Children thrive best when they live in safe, stable, and nurturing households. A child who is exposed to love will grow up to be happier and more engaged in life. The foster care system allows a child to be a child again, ending suffrage and trauma. However, many children in the United States lack this type of home environment, due to neglect and abuse. For children whose families are not safe shelter, a caring society will find alternative foster care placements. Opening a foster home door to child opens up opportunities and a chance at a better life.
Foster care refers to the system that provides protection for minor children who are unable to live with their biological parents. A child enters the system when they are abused, neglected, raped, incarceration and abandonment. A child who suffers from one of these causes will gain a unique set of emotional, social and academic challenges for them. They often experience grief, guilt, anger, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, low self-esteem, mental and physical health issues. (Craft)
Currently there are over 500,000 children in foster care in the United States. These children age from three months to eighteen years old. The goal of the foster care system is to provide abused and neglected children with an environment of safety, permanency, and nurturance. The foster care system provides valuable children with specific needs and trains and develops children for their future. This includes, placements in foster family homes, homes of relatives, group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, child care institutions, and pre-adoptive homes. A child enters the foster care system with the help of the Child Welfare. Child welfare systems typically receive and investigate reports of possible child abuse and neglect; provide services to families that need assistance in the protection and care of their children; arrange for children to live with kin or with foster families when they are not safe at home. (Child Welfare Information Gateway)
Through foster care, families become a support system to children who are waiting to be reunited with their birth parents. Foster parents give abused and neglected children a better environment. Foster parents allow these children to be children again. A foster parent gives children the opportunities they desperately deserve, such as providing them with an education is putting that child on the right track for success. For many foster children it is easy to enroll in school, the hard part is maintaining focused and obtaining the information. Mainly because they either never been to a school or they haven’t been in school for such a long time. It is important that this child learns at his or her pace and is able to communicate. It may be a difficult process, but with love and support from foster parents, it is not impossible. Education is what makes up one’s future, no matter where or who you come from.
A positive PK-12 education experience has the potential to be a powerful counterweight to the abuse, neglect, separation, impermanence and other barriers these vulnerable students experience. The U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Department of Labor, as well as foster youth and practitioners, developed this Foster Care Transition Toolkit to inspire and support current and former foster youth pursuing college and career opportunities. The toolkit includes tips and resources intended to help foster youth access and navigate social, emotional, educational and skills barriers as they transition into adulthood. (U.S. Department of Education) A good education enhances a foster child’s well-being, help them make more successful transitions to adulthood, and increase their chances for personal fulfillment and economic self-sufficiency. With over 500,000 school aged foster children, those who enter the school system will be treated upon their needs and development. Overtime, foster children enrolled in school will learn the basics of their everyday life. No matter how many children age out the system, there will always be resources and support for those who want it.
In 2016, more than 17,000 people aged out of the system. Depending on the state in which they live, young adults in foster care age out of the system at either 18 or 21. Essentially, aging out is the process that occurs when youth must leave the foster care system because they were never adopted and are too old to stay in care. This has become the main reason why many are against placing children in the system. By age 26, only three to four percent of youth who aged out of foster care earn a college degree. One in five of these youth will become homeless after turning 18. Only half will obtain employment by 24. Over 70 percent of female foster youth will become pregnant by 21, and one in four former foster youth will experience PTSD. (18 and On You Own) However, displacement and instability creates emotional, academic, and financial challenges for these adults so they will eventually have access to the resources they need. When a foster child who grew up with trauma, mental illnesses, and a roller coaster of emotions, leaves the system it will be the biggest challenge they will ever face.
The rate of homelessness for foster care youth is excessively high and many don’t have the resources to strive for a higher education. It is estimated that 65% of foster youth will emancipate into homelessness, less than 3% will go to college and 51% will be unemployed (Children Uniting Nations). However, before they reach this point, funding from the Fostering Connections Act of 2008 and the Education Training Vouchers gives youth the option to seek out post-secondary school and independent living skills training to prepare for adulthood. Independent living postulates that youth who age out of the foster care system must possess certain skills or competencies in order to function autonomously once they are no longer in the care of the state (Antle et al. 2009, 309). When youth emancipate from the foster care system, they are expected to have social skills and independent living skills, experiences in both education and job training and have money saved (Lenz-Rashid, 2011). Youth in the foster care system will need to obtain life skills before they exit the system with the help of their social worker and their social support system. With the current Fostering Connections Act of 2008, social workers are expected to link youth with services available to them before they are discharged. This includes assisting with post-secondary schooling, extending medical insurance to age twenty-one, school stability and transportation costs provided, preparing the youth for their future.
A social worker is someone who is always there to help you through your problems. Social workers help abused and displaced children find solutions to resolve mental, behavioral, and emotional issues. Although every social worker plays a different role, they all have one job, to find a suitable home and family for a child who has been taken away from his or her biological parents. Through this process, a social worker will run background checks and perform interviews with both the child and the foster parent(s). The purpose of conducting these background checks and interviews is to make sure a foster child will actually improve from their previous home life and benefit from it. A social worker is like a second parent to these foster children, they are someone who they can trust and depend on.
The foster care system allows a child to be a child again. Giving neglected and abused children a home, showing them what love looks like, and giving them the education that they deserve. Opening a foster home door to child opens up opportunities and a chance at a better life.
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