Essay about Foster Care
The foster care system is a child welfare system that is ran through the government and states. Foster care is an alternative living situation for children who are deemed unsafe with their original parents or guardians. This system is supposed to protect these children and provide them with a safe place to live, whether that be a foster home, group home, or shelter. The main goal for any child until it is no longer an option, is reunification with the child family.
Sometimes this isn’t an option, and leaves kids in the system for years upon years until they age out or get adopted, which is quite rare for many reasons. In this essay, I plan on discussing the foster care system, including the good and bad. I plan on hitting key points such as including statistics, talk about aging out, permanent connections, school and friends, race and sexual orientation, and how being in the foster care system dramatically increases the likelihood to enter the criminal justice system.
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There are 400,000 children in the foster care system, and each year there is about 250,000 new youth that enter the system. about 47% of youth are Caucasian, 21% African American, and 20% Hispanic. The percent of Caucasian youth entering the system is slowly rising while percent of African Americans are slowly lowering. The average or median age of children that enter the system is about 6.3 years of age.
In 2016, there was 3,653 more children that were adopted than in 2015 and that number continues to rise. In 2016, the total number of children that were adopted was about 57,208. This number indicates that since 2014, the adoption number increased by about 13%. 52% of these adoptions were done by the foster parents that children were living with for at least a year or more, so they were already a “part of the family”.
Children wait about 31.2 months in foster care before being adopted, if their parents’ rights have been terminated, which is less than previous years, but is still way too long for a child to feel like they are part of a family. As of 2016, the number of children who turned 18 or 21 and aged out without having a permanent connection or family has dropped dramatically. There is between 20,000 and 25,000 youth who age out, which is a 45% decrease within the last ten years, which is huge because this indicated that more youth are leaving the system with permanent connected and supports.
This indicates that their support network is strong and lowers the chance of incarceration, homelessness, and death. There were 250,000 children who left the foster care system in 2016. Of these children, 89% either went through kinship, reunited with biological parents, were adopted through the system, or had a legal guardianship take place. Almost 100,000 children were removed from their homes in 2016 due to parental drug use, this is a 7% growth since 2015, and is/will continue to grow and increase with the drug epidemic the united states are currently experiencing.
About 166,000 children were taken from their homes and entered the foster care system due to neglect, which has been found to be correlated to parental drug abuse. Child abuse also seems to have an increasing rate and officials have stated that it’s a direct result from drug abuse. States are having a hard time keeping up with the ever-increasing number of children who are entering the state system. States are urging more qualified families to step up and become a foster family and are trying to get budgets raised to provide necessities for these youth because they don’t have enough money right now for the large caseloads they are enduring.
Good schooling and education could be a positive for the many kids who have experienced separation from their parents, neglect, or abuse. Actively engaging in schooling can keep a kid’s mind off the bad situations they have or are going through, and schooling is an essential component for everyone to have a better future. Unfortunately, schooling can be hard for children in the foster care system. Many kids bounce around from school to school, and rarely stay in one spot. This affects their education because all schools are in different spots in the academic work.
Bouncing around from school to school places a great barrier among foster care youth and makes it so that they must work five times as hard as any other student to understand their work. maintaining positive relationships between other peers/students and teachers is an important aspect of school, and unfortunately foster youth don’t have a lot of long-term relationships.
I know for me personally, attending 8 different schools, it was hard to be in the middle of one academic course at one school, and when I was sent to move somewhere else, I had to pick up where the new school was at, and it was either a matter of being very far behind, or very ahead. Not having a consistent school to attend, decreased and practically eliminates the chance of every having the opportunity to win those few grants or scholarships that they hand out before graduation.
Though the chances are small in general, not being a member of the school for a while eliminates the opportunity for foster youth who would like to, of ever becoming class president, vice president, secretary, or valedictorian. Aside from the academic side of schooling, having to meet new people and try and make new friends once or twice a year depending on how much a student is moved, takes a toll on a student’s academic performance.
The likelihood for a youth in foster care to graduate high school is extremely low. Only 50% of these kids will graduate high school. This is since foster children are three times more likely to drop out than a standard low-income family, and because in a lot of cases, these youth are placed in remediation classes, special education classes, and are way more likely to receive failing grades (Students in foster care, 2016).
A lot of kids in foster care would like to attend college. For a typical student, it doesn’t seem far fetched and is something that most people/parents expect their children to do and complete. Foster kids don’t have the emotional support, the understanding, or the financial ability to attend college in many cases. Out of the 400,000 foster care youth in the united states, less than 3% graduate from a four-year university with a bachelor’s degree.
That’s about 13,000 people, In comparison, that’s nothing! A barrier for attending a university is these children don’t have the financial means to apply or attend a school for post-secondary education. These youth don’t have parents to cosign for loans through banks, and FAFSA loans unfortunately don’t cover the entire tuition for most schools. These youth don’t know how to even go about the process of filling out enrollment applications or grant/scholarship applications. A lot of kids who came from the foster care system didn’t receive the proper education in schooling before college, so in a lot of cases they wouldn’t be academically prepared for college courses and be behind the rest of their class even if they did push hard enough to get into a college (Wiltz, 2017).
There are many problems for LGBTQ youth that enter and are a part of the foster care system. These individuals experience issues that non-LGBT youth don’t experience or must go through. Some of the issues that occur, is there is a much higher chance for lgbt youth to live in a group home or shelter versus a family setting and move around between placements more often. This problem is due to bias a discrimination in the LGBT community, and lack of understanding and/or accepting.
The unfortunate reality is, these youth have already faced traumatic experiences and have been mistreated, and rather than going into a system that can protect these individuals, the system is often times unable to meet their needs because though the world has become more accepting compared to the past, there are a lot of people/foster families who are unwilling to look past their set ways and their “morals”, and will not take these youth into their homes. Foster families not taking in LGBTQ youth is not the only form of discrimination, but these youth also experience it from their caseworkers/social workers, group home staff, and their peers/other youth.
Youth who identify as LGBTQ are over two times as likely to be treated poorly by the foster care system than those who are heterosexual. “A survey of LGBTQ youth in out-of-home care in New York City found that 78 percent of LGBTQ youth were removed or ran away from their foster placements because of hostility toward their sexual orientation or gender identity. 100 percent of LGBTQ youth in group homes reported verbal harassment. 70 percent of LGBTQ youth reported physical violence in group homes” (LGBTQ youth in the foster care system, n.d.).
For most teenagers, turning 18 can be one the most exciting times of their lives. It’s the age that they become a legal adult. Turning 18 makes you slightly freer from their parents’ rules and restrictions while they were underage/a minor. Turning 18 is supposed to be a big day for many, but for children in foster care it can feel like one of the worst days and it brings fear and anxiety. Over 25,000 kids age out of the foster care system every year in the United States.
The age of aging out can vary from about 18-24 depending on needs, disabilities, and the state rules. In Pennsylvania, a child can sign themselves out when the reach eighteen years old but have the option to stay in care until they’re 21, if they would like to. Many kids choose to sign out, but there are benefits to staying in care such as a monthly stipend to bare necessities, and you maintain those supports through your caseworker, guardian ad litem, and independent living social worker.
If a child signs out at 18 or can no longer stay at their current placement once they reach that line of adulthood, they often feel lost and scared. These kids will worry about where their next meal is coming from, where they’re going to live if they have little to no supports or family members, how will they attain healthcare, and with little to no experience or way of transportation, how in the world are they going to obtain a stable job? Most kids leaving the foster care system struggle to have a successful transition to independent living and adulthood.
Many things are the cause of this, some being that foster kids relatively have a poorer education, they continue to have housing instability or will be homeless and are far more likely to experience poverty. While there are multiple programs that are in place to try and help individuals who were previously in foster care, they aren’t always effective and help very few. Once kids age out of the foster care system, they must figure out on their own, how they’re going to survive, and for many, this leads to criminal behavior/activity because they don’t have what they need to live (Muller-Ravett, S., & Valentine, E. J, 2017).
Criminal Justice System/criminality
Youth in foster care have a much higher potential to enter the criminal justice system as either a juvenile or adult, than most people. Youth that are placed in group homes specifically, are about two and a half times more likely than being placed in a standard foster home, to enter or become involved with the criminal justice system in some way. Moving from placement to placement has a significant impact on youth as we know, and the more often a child is moved around, the more likely they are to engage in criminal activity and become incarcerated.
By 17 years old, more than half of foster care youth have been involved in the criminal justice system in some way. This includes being arrested, convicted, or staying overnight at a correctional facility to be taught a lesson. 90% of youth that have moved five or more times have a definitive chance to enter the juvenile justice system and later move on to adult. All in all, there is a major risk for foster care youth to become incarcerated. It’s been found that within TWO years of leaving care, more than one quarter of these youth will be arrested and enter the criminal justice system (Juvenile Law Center, 2018).
In conclusion, youth who go through the foster care system must overcome many disadvantages compares to other people. In a lot of cases that I’ve personally seen, people who come out of the system fall into ways that their parents did. Youth tend to engage in drug use, stealing, and are involved in assaults, because many feel like they don’t have much to live for and don’t have the motivation and resources to succeed.
It’s likely that a person coming from the foster care system will end up involved in the criminal justice system because of their own choice of course, but they have also been faced with many barriers up until the point of incarceration. With a lack of education, supports/family, money, individuals may feel the need to engage in criminal activity because ending up in jail is better than where they could be, and that’s dead.”