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Department of Human Services, shows that rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among adults who were formerly placed in foster care (alumni), were up ...
A new study released today by Casey Family Programs, Harvard Medical
School, the State of Washington Office of Children's Administration
Research, and the State of Oregon Department of Human Services, shows
that rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among adults who
were formerly placed in foster care (alumni), were up to twice as high
as U. S. war veterans.
Few studies have examined how children in foster care have fared as
adults, and even fewer studies have
identified what changes in foster care services could improve their
lives. The Northwest Foster Care Alumni
Study provides new information in both areas.
"These findings are a wake-up call for the nation to make foster care
and the well-being of hundreds of
thousands of our most vulnerable children a national priority," said
Ruth W. Massinga, president and CEO of
Casey Family Programs, the largest national foundation whose sole
mission is to provide and improve- and
ultimately prevent the need for- foster care. "These children enter
the child welfare system because of
traumatic family circumstances and through no fault of their own. We
have a responsibility to provide them with
good, permanent homes to help them repair the hurt and succeed in
life. At Casey Family Programs, we are
using this new research to ensure we are addressing these children's
needs more effectively."
Despite facing many challenges, including unstable living conditions
and child abuse, more than 20 percent of
adults formerly in foster care placement through both private and
public agencies were found to be doing well.
The majority, however, still faced major challenges in the areas of
mental health, education, and employment.
One-third of youth formerly in foster care had incomes at or below the
poverty level, one-third had no health
insurance, and nearly a quarter had experienced homelessness after
leaving foster care.
Researchers examined the long-term effects of foster care on adults
who are now between the ages of 20-33.
Although the study participants were from Oregon and Washington, the
findings were indicative of national
trends, according to researchers.
This study serves as a valuable tool for keeping the state of
Washington on the right course in improving the
foster care system through our comprehensive Kids Come First reform
initiative. The initiative seeks to reduce
the need for foster care placements, reduce time spent in foster care
and ensure that kids and youth in foster
care get the services and support they need to become successful
adults," said Uma Ahluwalia, assistant
secretary of the Children's Administration in the state's Department
of Social and Health Services. "The data
from this study provides us with a baseline for measuring the success
of our reforms."
Many adults who spent time in foster care as children are in fragile
economic situations, researchers found. The
employment rate for study participants was 80 percent, compared to 95
percent for the general population of a
"The information in this study is unique as it comes directly from
young adults who have exited foster care, said
Ramona Foley, assistant director, Oregon Department of Human Services,
Children, Adults and Families.
"Their reflections on their own experiences not only provide us
insight into the child welfare system, but also
provide us an extraordinary opportunity to identify changes that must
be made if we are to improve the quality
of systems which currently serve Oregon's foster children and youth."
In addition to the PTSD finding, more than half (54.4 percent) of
adults formerly in foster care had clinical levels
of at least one mental health problem within the previous 12 months,
such as depression, social phobia, panic
syndrome, and anxiety.
"These findings are significant because they document clear and
substantial need for treatment in a large
population of youth who are already in the system and available for
treatment. The action implications are
clear," said Ron Kessler, Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard
Medical School Department of Health
In 2003, 800,000 children were served by foster care services, and
523,000 children were still in care at the end
of that year - more than double the number two decades ago. Each year
20,000 young people between the
ages of 18 and 21 must leave the foster care system when they become
legal adults, and many are left without
any support, family connections, or the skills they need to succeed in
Findings from the study also revealed that a disproportionate number
of youth who were formerly in foster care
completed high school via a GED instead of a high school diploma. (56
percent received a diploma, 29 percent
received a GED, compared to 82 percent, and 5 percent for the general
population.) Completion rates for
post-secondary education were also low among youth formerly in foster
care (16 percent completed a
"The findings underscore the urgent need to improve the support
provided to children and youth in foster care,"
said Massinga. Key recommendations from the study include:
-- Reduce how many times a child moves on their way to a permanent
-- Encourage the establishment of life-long connections with foster
parents and other supportive adults
-- Increase access to effective medical and mental health treatment
-- Improve foster parent orientation and training with respect to
identifying and addressing child mental health
-- Adopt measures to increase high school graduation rates with
diplomas and not GEDs.
-- Inform older youth about local college-preparatory programs, such
as Gear-Up, TRIO, and Upward Bound,
and help them enroll in these programs
-- Expand youth employment programs
-- Strengthen housing programs to prevent homelessness
"I am really excited about this study because we now have concrete
information on the outcomes of young
people aging out of foster care, "said Mary Herrick, an Issaquah, WA
resident who spent over seven years in
the foster care system as a young adult. "This study validates what we
have all known: that the more homes
youths are placed in, the more likely they will have mental health
issues, lower educational outcomes and
ultimately less ability to earn above poverty level wages. It is my
hope that as a community we will rise up and
take responsibility for our children, and that future generations of
foster children will have a better life because
of our efforts."
In conducting the study, researchers reviewed records of 659 youth
formerly in foster care, 479 of whom were
interviewed. The study was conducted through a collaborative effort
led by Casey Family Programs, which
included Harvard Medical School, the University of Michigan, the State
of Washington Office of Children's
Administration Research, the University of Washington, and the State
of Oregon Department of Human
Casey Family Programs is the largest national operating foundation
whose mission is to provide and
improve-and ultimately prevent the need for- foster care. The
foundation draws on its 40 years of experience
and expert research and analysis to improve the lives of children and
youth in foster care in two important ways:
by providing direct services and support to foster families; and
promoting improvements in child welfare practice
and policy. The Seattle-based foundation was established in 1966 by U.
P. S. founder Jim Casey and currently
has a $2 billion endowment.
"Meddle not in the affairs of Dragons, For
you are crunchy and taste good with catsup."
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