Is the foster care system effective?

Posted: July 12, 2014 by tinamaschi in Uncategorized

By E.M

Social Problem

         The increasing rate of Foster Care Placement today is a growing phenomenon.  According to the National Governors Association (NGA) (2011), there are about 496,000 children currently in foster care. That search also demonstrates that children will remain in foster care on an average of two and half years with a forty percent chance of experiencing three or more placements; and many as 25,000 youth age out of foster care system each year with little to no family or community support (NGA, 2011). Although, the foster care system’s goal is to protect and support children, the system has failed to live up to this goal.  Regretfully, on many instances removing children from their homes may have a negative impact on society and the families.

      Research has discovered that adults and teens that were placed in foster care were more likely to go to prison, become homeless, have a higher rate of teen pregnancy, and receive welfare benefits (Center for Family Representation).  Less than half graduate high school than those were placed back in their biological parent’s homes (Frerer, Sosenko and Henke, 2013). Krinsky (2007) noted “Not surprisingly, these troubled youth quickly find themselves on the path to a troubled adulthood. Approximately one in every four foster youth will be incarcerated within the first two years after leaving the system, the research indicated that more than twenty  percent of foster care youth will become homeless at some time after age 18, and many will find themselves unemployed or in our community’s psychiatric institutions” (p.542). Which raise question is foster care effective in meeting the unmet needs of our children?

Case Study

    Working as a service provider in the Bridges to Health Program (B2H) in South Bronx, NY; B2H provide certain services to children in foster care who have significant mental health, developmental disabilities, or health care needs to help them to live in a home or community-based setting. Children must be in foster at the time of enrollment and under the age of twenty-one, must be Medicaid eligible, have significant mental health, developmental disabilities, or health care needs, and require a medical institutional level of care.  My goal is to provide concrete services in a holistic manner to ensure that children in foster care receive adequate services to meet their needs. Many of the children I service have been in foster care for the over five years, and many have been traumatized due to multiple foster home placements. The foster care system fails to address the underlining cause of family’s dysfunctions and continues to foster maladaptive and disruptive behaviors in our youth.


       Useful framework for service providers to better understanding and develop an intervention for the family, the use of the System Theory and the Strengths Based Perspective are practical.  System Theory was chosen to effectively help children in foster care well as the family, it is essential to view children in their environment and manner in which the family interacts with each other.  Furthermore, as Webb (2011) mentioned children and their families are interdependent.  When one member of the family system experiences difficulties, the stress reverberates to all members of the family.  Although a child may be singled out as having the problem, one must look beyond the individual and think meaning and significance of that problem to all the family members, to better understand the source of the problem and to determine the best way to help. Human behavior is complex, and to understand how they interact with their environment is imperative. To intervene and develop affective strategies, service providers must first understand the root cause of the problem that family is having.

United Nations Documents

       As mentioned under the convention of the rights of the child in Article 4 (Protection of rights): Society is responsibility to take all available measures to make sure children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. When countries ratify the Convention, they agree to review their laws relating to children. This involves assessing their social services, legal, health and educational systems, as well as levels of funding for these services. Governments are then obliged to take all necessary steps to ensure that the minimum standards set are being met. They must help families protect children’s rights and create an environment where they can grow and reach their potential.  Article 10 (Family reunification): “Families whose members live in different countries should be allowed to move between those countries so that parents and children can stay in contact, or get back together as a family”(UNICEF 2007).


      A policy service providers should be aware of is the Adoptions and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was pass by the United Stated  Congress in 1997 to limit the number of years a child spent in foster care, however children continues to remain in the foster care system passed the allotted time.  I am currently employed with a private Child Welfare Agency, as a Health Care Integrator, I sometimes worked with clients that have been in care for more than ten years.  The state agencies have financial gain to have children remain in care.  When children are reunited with their families, they often lose funding.  As a result, they are not motivated to work more effectively with the families to have the children remain in foster care.  Many children experience multiply placement, sometimes their basic needs are not met, may endure more abuse, neglect and emotional trauma from the hand of those who swore to protect them from their abusive parents.                                                                                                                               


      An intervention that is useful for service providers is Salvador Minchin’s theory of Structural Family Therapy, which seems to echo with the presenting problem and family context outlined foster care, in the cornerstone to understand any presenting problem is to establish the structure of the entire family, identify the subsystems with multi-generational family and define interpersonal boundaries (Nicholas, 2006). Structural Family Therapy as well as Solution-Based Casework was chosen to address the families presenting problems.  As Todal Christensen and Barrett (2008) stated “Solution-Based Casework assumes that human problems can only be accurately understood in light of the context in which they occur and that case planning must take into consideration environmental factors, client competencies, family development, and relapse prevention strategies”, (p.3) Solution Based  Casework not only allowed one to understand the family dynamics, the approach also helps the family to focus on everyday life events, which helps the family build the skills needed to manage situations that are difficult for them and cause harm to them. It provides families with the skills and strategies to manage life stressors, which prevents them from entering /re-entering the system.

Useful Resources


Children’s bureau

Office of children and Family Services


Christensen, A.N., Todahl, J., & Barrett, W. C. (2008). Solution-Based Casework, an Introduction to Clinical and Case Management Skills in Casework Practice. New York. Aldine De Gruyter, Inc.

Frankel, A J, Gelman S. R. 2nd ED. (2004). An Introduction to Concepts and Skill. Case Management. (p. 48-115). Chicago: Lyceum Books, Inc.

Webb. N. B. 3rd ED. 2011. Social Work Practice with Children. p.121. New York. The              Guildford Press

Frerer, K., Sosensko, L. D., Henke, R. R. (2013, March). (Stuart Foundation) Retrieved 13 March, 2014, from

Fritz, G. K. (2008). How the foster care system fails our children. Brown University Child & Adolescent Behavior Letter, 24(8), 8-8.

Krinsky, M.A. (2007, October). A Case Reform of the Child Welfare System. Family Court Review, 45(4), 541-547.

Romanelli, L. H., Hoagwood. K. E., Kaplan. S. J., Kemp, S. P., Hartman, R. L., Casey, T., Soto, W. Pecora, P., LaBarrie, T., Jensn, P. S. (2009). Child Welfare-Mental Health Best Practice Group. Best practices for Mental Health in Child Welfare: Parent Support and Youth Empowerment Guidelines.

Center for Family Representation (2012). Retrieve March 13, 2014 from

National Governors Association (2011). Retrieve March 13, 2014

Convention on the Rights of the Child (2007)

A summary of the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child

Casey Family Programs (2011), child welfare facts sheet

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families,

Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau,

 PowerPoint presentation

PowerPoint SW in law FINAL



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