THE FOSTER CARE LANDSCAPE
What is foster care?
Why does a child enter foster care?
How old is the average foster child?
Who looks out for the welfare of kids in foster care?
What happens to children after they “age out” of foster care?
As children get older, their prospects of finding a permanent home grow slimmer. Approximately 26,000 “age out” of the system every year when they turn 18 (or 21 in some states) despite lacking the skills and support they need to survive on their own. Children who age out of foster care (“transition age youth” or TAY) face enormous challenges. Consider that within four years of aging out, 60% of girls are pregnant, 51% of foster youth are unemployed, 40% are on public assistance, 25% become homeless, and 20% will be incarcerated. A mere 4% go on to earn a four- year college degree versus 36% of the general population.
Who looks out for the welfare of kids in foster care?
What is the goal of foster care?
How many kids today are in foster care?
Who is the average foster child?
How does foster care governance differ between states?
In state-administered systems, the state provides all foster care services to the children directly; in county- administered systems, the state remains responsible for the safety and well-being of the children and the counties provide the services. Further adding to the system’s complexity, some state- and county-administered programs often contract with private agencies for the delivery of foster care services. Foster home licensing requirements are usually overseen by each state’s Department of Child Protective Services or Human Services. Each state’s services are monitored by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Suffice to say, the quality of foster care administration and oversight ranges widely from state to state.
Who can become a foster parent?
The foster parent licensing process is similar to the adoption licensing process. It mandates preparatory classes as well as an application for vetting. The application varies by state/county but generally requires a minimum age, a minimum income, a criminal record check to insure no prior record of child abuse, a reference from a doctor to ensure the household is disease free and references from employers/friends to verify temperament.
What can be done to keep children with their families?
More expansive child welfare programs and social services would be very beneficial in keeping children who don’t belong in foster care out of the system. The need for better processes, more resources, and more services for families under stress is paramount.
When was the US foster care system established?
How long do kids stay in foster care?
The average stay in foster care is two years; however, 6% of kids in foster care have been there for five or more years. In 2015, more than 60,000 children whose parents’ parental rights had been legally terminated were waiting for adoption.
How is the foster care system regulated?
There are 2,200 separate foster care jurisdictions in the U.S. Title IV-E of the Social Security Act is an important funding stream for foster care costs. It provides for federal reimbursement for a portion of the maintenance and administrative costs of foster care for children who meet specified federal eligibility requirements. Though all states must comply with federal foster care regulations to earn federal Title IV-E and other funding, each state decides how services are provided to children in foster care. Not only does each state have its own system for providing foster care services, but these systems often vary within the state.
What are the biggest challenges foster kids face?
Children are greatly affected by separation from their family and this often manifests itself in their behavior. Abuse and neglect can affect brain development, which often prevents them from having healthy attachments to adults. Foster children all too often suffer from developmental delays, low academic performance, poor hygiene, low self-esteem and depression – and can lack the general preparedness and confidence necessary to navigate the real-world post- adolescence. Further illustrating these challenges, 25% of aged-out foster children suffer the direct effects of post-traumatic stress syndrome and 20% will become instantly homeless upon aging out.
How are foster parents subsidized?
Having a foster care child does not provide parents with true additional income as is often believed. States provide foster parents with a monthly amount of money for each foster child within the home. This foster care subsidy is intended to cover the foster child’s needs although parents often claim it isn’t sufficient. A foster parent cannot list this subsidy money as income on a loan application.
FOSTER CARE INDUSTRY
What is the “for-profit” foster care industry?
In the “for-profit” foster care industry, for-profit companies procure contracts to manage foster care placements from state and local governments. Like most for-profit corporations, these companies act primarily in the interest of their shareholders. A consistent failure by many “for profits” and “not-for profits” to follow established guidelines and the DCFS rules and regulations has resulted in abuse, physical harm, and even death for children in the system.
What percentage of foster care placements are done each year by for-profit companies?
In 2017, the Senate Finance Committee conducted an investigation of the for-profit foster care business in the U.S. While 31 out of 33 states who responded to the Committee inquiry said they use private agencies to provide services to children in foster care, the Committee’s report found that of the total number of children who received foster care “there are no official statistics on what proportion of these children received contracted foster care.” However, Mentor served 10,300 at-risk children, adolescents and their families in 18 different states in 2014.
What are the roots of the abuses in the “for-profit” industry and how can these problems be addressed?
The “for-profit” industry as well as some religiously-affiliated nonprofits all too often act in their or their shareholders’ best interest and not in the interest of a child’s well-being. The Senate Finance Committee report concluded that “the policies in place to protect children are not always followed; exceptions are made, waivers are granted, profits are prioritized over children’s well- being, and sometimes those charged with keeping children safe look the other way.” The report included a series of recommendations for HHS, Congress and states to improve foster care by establishing more uniformity in code and regulation. For example, uniform reporting and transparency standards would require states to make publicly available their contracts with private child welfare service providers. In addition, contracts would be revoked from service providers unable to consistently provide safe foster care placements for children.
Is there pending legislation at the federal level to address the system’s abuses?
The Family First Prevention Services Act is a bipartisan bill that reforms many of the federal child welfare financing mechanisms to help better support families. The bill aims to prevent children from entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement for services to families and children. The bill also seeks to improve the well-being of children already in foster care by incentivizing states to reduce placement of children in group care. The bill failed to achieve Congressional approval in 2016.
Currently pending is the Child Welfare and Accountability Act of 2017. Among other things, this bipartisan act would require states to maintain a public website of all private foster care companies and report to the Department of Health and Human Services performance measures for each foster care provider when it comes to preventing child deaths and abuse.
https://campaignforchildren.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/06/Family-First-Prevention-Services-Act-Fact- Sheet.pdf https://www.wyden.senate.gov/download/?id=73F67E9E-246E-4872-A340-2687E72BABD6&download=1
How big is the industry?
How and by whom are these companies compensated?
For-profit agencies win contracts from the government and are compensated through negotiated rates. The companies, in turn, compensate the actual foster care providers – from contracted group homes to individual foster families. Unfortunately. some companies that have won multi- million-dollar state contracts have failed to follow regulations including limits on the number of children in a home and the number of required home visits.
What are some of the abuses in the for-profit industry?
When it comes to for-profit foster care at both the state and federal level, the Senate Committee on Finance found significant flaws in oversight and in the collection of data. Procedures set up by states to monitor foster care outcomes were simply not followed. Children in for-profit contracted homes were abused, neglected and denied services at a higher rate than in nonprofit foster care. The Committee found that profits are frequently prioritized over children’s well-being. Foster parents with questionable backgrounds were often given licenses to care for children, while high staff turnover makes it nearly impossible to manage children’s cases. The supervising social workers themselves were often found to be untrained and unqualified; this is particularly disturbing given the fact that they are often sought out to give advice to the court system.