When children have become the victims of abuse and neglect, or if parents are unable to care for them, the children are placed in foster care. Placement in a foster home is intended to be temporary. Unfortunately . many children, once in the system, do not leave until they turn 18. Foster care often exposes children to severe stressors, causing behavioral, developmental and/or psychological difficulties. Though foster homes are supposed to help children in a time of need, there are many children who experience negative effects of living in foster homes.
These effects on children along with lack of qualified foster families, growing caseloads, and lack of governmental support have all contributed to what is known as the foster care crisis. The Foster Care Crisis According to the most current AFCARS (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System Report) Report, there were 400,540 children in foster care in the United States in September of 2011 (2010). Foster care is a system used when a child is taken out of their home because of suspected or proven abuse or neglect, and placed into a temporary home.
Foster care is intended to be temporary until the children can go back home, move in with another family member or until they are adopted into a permanent home. The first choice of foster care for the child is someone in the family. If a family member is not available they will be placed with a foster family by social services. The foster parent is responsible for making all decisions for the child and they are also compensated for expenses. Even though the foster care system is there to give homes to children it has more of a negative effect on children than a positive one.
I am writing this paper to inform those that don’t know that children that are in the foster care system develop psychological, developmental and behavioral challenges. The foster care system began in the United States around 1853, where over 30,000 children were homeless, abused and neglected in New York City. This was when the Orphan Train Movement began (Children’s Aid Society, n. d. ). It was a train that went around the city to pick up the abused, homeless and neglected children off the streets and then made its way out West to foster amilies.
The children went to the live with farm families in the West to start a new life and to also work as a farm hand. There are too many children in foster care with the average child being there for two years. The majority of children are in a home setting while in care, but there are about 15% that live in group homes or institutions (Children’s Rights, 2013). Children come into the foster care system for many reasons. Some children come into care because of their parent’s criminal behavior.
Many parents are found guilty of child abuse or neglect, they’re using drugs and/or alcohol, or they become incarcerated because of their behavior. There are parents that have abandoned their children due to financial circumstances, immaturity on the parent’s behalf, or because of a disability of the parent or child. Other children lose their parents due to a long term illness, hospitalization or even death. Some children are placed in care because they have criminal histories of their own and their parents or caregivers have demonstrated an inability to help guide them away from the criminal activity.
States need to educate new parents-to-be on raising children, instead of letting anyone who gets pregnant, try to parent a child. U. S. citizens need a license to drive, why don’t we need a license to parent? If people were more educated on raising children instead of parenting based on trial and error, then there would be far less children going into foster homes. The lack of safe foster homes with qualified parents compared to the number of growing cases loads, places a big hurdle in the foster care system. Becoming a foster parent is a long process that takes four to six months.
The process includes making your home safe, three hours of training for ten weeks, fingerprinting and background checks of all members of the household, proof of income, numerous interviews and a statement from your doctor stating that you are in good health (Doan, 2012). Many people are not willing to go through this process for a child that is not their own and one that is going to need extra attention. Half of the people that start the rigorous application process withdraw from the program (Doan, 2012). There have been instances when adults who are going through the process of becoming foster parents, whose backgrounds are never checked.
One foster family in Wyoming has taken in two girls. The mother was a psychologist that identified sexual abuse as a career. Well little did she know, her husband was molesting their foster daughters. If the state of Wyoming had done the appropriate backgrounds checks when they were supposed to have been done, all of this could have been avoided. In the husbands background were previous allegations of sexual harassment and abuse (Roche, 2000). There are many children that experience physical abuse and neglect, and emotional deprivation.
There have also been cases where children are sexual abused while in foster care, with a problem of other children in the home sexually abusing the children. According to a study done by the John Hopkins University, “the rate of sexual abuse within the foster-care system is more than four times as high as in the general population” (Wikipedia, 2013). As if the abuse and neglect were not enough in the homes of their biological parents, now they have to experience it again in their foster home, a place that is supposed to protect the children and make them feel safe. Unfortunately there is even worse occurring in these neglectful foster homes.
Children are dying from the conditions and even being killed by their foster parents. There was a six year old boy that weighed only 29 pounds in Georgia that was under the care of his foster grandmother that died from being so badly beaten and tortured (Roche, 2000). A boy in Chicago was beaten to death by his foster brothers that were known to have violent tendencies (Roche, 2000). Where are the social workers when they are needed? They are there to take these children out of their homes but not there to protect them while in foster care. Many states are not dealing with unsafe homes and foster homes adequately.
There was a two year old boy in Dallas, Texas that was beaten by his own father and uncle so badly, that he needed a body cast. Social workers went the visit the child at his biological families home 15 times and never got an answer at the front door. Because of that social worker that let that child stay in the custody of his biological family, he is now dead. He was killed by his own father that had beaten him earlier (Roche, 2000). There is a whole other element to the foster care crisis aside from the unfit foster families, the lack of support from the government.
The government does not have the time nor the money to be thinking about America’s foster care system. There was a senator that wanted to match foster children with mentors to help make a difference in their lives, also known as The Foster Care Mentoring Act. Too little attention was paid to the act, so it never passed (BEST Kids, 2010). More than 15,000 children leave foster care system when they turn 18, without a permanent home (Lopez, 2007). The government offers little help to former foster care children who have aged out of the system, so they end up following in their parents footsteps by going to jail or living on the streets.
Foster care has been proven to have a negative effect on children who are currently or who have been in foster care. They suffer from higher rates of physical and mental illness than those who have never been in foster care before. When children age out of the foster care system they have little going for them. 80% of people who were in foster have been reported as doing poorly. They suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse, developmental delays and many other psychological disorders (Wikipedia, 2013).
Nearly one-third of children ages three and younger are falling behind in their cognitive and language skills. More than half of the children under age two are labeled as having a high risk for developmental delays or neurological impairment. Many children receive counseling or other community supports. (National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being , n. d. ). As children in foster care grow older, as many as 75% may never complete high school (John Hopkins University, n. d. ). There are over 400,000 children in the foster care system today (AFCARS, 2010).
They are in foster care for a number of reasons and many never get to leave. The neglect and abuse that occurs in foster homes has a number of negative effects on children. Even though the foster care system is there to give homes to children it has more of a negative effect on children than a positive one. I wrote this paper because I want to inform people of the negative effects foster care has on children, the lack of support from the government due to finances and time, and that foster homes are not always better than removing children from their biological parents.
I have come to the conclusion that foster homes can be a dangerous place for a child. Many children have been sexually, mentally and physically abuse, and some children have even died at the hands of a foster parent. I’m not saying that all foster homes are terrible places but there have been many instances when potential foster parents have not been put through the appropriate screening process, leading to traumatic and abusive circumstances. What can America do about this foster care crisis? What needs to be done to make sure all our children are, and remain, safe and healthy? A major change needs to be made to the foster care system today.