FOSTER CHILDREN AGING OUT TO HOMELESSNESS

Posted: July 24, 2014 by tinamaschi in Uncategorized

Foster Children Aging out to Homelessness

Tyronda Coleman

Fordham University

Background and Scope of the Problem

Children are placed into the foster care system primary because of imminent or allegations of abuse and or neglect displayed by their biological parent(s) and there are a need of protecting. The foster care system is meant to be a temporary solution giving the biological parent(s) time to complete their service plan for reunification with their child(ren). The number of children in foster care increased from 302,000 in 1980 to 556,000 in 2000 (Scannapieco, M., Carrick, K., & Painter, K. 2007). I am employed at a foster care agency and this topic of discussion came to me when I was having a goal change conference to change one of my foster child’s goal from Return to Parent to APPLA (Another Planned Permanent Living Arrangement) as she was 17 years old. ACS was the facilitator and I remember how challenging it was to persuade the facilitator that APPLA was the best suitable goal for the child. Even though I am a fan of this goal to independence I couldn’t happen but wonder why this process seemed so challenging; ACS does not believe that APPLA is an appropriate permanency goal due to teens aging out at 21 years old to homelessness and wishes for all other permanency goals to be exhausted before the goal of APPLA is determined. While a child is in foster care they are being nurtured by the system and once they turn 21 years old and reaches the age of “adulthood” the system no longer has an obligation to monitor them and they are discharged. Teenagers makes up about 30% of all foster care youth and about 20,000 adolescents leave foster care each year by the age of 18 (Scannapieco, M., Carrick, K., & Painter, K. 2007). Each year, foster youth are released from foster care, unprepared for life outside of the system. Many foster youth fail to transition from foster care to independent living for a number of reason (Blazavier et.al., 2014). Although, programs within foster care does offer the youth assistance with the transition process some of the children are discharge to homelessness. This may happen because the youths does not wish to utilize the services provided to them or they are simply not mature enough to take that next step into adulthood. Facts says that children are living with their family longer. The services that are offered to assist youths in transiting into adulthood are guided towards education, housing and the teaching of daily living skills. Is it possible that these services are failing our youths in the foster care system?

Case Examples

A” has been in foster since she was the age of 12 years old. She is a wonderful and likeable child with a smile that would warm up anybody’s heart. “A” was in foster care due to her biological mother substance abuse. “A” was having supervised visitation with her mother and everything appeared to be going well as her mother was compliant with her service plan. Unfortunately the mother stopped reaching out to foster care agency and missed her visitations with her daughter. The mother parental rights were terminated and “A” was very effected by this and became very depressed. Her behave changed and she was very angry and confrontational. She developed a behavior problem and would yell, fight and go into crisis for no reasons at all. She was given therapy and was prescribed medication but the behavior did not cease. She was later hospitalized and was in placed in several foster homes. She did not consent to being adopted and refused to participate in any living independent services as her goal was change to APPLA. When she turned 21 years old she was discharge from foster care to herself and she did not have any adult connection or connections with any of her family members. The agency offered assistance in education as well as living independent programs and “A” refused to participate. I have been told that she is hopping around from homes to homes and shelters to shelters. I sometimes think of whether the foster care system is failing her because the agency is not assisting her and they know of her current situation and also think if there were anything more that could have been done for her while she was in foster care.

Human Rights

The United Nations documents that I found relevant on the basis of foster care and the well-being of a child as they express and protect the rights of all children in and out of foster care:

A/RES/41/85 which is called The Declaration on Social and Legal Principals Relating to the Protection and Welfare of a Child. In this document it discusses articles related to the protection of General Family and Child Welfare, Foster Care and Adoption(United Nations). For more information please view the link below: http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/41/a41r085.htm

The United Nation Convention on the Right of a Child. It states that in advocating to protect children’s rights, to help meet their basic needs, and to expand their opportunities to reach their full potential, UNICEF helps to strengthen laws and policies and to improve understanding of the Convention at all levels of society(The State of Queensland (Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services 2010–2014).

For more information please view the link below:

http://www.communities.qld.gov.au/childsafety/foster-care/rights-and-responsibilities/united-nations-convention-on-the-rights-of-the-child

In The Universal Declaration of Human Rights I believe that article 3 and 25 speaks on the rights of children. Article 3 states “that every one has the right to life, liberty and security of person” and Article 25 states that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act was signed in October of 2008 and it addresses different topics that is applicable such as: support for family connection which addresses the need for children is custody to reside with family and states that within 30 days of a child being place in foster care the state must reach out and identify adult relatives; financial aid for youth in transition which express that states can extend care for a child to the age of 21 and that child welfare agencies has to come up with a plan for the child’s permanency 90 days before the youth is discharge from care; Adoption Assistance is financial incentives for families after the adoption. It supports the goal of adoption; Medical Assistance which says that Medicaid and the child welfare agencies needs coexist to make sure that the child receives adequate services; Education which express that the state must ensure that the foster child is attending school and that the child should remain in the same school prior to foster care; Workforce Development which states that available funds with be made for federal trainings and Tribal Access to Funds which says that tribes will now have access and administer federal funds for adoption assistance (Voices for Children, 2010). This is a Federal Foster Care Law.

The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (FICA). The act doubled federal funding for the John. H Chafee Foster Care Independence Program, which provides states with funds to assist foster youth with life skills training, education, and employment supports, healthcare, permanency, housing assistance, mentoring, and counseling activities. States are required to contribute a 20 percent state match Chafee funds. The Promoting Safe and Stable Families Act (PSSF)of 2001 authorized the Educational and Training Voucher (ETV) Program for foster youth. Between 42 million and 47 million has been giving annually by Congress to help states pay for post secondary education and training and related costs. Foster care youth who are eligible for services under CFCIP are also eligible for ETV funds and may receive up to $5,000 a year for their education(Eyster & etc,. 2007).

Prevention or Intervention Response/Critical Self Reflection

As stated above I work for a foster care agency in New York and there are independent living programs offered to the teenagers age 14 years and older. The program is called PYA (Preparing Your Adulthood) and in this program the youths meet several times a week and they have a forum on different topics ranging from: housing management, proper budgeting to health relationships. This is a voluntary program with the incentives of a stipend but it assist in making the youth self sufficient. There is a housing and an education specialist. The housing specialist assist the youths in obtaining housing through NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) or NYNY III; however employment is needed. The educational specialist assists the youth with their college finances and educational plans. There are no studies or events that shows these additional services are successful in preparing the youths for adulthood and I would like to conduct my own personal research on this matter. As I stated earlier the living independence living program is voluntary and most of the youths do not join. Being that this programs is design to help youth in become self sufficient and to teach them skills that that they can use in the community; I think this program should be mandatory so the youths can have a set of skills when they aged out. Because of intensive or heavy caseloads case workers might not be able to teach the youth these skills and some of the foster parents does not have the foster children’s best interest and might not care to teach these skills.

Reference

Blazavier, B., Foster, S., Halverson, B., Hidebrand, E., Magnino, J., & McCormack, C., (2014). Examining Homeless Outcome Among Foster Care Youth in Wisconsin.

Child Welfare League of America: Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 (n.d.) Retrieve from http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/indlivhr3443.htm

Scannapieco, M., Connell, K., & Painter, K.(2007) In Their Own Words: Challenges Facing Youth Aging Out of Foster Care

The State of Queensland: Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services 2010–2014. Retrieve from http://www.communities.qld.gov.au/childsafety/foster-care/rights-and-responsibilities/united-nations-convention-on-the-rights-of-the-child

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (n.d.) Retrieve from

http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml

Voices of Children (2010). Retrieve from http://www.voices.stI.org/federal-foster-care-law.html

Additional Resources

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CtxmX3FpKs

http://youtu.be/Kp2KHuEZ5ZQ

http://youtu.be/fEoJGM7MqXY

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