Think about a young child who has been abused and neglected, has no permanent home, and no stable support system. Think about how this child must feel and what he or she goes through every single day. Isolated, afraid, misunderstood, and worthless, these are just a handful of feelings this child may experience. What do all of these feelings lead to? Each one of these emotional states contribute to mental illnesses and behavioral problems found within children. This is exactly the problem within the foster care system. Too often, children in the foster care system are exposed to these problems and are negatively affected during, and even after their experiences through foster care. The foster care system is meant to provide temporary care to children while their parents get help sorting out problems, or to help children through a difficult period in their lives (What is Foster Care), not create an unsafe home for the foster child. Numerous proposed solutions have been put into act to help with the foster care difficulties with abuse, mental health, and life after foster care. Ongoing recruitment for more foster parents and homes, proper training for these parents to promote reliable homes for children, and integrated services to help with transitioning foster children to adulthood are just a few examples of these solutions (Waid). The best way to prevent the greatest amount of problems in the foster care system through one act is to better train more foster parents in the skills needed to care for a child.
In the U.S., an estimated 437,000 children were in the foster care system throughout the year of 2016 (Foster Care). These children have high rates of externalizing and internalizing behavioral problems, which do not decrease during their stay in the foster care system (Steenbakkers). In fact, evidence suggests that nearly half of the children in foster care show clinically significant emotional or behavioral problems (Greeno). Because of these clinically diagnosed emotional or behavioral problems, it is harder for young adults that have aged out of the foster care system to gain an education, therefore making it difficult to maintain a steady position, especially financially, in the economy (Steenbakkers). Furthermore, there has been a huge increase of mental health issues in foster care children due to many reasons. It was found that nearly half of children that were newly placed in the foster care system suffer from both abuse and neglect, and this implants further negative effects on that child (Vasileva). These studies indicate that something needs to change. Children going through the foster care system should not just be another negative statistic one reads about. The question is what should be done in order to ensure that children will not become one of those statistics? By providing better foster parent training or FPT, parents will learn skills to properly handle any situation that is thrown at them by their children, and as a result ensure a better future for each child.
First of all, by better training more foster parents, the high demand for safe homes can be provided for. Dr. John DeGarmo, a leading expert in parenting and foster care, stresses in his article, The Foster Care Crisis: The Shortage Of Foster Parents In America, The media and news continue to report on the shortage of foster parents and foster homes across the nation. In Georgia and Tennessee, child welfare workers fight to find homes for the increasing number of children in care (par. 1). In another article, Why Adoption Centers and Foster Homes Are So Full, when Dr. DeGarmo is asked, Is the system merely being overcrowded because there are more needy children?, he explains:
There are less parents who are volunteering to become foster parents. The turnover rate of foster parents ranges from 30 percent to 50 percent. That’s another reason why the system is struggling so much: more kids in it, less people to take care of these children As I travel the nation and work with child welfare agencies in every state, I see it, every single day. (qtd. in Francis)
Through Dr. DeGarmo’s explanation, it is clear that the need for more foster parents and homes is extremely high. If more foster parents were recruited and put through proper training, the number of children in need of homes would go down. Not only would extra homes be available for children in need, but extra safe homes would be there for children due to parents having appropriate knowledge and skills to properly care for children in any situation.
More specifically, with the rising number of mental health disorders found in foster care children, additional improved training would adequately prepare foster parents to help these children through their problems and even prevent them from developing mental disorders. Laurel Leslie, from the Child and Adolescent Services Research Center in San Diego, California, offers evidence which suggests mental health illnesses are much more prevalent in children who are in the foster care system compared to their peers of the same age. To put that in perspective, the prevalence of mental health issues in foster children is an unfathomable 85% (std. in Xu and Bright). Most of these mental illnesses found in foster children are a result of maltreatment. In reality, out-of-home placement was mostly commonly due to abuse and neglect. Heim stresses, Having had such adverse experiences in early childhood raises the risk for developmental, mental health, and attachment problems and affects the socioemotional experiences throughout the life span of these children (qtd. in Vasileva).
Each and every single child in foster care is in the system because of adverse experiences, which is why so many foster children are diagnosed with mental health illnesses. One type of training that would greatly reduce the number of mental health illnesses found in foster children is Nonviolent Resistance Training or NVR. NVR training focuses on four main areas: prevention of escalation, resisting problem behavior, delivery of a formal announcement, and performance of sit-ins. If there is a problem with a child’s behavior, through this NVR training foster parents learn skills and methods to help recognize escalatory patterns of children, identify typical reactions along with the associated thoughts and feelings when the problem is acknowledged, respond to the situation in safe alternative ways, and how to effectively change the behavior through dialogue (Van Holen). Because mental illness in foster care is mostly due to abuse and neglect, this NVR training teaches foster parents skills that solve issues without violence, thus, leading to a decrease of mental illness found in foster children. Also, each one of these attributes learned through the training help foster parents catch unusual behaviors and feelings that are signs of mental illnesses. Once this happens, methods acquired through the training allow the parents to address the problem and help the struggling child through it. Not only does this NVR training help treat kids who already have mental illnesses from other homes, but it helps prevent children from developing a mental illness as well. Putting foster parents through extra and well developed training would greatly reduce the number of mental illnesses found in foster children.
Placing foster parents through supplementary types of child care training allow parents to learn how to properly deal with discipline situations. Just like the high number of mental illnesses found in foster children, behavioral problems are just as relevant in the foster care system. Evidence suggest nearly half of foster care children show clinically significant emotional or behavioral problems. As found in the study, The Impact of Foster Parent Training on Parenting Skills and Child Disruptive Behavior: A Meta-Analysis, several authors agree that the concluding evidence shows that FPT is the most successful method of intervening in children with externalizing behaviors (std. in Solomon).
Obviously, everything brought to the table by the more specific oriented NVR training are great skills for properly dealing with behavioral situations. In addition to the specific NVR training, the broader FPT showed amazing results in helping children with behavioral problems through a study done by three scholarly authors from the Center for Children Families and Communities at Central Michigan University. The intention of this study was to examine the impact of FPT on difficult foster child behavior and on foster parent skills and knowledge (Solomon). Several other authors explain the FPT that parents in the study were put through teaches them about child development, difficulties found with children, and resources available to help them through their child care through several techniques including videos, demonstrations, group discussions, and role-play (std. in Soloman). When parents are confronted with situations where the child has behavioral problems, all of the skills and resources they were taught about can be applied to help with the circumstances. In the end, the attractive results were explained by the observers, On average, foster children in the training groups were reported to have fewer behavior problems at post intervention than those in the comparison groups, and foster parents in the training groups showed better skills and knowledge at post intervention than those in the comparison groups (Solomon). This quote shows the effectiveness of FPT and solidifies the idea that behavioral problems found in foster children can be greatly reduced just by the act of parents going through this training.
On the other hand, there are several pros the foster care system offers. First, when a child is adopted from the foster care system the cost is much less than if a child were to be adopted out of the system. In an article, Adopting Through Foster Care: A Less Expensive Alternative, Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the nonprofit Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, explains, Because these children are in the custody of the county or the state, that county or state covers all those court costs that an individual would pay for a private agency (Taylor). Soronen also adds that a family’s financial cost from adopting goes down because the majority of foster children are given subsidies from their state and even college tuition waivers when they are adopted out of the foster care system (Taylor). Furthermore, children are placed into the foster care system because of the worse situation they were undergoing in their birth home, so the children are getting out of an inadequate home (What is Foster Care). This means children are creating healthier relationships with their new families. Yes, these are all positive outcomes of the foster care system, but those results only happen in a perfect situation. And because of the overwhelming statistics of abuse and neglect, mental illnesses, and behavioral problems found in the foster care system, those perfect situations rarely happen.
Preventing the greatest amount of difficulties in the foster care system can be achieved through one act of better training more foster parents in the skills needed to care for a child. If thorough foster parent training is made mandatory for every single parent wanting to foster, the biggest improvements will be seen compared to any other solution.
This work is important because it sheds light on a problem most people are not familiar with. It is rarely talked about because most everyone believes the foster care system is a layered problem that can never be totally fixed. If one gets into trying to fix the system, he or she would be engulfed by the webbed problems. Of course, if you look at it that way nothing will ever be done. But with a different perspective of taking one step at a time, the problems will become lesser and easier to tackle. The argument through the reading is significant because it offers a solution to the majority of the overwhelming problems that a child should never have to experience while in the foster care system. Taking down a majority of the problems makes it much easier to take more steps towards new solutions and finally rid of all the challenges in the foster care system. When one reads the first few paragraphs of the essay, he or she should feel torn by the posed situations they are asked to think about knowing it happens way too often in the foster care system. Then by providing one act that would solve not only one problem, but multiple, the reader should feel inclined to help. Knowing what he or she can do, it makes it easier for the reader to support the argument provided, and in the end, creates a growing movement for all foster children.
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