.

Emancipation of Minors

At the age of 18, children still in the foster care system “age out”. This is known as the age when children can file for emancipation.

Under the law, parents are responsible for the wellbeing of their child until they turn of legal age. Feeding them, housing them and offering them the tools needed to succeed. Emancipation is giving a minor its full independence. This happens through a legal process that allows the minor to become fully independent and take into account adult responsibilities. Such as paying taxes. This releases the foster system of all responsibilities linked to the child. When seeking emancipation, the child must register for it with the court. Their foster agency must also file for a petition. The court will then decide if the child will benefit from this decision or not. The decision also depends on factors such as the minors living conditions, the minors’ level of maturity and the minors’ capability to provide for themselves.

Being emancipated allows the child to now buy real estate, independently enroll in a school and sign contracts to their names.

Aging out of Foster Care

“When kids age out of foster care, they become ineligible to receive state assistance with housing, food, and medical care under the foster care system.” (Aging Out of Foster Care). This added to the fact that: foster kids often leave suffering from trauma due to a long period lived in an unstable environment, leads to a long-term of emotional trauma causing newly emancipated young adults to suffer higher rates of substance abuse, mental illness, teen pregnancy, and homelessness

Children transitioning from protection to independence face multiple challenges. Some decide to leave before “aging out” due to the lack of support in group homes. While others age out and are sent into the world with a lack of knowledge and preparation for an independent way of life.

“This has led to a high discharge of children from the foster care system into homelessness. After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.” (Nfyiadmin, 2017) This issue was put under review and child welfare services are now forced to support these minors until the age of 18 up to the age of 21 to provide them with a smooth transition.

Transition Into Society and Government Support

The government should be the main source of support for children leaving the foster care system. Child protection legislation should allow youths to access child protection services up to the age of 18. They should also allow kids, who haven’t “aged out” of the system but who have left by decision to reenter if needed. They should also grant them a loan to allow them to start their independent lives and purchase or lease a home. These are things that the government could allocate, the goal of facilitating foster children’s transition.

Child protective services, on the other hand, should actively help children leaving the system find affordable housing and support them in their transition to independence

Conclusion

The multiple unethical challenges that our foster care system faces become apparent when looked into. Many challenges come with the upbringing of children in foster care. Allowing them to integrate into society is a key aspect that multiple organizations are failing to do. A system who failing one of its core duties fails the people it serves.

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Foster Care System: How Does It Work? (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved August 14, 2022, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/foster-care-system-how-does-it-work/
“Foster Care System: How Does It Work?” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/foster-care-system-how-does-it-work/
Foster Care System: How Does It Work? [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/foster-care-system-how-does-it-work/> [Accessed 14 Aug. 2022].
Foster Care System: How Does It Work? [Internet] Edubirdie. 2022 Feb 17 [cited 2022 Aug 14]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/foster-care-system-how-does-it-work/
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