Megan Holmes was placed into foster care at the age of 15, she was uncertain and afraid when told she would be living with complete strangers. When first living in the home with Auntie M, a cell phone went missing and Megan took blame to keep the peace in the house. Items continuously went missing and now Megan was to blame every time. Auntie M began withholding cleaning and hygiene products from Megan and then things took a turn for the worst, she began abusing Megan. Eventually, Megan was placed into a new foster home and on the first night, they told her The towels, washcloths and extra bars of soap are in the hall closet. Here is a set of pajamas for you for tonight; we’ll get you some other things tomorrow. This is your room, and here’s the remote. If you need anything, just let me know. Megan cried most of the night because she was so thankful to be in this new home. Megan’s story shows both sides of the disadvantages and the positives to foster care ( From tragedy to triumph).
Children have been placed in some type of foster care since the 1500s. Abuse was not a common cause of being placed into foster care during these times considering it was legal in the 1500s. The leading cause of children being placed in foster care was the death of parents. In the early 1900s, social agencies began to pay and supervise foster parents. To ensure the safety of children, agencies began home inspection and records were kept to ensure safe placement. Today, we have far more options of foster care homes for children to be placed into. One option is a single foster family of one or more parents who care for up to six foster care children with their own biological or adopted children. Another option is group homes, these are set up as an alternative to foster family homes. These homes usually house 4 to 12 children in a setting that offers them a place to reach their potential. They provide opportunities for community access, including employment, health care, education and recreational opportunities (Info on Group Homes1). While Foster Care provides great services to children in need, many kids end up abused and traumatized from growing up in the foster care system.
When it comes to children in foster care there will always be pros and cons. Removing a child from their home is never anyone’s favorite choice, but sometimes that is what’s best for the child. In the last 10 years, there have been several improvements in the foster care system as far as child placement goes (Foster care). Social workers have come to realize that placement is more successful when several factors are taken into consideration. One of the most important factors in trying to keep siblings together, although this doesn’t always happen it provides a more stable environment and makes the adjustment period far easier for the children. A positive to foster care is taking a child from a chaotic living environment and giving them the chance at a better life with better opportunities. During this process, it is determined that the home involved is a stable place that is safe for children. This gives their families the time and space they might need to get their lives back in order and create an appropriate environment. This is positive on both ends. On one side, it gives the children a safe place to temporarily go, and on the other side, it gives their families the chance to get things together not only for themselves but for the children involved.
When Children get the news they are going to be placed in a new foster home, the child becomes hopeful that they are going into a home of love and open arms. They have hope their future will be brighter and they will find a forever home (Top Benefits). By giving a child the chance to flourish and become the person they were always meant to be, there will be numerous positive benefits to come. Some of the top benefits realized by children in stable foster homes are their mental stability improves better education opportunities, their social skills better and their trust increases. Many foster parents have found that fostering does not just benefit the children, it also has a very profound impact on the foster parents themselves. The most beneficial outcome is knowing that you’ve helped save a child’s life. Many times when fostering a child it can also lead to you adopting the child and giving them permanent placement: approximately 20 percent of the children who move through the system are adopted by their foster families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stated that in most cases foster parenting provides an easier chance of adoption, while also providing the opportunity for the child to have a relationship with their birth parents if wanted. Foster families typically will notify the agencies if they are looking to adopt a foster child. If Children and Youth Services determine that the child is better off in foster care, they will try to place them with foster parents who are looking to adopt. This can minimize disruptions and allow the child to have a stable home while the fostering and adoption process continues (Advantages of Foster Parents 1).
The negative effects of foster care are children can possibly live in the system for years. The system is most beneficial when providing nurturing, short-term care to in need and unstable children until the family issue can be resolved and the child is able to return to a safe environment, or until a child can be placed with an adoptive family. For many children, foster care can be anything but a temporary quick placement. The average length of time that a child spends in foster care is approximately over a year and a half. Nearly 30 percent remain in foster care for more than two years. In 2014, around 64,300 children had been living in the foster care system for more than 3 years, about 28,000 of them for 5 years or more. Children left in foster care often feel abandoned and can harm their wellbeing in many ways. The longer a child is left in foster care, the more likely they will experience many placement changes and unstable relationships caused by the trauma. Healthy social and emotional development can suffer a great deal when a child goes through multiple placement changes. For children of all ages, changes in placement can cause severe, long-term behavior and emotional problems also can contribute to other mental health problems and poor educational performance, as a child is a place from school to school. Each change in foster placement decreases the likelihood that a child will return home or be adopted (The Hidden Harms 2).
It was reported that in 2014 more than 22,000 foster care children, ranging from ages 18 to 20 years old were released from foster care and were expected to make a life of their own. Not many think about the effects foster care has on these children and what happens to the children that age out of the system. The outlook for many of these children is not promising, given the histories of their broken relationships and deranged educational experiences. These children are far more likely to become teen parents, be unemployed, and spend their lives in poverty rather than kids who had a successful childhood.
Vera Fahlberg book A Child’s Journey Through Placement gives a great inside to a child’s’ life while in foster care. The book starts by looking in detail at the functions of close interpersonal connections and how attachments between children and their families develop. It then proceeds to a discussion of normal child development (13). When A child moves into new placement they are faced with forming new attachments to their caregivers. The nature of these attachments will depend on the purpose of the placement, the needs of the child, and the capacity of the caregivers. Given the potential long-term effects that lack of attachment can have on a child, it is crucial that the foster care system responds in ways that help the child develop attachments with their primary caregivers whomever that may be (23).
Traditionally, children in foster care have been provided with day-to-day care by a primary caregiver within a family context. However, there are other aspects of family care that foster children have been denied. Many children in the foster care system have experienced the trauma of moving from one family to another and never getting the chance to experience the continuity in relationships which are proven to enhance self-esteem and identity formation. These children sometimes never learn psychologically healthy ways to connect with others. Unfortunately, few children in foster care receive adequate help in resolving the grief they experienced when separated from their birth families. Although interrupted relationships are traumatic and should be avoided whenever it is possible to meet the child’s needs without a move the long-term effects of a child being without attachments for significant periods of his or her life are even more detrimental. Once a child has experienced a healthy attachment, it is more likely that with help, he or she can either extend this attachment to someone else or form additional attachments if necessary. It is the foster parents’ role to help the child develop healthy attachments, so that continued growth and development are facilitated (24). Foster parents are responsible for creating an environment that allows the child to form healthy adult-child relationships. Many times children in foster care will need help learning how to express their emotions in ways that won’t get them into more trouble (25).
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