Nearly 750,000 children are currently in foster care systems throughout the United States. Many youth enter programs with medical, mental, or developmental health issues and fail to receive adequate care while in placement. (1) Abusive behavior towards children is a prominent theme throughout foster care systems. Changes of policies and procedures addressing abuse could save countless lives of neglected children and restore the philosophy of the system.
After being discharged from foster care when she was three and a half, Marisol, who had entered the system at birth, was returned to the care of her biological mother. Her mother, who had struggled with drug abuse, had recently been released from prison at the time of Marisol’s return. Reports of Marisol, prior to her discharge, being frightened by violence and unfed after visits with her mother were ignored by the New York City child welfare system. Despite suggesting that her mother might still be abusing drugs, authorities followed the current operating principle of foster care systems: that all children should be with biological parents without any evaluation to determine whether the child is safe in the home. Although welfare officials were unaware of her wellbeing, all inquiries were assured she was prospering. Fifteen months of abuse and neglect later, a housing inspector discovered Marisol within her mother’s apartment, locked in a closet, near dead. After a long recovery in the hospital, Marisol reentered the foster care system. By policy, her final goal was to reunite her with her mother, the woman who nearly ended her life. Parenting classes was the only service her mother was required to complete in order to regain custody of Marisol. (jstor. 124) The headlines are filled with gut-wrenching stories similar to Marisol’s, where abuse and death could have been prevented. As an adopted child, comparable stories fill me with fear of what my future would look like had my mother not made the decisions she did for me when I was a child.
A majority of children are placed in foster care due to physical abuse, neglect, abandonment, or parental substance abuse. As a result of this negative upbringing, many children enter the foster system with health, psychiatric, and developmental disorders and struggle with trauma from being separated from their parents. However, only approximately 10% of children struggling from abuse in their home lives are removed from the care in which they are receiving the abuse. (pediatrics. 1) Nearly 20,000 youth will exit the foster system yearly expecting to live independently, when in reality, a significant portion have difficulty transitioning to life on their own. Many fail to hold regular employment, lack the money to meet everyday needs, and live on the streets. The youth with access to transitioning services, support networks, and training prior to release from the system experienced more positive adjustments (semantics). There are also many positives to the foster care system, such as reuniting families and giving youth a larger chance at achieving in life. CLOSING SENTENCE
Some child abuse cannot be prevented because it happens behind closed doors and without warning. However, reforms of the reporting process and child protection are needed if abused children are to have unlimited opportunities in their lives. Formalizing kinship care programs, increasing adoptions, and creating alternate living arrangements are examples of the numerous reforms needed to protect the lives of children in foster systems. (jstor. 1) Members of a child’s extended family play an essential role in helping to remove children from abusive situations. By creating more policies regarding kinship parental care programs, more children will be able to be removed from harmful situations and put into the care of loving relatives. In addition, encouraging adoption within families where parents are unable to care for the child and unwilling to accept treatment will allow more youth to be placed in loving, stable environments. Much of the consistency and support needed in a child’s life only come by creating alternate, long-term living conditions. Often, failure to report abuse by a witness can be the deciding factor between life or death for a child. Many neglected children are dying because of the failure to report abusive behavior. Few people fail to report abuse because they do not care about the endangerment of children. Instead, many are unaware of the drastic risk the child faces in the abusive situation and the resources available from child protective agencies for the child to receive help. Methods of how to help children potentially being abused need to publicized if reform of the system is to take place. (jstor)
The history of failed attempts to protect children from abuse within foster care systems is long and will only increase if changes are not made. Although several efforts have been made to attempt to remedy this problem, reforms of policies regarding children’s safety in their own homes need to be altered in order to make beneficial differences. Restoration of these laws could be the crucial difference in hundreds of children’s lives.
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