A drug addict is sprawled out on the floor, unconscious from the heroin coursing through her veins and the one too many nearly fatal blows to the head from an abusive boyfriend. Three kids aged between five and nine hold in their breath as to not be detected in fear of becoming the next victim of the abusive boyfriend. Unfortunately, for thousands of kids placed into the foster care system this is the reality of their everyday lives. With no other alternative or solution many minors are placed into foster care, hoping one day to find a stable, permanent home with a forever family or to be reunited with their parents and loved ones.
Foster care is a term that refers to the systems in which children under the age of 18 years, who are exposed to high-level of abuse, neglect or excessive home conflict, are placed and taken care of. In these foster cares across the United States of America, children are offered a safe and loving environment in a manner that effectively meets their psychological, social; physical and medical needs (Perez, p. 47). The key role of foster care is not to separate children from their parents, it is to ensure that the children under the age of 18 years are in a safe place whenever there are huge family conflicts, and that they are able to return back to their home and be reunited with their parent and close family members whenever situations come back to normal (Lahti, p. 26). So, the key aim of foster care centers across the United States is to ensure that children are reunited with their birth-parents when it is safe.
When these vulnerable foster care children are taken to different institutions or community centers, they are assigned to special state certified caregiver known as a foster parent (Lahti, p. 20). The placement is arranged through government or social-service agency. When the child is identified and handed over to a certain community children Centre, then the states governments and the federal government goes ahead to provide the institution, foster parent or group home with compensation for the expenses they incur while taking care of the child.
In the United States, the process of establishing and running a foster home requires one to have a license from the specific state in which it is to be established. However, as Graaf, ( p. 66), argues, different state governments have different laws regarding how foster homes are to be established and run. This means that for a foster home to be allowed in the United States, the home needs to have a home licensing, and the conditions one is required to meet before having such a license vary from one state to the other. However, apart from the varying requirements, what is common in all the states across the US is that the licensing is supervised by each state’s department of child protective services (Lahti, p. 22).
The concepts of foster care in the country has become largely accepted in all states. This explains the reason as to why there are over 437,465 children accommodated by foster care centres spread across the United States (Padot, p. 74). In fact, out of all types of foster care systems, the nonrelative foster homes are more prevalent as it is stated that they harbour around 48% of all children in foster cares across the country (Graaf, p. 54). Other common types of foster care centres include; relative foster homes which harbor 26% of children under foster care in the country, followed by foster institutions which harbour around 9%, and also trial visit homes which takes around 5% of the children in need of foster care services in the country.
The aim is not to separate children from their birth-parents. This is evident going by the statistics given by Padot ( p. 42), showing how and where children who leave foster care end up. Going by Padot, ( p. 65) information, it is evident that out of 254, 114 children who exited foster care services, 51% of them were reunited with their parents or caretakers. This is after the situations that had made them are taken to such foster care centers normalized and were taken back to their homes. The other 21% of the 254,114 were adopted through the due legal process of adoption (Padot, p. 43). It is also stated that 11% of those children were emancipated as minors by aging up and becoming adults who can work and provide for themselves.
In addition, 8% are said to have been reunited with either one of their relative or relatives, 6% were taken by guardians (Perez, p. 34). This clearly shows that the foster care concept in the United States is a pure success, as its transition rate, the success rate is very high. This means that foster care helps vulnerable children to get a safe-landing after they are exposed to bustling situations and conditions, after which they are reunited with their families and other helpful people when situations improve.
The funding of foster care services was streamlined back in 1961, when the Congress went ahead and passed a law, which gave authority to AFDC (welfare) to pay for the foster care services in the country. Previously, before the passing of the above 1961 law, foster care services funds was only made to children in their own homes (Graaf, p. 65). However, the passing of the above law, made funding of the foster care in the United States easier, thus giving way for rapid and effective growth of foster care services in the country. For example, after the passing of the above law, funding for fostercare in some states was highly streamlined, therefore giving way for its growth (Lahti, p. 28). In Texas, it is stated that the Texas state-paid mental treatment centers as huge as $101,105 a year per child per child per year. This way, foster care centers got a sustainable stream of revenue, which allowed for its massive growth.
Initially, before the 1990s, the United State lacked any clear law on how long children taken to foster care must reside in those centers before they are reunited with their families. This gap created a problem as children were left to waste away in these centers (Lahti, p. 43). However, in 1997, the United States of America passed what is known as the adoption and safe families act (ASFA). The passing of this legislation condensed period allowed children to stay within the care Centre system before they are availed for adoption (Graaf, p. 52). Under this new legislation, state child welfare agencies are supposed to classify and scrutinize cases where intensified situations create
perpetual split-up of a child from his or her birth-parents, and thereafter, a process of identifying the best option for the safety and well-being of a child commences.
There was massive opposition of ASFA, with those opposing arguing that the passing of this legislation was not necessary, given that it does not address the situation of children staying for a long time in the foster care centers (Graaf, p. 29). This group argued that the key reason as to why these children stayed in foster care centers was due to the fact that they were taken from their homes without concrete reason. However, a decade or so later, after the passing of ASFA, the situation has largely improved as there are about 7,000 fewer cases of children in foster care than before the passing of the above legislation. Secondly, in 1999; a new legislation termed as the foster care independence act was passed, and this legislation in a huge way helped address the issue of youths who were aging in foster care centers. The legislation gives a leeway for such youths to achieve self-sufficiency (Padot, p. 13). This means that when a child reaches 18 years, he is no longer forced to stay in foster care, and can automatically be released to find work and engage in other profitable enterprises that will enable him to feed himself or herself.
Apart from granting the aging youth the liberty to leave the foster care centers, the new legislation also emphasized the need for proper welfare measures for the aging youths in the foster care centers (Graaf, p. 23). With this clause, the U.S government has made a major investment in almost all main foster care institutions and centers by way of giving out funds to these centers for specialized programs such as the education and training voucher program. Such initiatives have greatly helped youths who are aging in such centers to acquire a college or vocational training at a free or reduced cost (Lahti, p. 21). This process has led to the introduction of Chafee and ETV money in all states, as it is deemed important in helping these growing youths in foster care centers.
In conclusion, it is evident that foster care is a noble process that has helped millions of the United States children; children who could otherwise have been ignored or neglected in the society. Though there are various challenges facing this system, the fact remains that it is a noble system that saves the vulnerable children from the wrath of violence, oppression, and abuse. It allows the children to grow in serene environments where they are able to get physical, psychological; and social support, therefore, enabling them to grow normally.
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