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Research Paper on Children Being Abused in Foster Care

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Elijah Emanuel Yates is a six-year-old boy that was in foster care in Martinsburg, West Virginia for about a year. His parents were both drug addicts, and he watched them overdose multiple times. His dad also beat his mom. He was put into foster care until his mom’s rights were terminated, and an adoption family was chosen. This is the story of many kids in Hillsborough County Florida, however there are not many happy endings. Foster care is a problem in Hillsborough County Florida because of the rate of children being removed from homes, lack of adoptive and foster parents, and inadequate funding.

What is foster care and what does foster care detail? Where is Hillsborough County, Florida? Merriam Webster defines foster care as “a situation in which for a period of time a child lives with is cared for by people who are not the child’s parents” (“Foster Care”). Hillsborough County, Florida the county that contains the city of Tampa but not the Clearwater and St. Petersburg. The county stretches as far east as Plant City and west to the coast. In the state of Florida, there are about 14,000 kids in foster care, and 43% of all the kids in the Florida foster care system are in Hillsborough County (“Foster Care Statistics”). Foster parents can be temporary, temporary to permanent, or permanent. Temporary foster parents have kids that are constantly coming and going. Temporary to permanent foster a specific kid to adopt them in the future, when the parent’s rights are terminated for example. Permanent foster parents go straight into the adoption process for a kid. (American Adoptions)

How did foster care start and how has it developed over the years? In the 1750s through the 1810s, children of poor families were sent to be indentured servants under English Poor Law in colonial America. The conditions were not great, however at least the children would learn a trade to use. In 1853, Charles Loring Brace, who was a minister and the director of New York Children’s Aid Society, created a free foster care system that was not much different than the one before. The children still became indentured servants; the kids would go to the rural parts of the country and farm. Their train ride to these parts of the country was free, and they became nicknamed “orphan trains” even though most of the kids just had poor parents. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt suggested the creation of an organization to help with the foster care system and the adoption, so the legislation created the Children’s Bureau to solve that problem. It was not until 68 years later, under Jimmy Carter, that the federal government started assisting states with funding under the Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance entitlement program. (Chittom and Wagner)

Around two thousand kids were removed from their homes in 2016, the highest it has been in around ten years, because of drugs, child abuse, neglect, and mental illnesses. These numbers are up thirty percent from last year (McCowan). The kids are taken from their homes to keep them away from the hardships, however 51 percent of the kids are returned home with their biological parents (American Adoptions). The other 49 percent is taken to be put in group homes or individual foster homes, but there are too many kids in the system to house them all. The kids, who cannot find a home, are stuck with Eckerd Kids’ organization to find a place, however these kids are taken to sleep in office buildings because there is no other places for these kids to sleep (McCowan).

The drugs constantly come through the ports of Tampa, causing constant drug abuse among the kids’ parents. Methamphetamine, more commonly known as meth, is the main abused drug in the Tampa Bay area. Mexican drug traffickers have established many labs throughout Cental Florida, many of which are “mom and pop” stores that have become increasingly dangerous over the past few years. MDMA, more commonly known as ecstasy, is shipped from Germany and the Netherlands into the ports of Tampa and St. Petersburg. It is also an abused drug in Hillsborough County. In the south parts of Florida, both drugs are mixed together in an 80/20 split, 80 percent is methamphetamine and 20 percent is ecstasy, in majority of the clubs you find. (Narconon)

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Due to the rise in foster kids, there is a lack of temporary homes all over the state. Most people would not want to become temporary parents because of the psychological damage it has on the parents knowing that some kids are going back into a harmful situation. The process to become a long process is also a few months process before you even get to meet any foster kids. To become a foster parent, you must attend an orientation welcoming you to the world of parenting foster kids, complete 20 to 30 hours of foster care training, have a child abuse and criminal background check and, participate a home inspection and a home study to review your readiness for fostering (Florida Department of Children and Families). The goal of foster care is to put kids into a better home than where they were before, yet 28 percent of children in foster care report being abused.

In “The Foster Care System and Its Victims: Part 2”, tells the story of an adult client that Susanne Babbel calls Amy, who spent seven years in the foster care system. Amy told Susanne that “roughly nine out of ten fellow foster children she crossed paths with claimed to be abused by their foster parents”. She also explained that “foster children are taught by their circumstances not to speak up and are conditioned to think abuse is ‘normal.’” (Babbel, 2) With that being said, there is a need for more foster parents, but they need to be in the foster care system to help the kids.

The Hillsborough County area is being inadequately funded by the state and federal governments. The Children’s Bureau has been assisting states with the funding of the foster care system since its creation in 1918 (Children’s Bureau). The state of Florida has not been able to build new buildings due to funding issues or even renovate old buildings to create new group homes (McCowan). This causes foster kids to be moved too often, and it damages the kids’ mental well-being. Many of the kids do not even want to unpack their belongings because they feel like they will be moved again soon. Christopher O’Donnell and Nathaniel Lash did a study where they looked at millions of child welfare records that showed the moving of homes of a quarter of a million foster kids, about 1,500 kids moved an average of once a month for a year, 7,500 moved once a month for six months, and 2,000 placements in one month. Most of the kids moved constantly have behavior problems, so Hillsborough County needs more funding to help these kids. (Editorial: Florida’s Foster Care)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services claims that “up to 50% of former foster or probation youth end up homeless within the first year and a half of their emancipation”. In Part 3 of Babbel’s series “Foster Care System and Its Victims”, Amy, her client, states, “Something nobody mentions is that most kids... don’t graduate from school. Or, as in my case, truly the last formal schooling I had was going to 6th grade.” She goes on to say that the foster homes and group homes did not emphasize school. (Babbel, 3) The foster care system is failing a large amount of young people. Along with failing the kids in education, the foster care system molds many of the kids to have psychological problems like low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, trust issues, PTSD, personality disorders, and increases their risk for multiple psychiatric disorders that can hurt the kids just as much as no education. On top of these psychological problems, foster kids often find themselves drinking, smoking, using or even dealing drugs, and overeating. (Babbel, 3) Majority of the time, the foster parents do not know what to look for, and from the kids’ experiences, the kids are very good at hiding what they are doing from the parents.

What is the solution to this huge problem? In Hillsborough County, Eckerd’s Kids runs the foster care system (McCowan). Their goal is to safely house children and keep the kids safe while they are waiting on a permanent home. However, this organization does not get funded enough to keep all these children safe, so some of the children still come out of the system not prepared or mentally stable. The main solution to the foster care problem is to fund the system more, but the state of Florida does not have enough funds itself.

The rate of children being removed from homes, lack of adoptive and foster parents, and inadequate funding in Hillsborough County Florida has foster care to become a huge problem. There is a 30 percent increase in children being removed from their home because of drug use from their parents, child abuse, neglect, and mental illness. The amount of adoptive and foster parents does not come close to the amount needed for the increase in amount. The system is not preparing kids for the future by not giving them the education they need to succeed. 14,000 young kids are in foster care in the state of Florida; the future of America rests in the young people. However, if the young people do not get the help they need to succeed, we will already be failing in the future.

Works Cited

  1. American Adoptions, Inc. “Foster Care and Adoptions in Florida.” American Adoptions - Tennessee Adoption Laws | Adoption Laws in TN, 2019, www.americanadoptions.com/florida-adoption/florida-foster-care-adoption.
  2. Babbel, Susanne. “The Foster Care System and Its Victims: Part 2.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 Jan. 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/somatic-psychology/201201/the-foster-care-system-and-its-victims-part-2.
  3. Babbel, Susanne. “The Foster Care System and Its Victims Part 3.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 11 Jan. 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/somatic-psychology/201201/the-foster-care-system-and-its-victims-part-3.
  4. Children's Bureau. “Adoption.” Children's Bureau | ACF, Administration Fro Children and Families, 19 Sept. 2018, www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/focus-areas/adoption.
  5. Chittom, Lynn-nore, and Geraldine Wagner. “Foster Children Programs: An Overview.” Points of View: Foster Children Programs, Mar. 2016, p. 1. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pwh&AN=23827497&site=pov-live.
  6. “Editorial: Florida's Foster Care System Needs Money, Attention.” Tampa Bay, Florida News, Tampa Bay Times, 4 Jan. 2019, www.tampabay.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-floridas-foster-care-system-needs-money-attention-20190103/.
  7. Florida Department of Children and Families. “How Do I Become A Foster Parent?” Substance Abuse | Florida Department of Children and Families, 2014, www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/foster-care/how-do-I.
  8. “Foster Care.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, 2019, www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/foster%20care.
  9. “Foster Care Statistics.” Promise Foundation , 2016, www.promiselovefoundation.org/statistics.
  10. McCowan, Candace. “Children Taken from Homes Because of Abuse Now Sleeping in Office Buildings.” News Channel 8, WFLA, 9 June 2016, www.wfla.com/news/hillsborough-county/children-taken-from-homes-because-of-abuse-are-now-sleeping-in-office-buildings/1052013267.
  11. Narconon Intl. “Article Factsheet.” Florida Drug Facts: Florida Factsheet, Friends of Narconon Intl, 6 Feb. 2019, www.friendsofnarconon.org/drug_distribution_in_the_united_states/florida_drug_facts/florida_factsheet/.
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