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Human Costs of Foster Ca Pew Commission Releases

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Old February 19th 04, 04:03 PM
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Default Human Costs of Foster Ca Pew Commission Releases

Human Costs of Foster Ca Pew Commission Releases
In a new report released by the Pew Commission on Children in Foster
Care, Voices from the Inside, foster children and birth, foster and
adoptive parents reveal the daily costs exacted from them by a child
welfare system that is overly reliant on foster care. The structure of
federal financing contributes to prolonged stays in foster care by
limiting states' ability to provide services that might shorten a
child's time in foster care or avoid placement altogether. -- Jackie,
22, entered foster care at nine. She had been living with an aunt. "I
have excellent memories of living there," she said. "I think if she
had had a little help financially that I may not have entered foster
care." -- "Nancy", whose children were in foster care, voiced
frustration with court delays beyond her control. "Six months within a
family's life is a long time. If I go to court in September, and you
give me six months, that's in January. That's
Halloween...Thanksgiving...Christmas and New Year's. Those are
important times in a family." -- Alice, a foster and adoptive parent
of 12, spoke of the plight of children who languish in foster care.
"My heart breaks for them, because no one is going to walk them down
the aisle, and no one is going to be there for their graduation."
These Voices from the Inside represent the real-life daily struggles
of those in foster care. Together, they provided powerful glimpses of
a system that often does not succeed in serving the children and
families who need it most. Foster care is vital to protecting
seriously abused and neglected children. But too many children
languish for years in foster care, moving from one temporary home to
another. Federal financing mechanisms contribute to this "foster care
drift." The structure of federal financing favors placing and keeping
children in foster care, sometimes for longer than is necessary, over
other services that might keep or bring children safely home or move
them more quickly to a new family. "These 'voices from the inside' are
powerful reminders of how much is at stake for the half million
children in foster care today," stated former Representative Bill
Frenzel (R-Minn.), Chairman of the Pew Commission. "Their stories
illustrate the serious challenges facing the child welfare system,
challenges that often have roots in federal financing and court
oversight of child welfare." The costs of foster care are typically
defined in terms of dollars and financial implications. However, in a
series of focus group discussions conducted by the Pew Commission,
former foster youth, birth parents and foster and adoptive parents
described costs that go well beyond dollars alone. The costs are borne
first by those on the frontlines of foster care, but society as a
whole pays a price when the system does not achieve the positive
results it was intended to. The report identifies six long-term costs
of foster ca 1.) The Cost of Insecurity -- Children in foster care
for extended periods of time, particularly those who have been in
multiple foster homes, suffer from the insecurity of ruptured
relationships and disrupted schooling. Jelani, who spent nine years in
foster care, said "I remember every day I would come home from school,
I would just see if my stuff was packed...that was the first thing I
would go check for." 2.) The Cost of Poor Communication -- Former
foster youth, birth, foster and adoptive parents characterized the
child welfare system as suffering from poor communication, where
decision-making is fragmented, and information guarded rather than
shared. This leads to more insecurity, frustration, lack of
understanding and professional burnout. 3.) The Cost of Inflexibility
-- The respondents described a child welfare system that failed to
respond quickly, or adequately, to their individual needs. Lisa and
her seven brothers and sisters were placed in foster care when her
mother could not get treatment for her mental health needs. 4.) The
Cost of Not Securing Timely Help -- Parents and former foster youth
said help came too late - after the children were placed in foster
care. They said earlier intervention targeted at addressing mental
illness, substance abuse, and domestic abuse might have lessened the
time a child had to spend in foster care, or even prevented the need
for foster care. 5.) The Cost of Professional Burnout -- Workforce
issues prevent social workers, judges, lawyers and others from
protecting and supporting children; these include lack of appropriate
training, unmanageable caseloads, high turnover and low compensation.
6.) The Cost of Stigma -- Youth and parents alike said that they feel
stigmatized by their involvement with the foster care system. They
feel the sting of this stigma long after their cases have been closed.
In sharp contrast to public perception that foster parents are "in it
for the money", foster parent Dianna stated: "My love of children got
me into foster care, and the thinking that maybe I could do something
to make America a little bit better place to live." When tragedy
strikes a child in foster care, the media and policy makers shine a
spotlight on the child welfare agency, caseworkers, parents and foster
parents. Sadly, that spotlight rarely illuminates the underlying
reasons for child welfare system shortcomings, including a financing
structure that encourages an inflexible, "one-size-fits-all" approach
in treating all abused and neglected children, no matter how different
their situations. "The Pew Commission is dedicated to improving
outcomes for children in foster care by developing practical, feasible
policy recommendations to reform federal child welfare financing and
strengthen court oversight of child welfare cases," stated Vice
Chairman and former Representative Bill Gray. "Because the mechanics
of financing and court operations can sometimes seem far removed from
the everyday experiences of children in foster care, we have
endeavored to keep children at the heart of all of our work."
"Improving outcomes for these children will take more than the heroic
efforts of individuals or the resilience that enables some children to
beat the odds," stated Frenzel. "It will take thoughtful changes in
public policy and court oversight. And it will take public will and
compassion equal to the individual commitment of the parents and
children whose voices shape this report."
Defend your civil liberties! Get information at http://www.aclu.org, become a member at http://www.aclu.org/join and get active at http://www.aclu.org/action.

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