Please read this blog today, I've decided to post stories about Foster Care because the only way we'll change things is to keep it in the forefront.
Foster care is run with your money, in your state, in your name and we can't change a damn thing if you're not with us. You have that kind of power.....
Thank you for your support.
Paperback 94 pages
From the Author:
I spent my childhood, from age seven through seventeen, in foster care. Over the course of those ten years, many decent, well-meaning, and concerned people told me, "It's okay to be foster kid."
In saying that, those very good people meant to encourage me, and I appreciated their kindness then, and all these many decades later, I still appreciate their good intentions. But as I was tossed around the foster care system, it began to dawn on me that they were wrong. It was not all right to be a foster kid.
During my time in the system, I was bounced every eighteen months from three foster homes to an orphanage to a boy's school and to a group home before I left on my own accord at age seventeen.
In the course of my stay in foster care, I was severely beaten in two homes by my "care givers" and separated from my four siblings who were also in care, sometimes only blocks away from where I was living.
I left the system rather than to wait to age out, although the effects of leaving the system without any family, means, or safety net of any kind, were the same as if I had aged out. I lived in poverty for the first part of my life, dropped out of high school, and had continuous problems with the law.
Today, almost nothing about foster care has changed. Exactly what happened to me is happening to some other child, somewhere in America, right now. The system, corrupt, bloated, and inefficient, goes on, unchanging and secretive.
Something has gone wrong in a system that was originally a compassionate social policy built to improve lives but is now a definitive cause in ruining lives. Due to gross negligence, mismanagement, apathy, and greed, mostly what the foster care system builds are dangerous consequences. Truly, foster care has become our epic national disgrace and a nightmare for those of us who have lived through it.
Yet there is a suspicion among some Americans that foster care costs too much, undermines the work ethic, and is at odds with a satisfying life. Others see foster care as a part of the welfare system, as legal plunder of the public treasuries.
None of that is true; in fact, all that sort of thinking does is to blame the victims. There is not a single child in the system who wants to be there or asked to be there. Foster kids are in foster care because they had nowhere else to go. It's that simple. And believe me, if those kids could get out of the system and be reunited with their parents and lead normal, healthy lives, they would. And if foster care is a sort of legal plunder of the public treasuries, it's not the kids in the system who are doing the plundering.
We need to end this needless suffering. We need to end it because it is morally and ethically wrong and because the generations to come will not judge us on the might of our armed forces or our technological advancements or on our fabulous wealth.
Rather, they will judge us, I am certain, on our compassion for those who are friendless, on our decency to those who have nothing and on our efforts, successful or not, to make our nation and our world a better place. And if we cannot accomplish those things in the short time allotted to us, then let them say of us "at least they tried."
You can change the tragedy of foster care and here's how to do it. We have created this book so that almost all of it can be tweeted out by you to the world. You have the power to improve the lives of those in our society who are least able to defend themselves. All you need is the will to do it.
If the American people, as good, decent and generous as they are, knew what was going on in foster care, in their name and with their money, they would stop it. But, generally speaking, although the public has a vague notion that foster care is a mess, they don't have the complete picture. They are not aware of the human, economic and social cost that the mismanagement of the foster care system puts on our nation.
By tweeting the facts laid out in this work, you can help to change all of that. You can make a difference. You can change things for the better.
We can always change the future for a foster kid; to make it better ...you have the power to do that. Speak up (or tweet out) because it's your country. Don't depend on the "The other guy" to speak up for these kids, because you are the other guy.
We cannot build a future for foster children, but we can build foster children for the future and the time to start that change is today.
(THIS IS A GOOD THING!)
Extending Ohio’s foster care to age 21
By Mike DeWine - Ohio Attorney General
Parents prepare their children for independence by teaching them life skills that will help them make good decisions as adults. Many children, however, have to stand on their own before they’re ready. Kids in foster care who turn 18 before ever being adopted into a permanent, loving family often never receive the help they need in the transition to adulthood.
Every year, 1,000 Ohio youth “age-out” of fostercare at age 18. They usually lack a reliable support system and are thrust into a harsh reality in which they’re at high risk of homelessness, unemployment, insufficient education, dependence on public assistance, human trafficking, trouble with the criminal justice system, and other barriers to success. Amy, a young adult now in her mid-20s, said, “Aging out of foster care at 18 still affects my life today. No child in a ‘normal’ home with a mom and dad could deal with being alone at 18 years-old, so we shouldn’t expect it for foster kids.”
After the tragic death of a Cincinnati foster child in 2011, I convened eight Child Safety Summits across the state to discuss Ohio’s child welfare system. These discussions revealed some of the obstacles foster care children face as they are about to leave the child welfare system. We took what we learned at our meetings and looked for ways to assist these children.
In 2013, my office issued a $1 million grant for “Ohio Reach,” a program that connects kids who are aging out of the foster care system with opportunities for higher education. We also funded two pilot projects – one serving Geauga and Portage Counties and the other serving Hamilton County – to help young people transitioning from foster care as they deal with past trauma, obtain a job, secure stable housing, and learn the life skills necessary to become successful adults.
Dana, a participant in Geauga and Portage counties’ Next Step program, said, “After aging out of foster care, I was on the streets with nowhere to stay and no food. Staying here (at Next Step) allowed me to focus on finding a job and a stable housing environment. I met people who cared about me and wanted to help me develop my skills to get a job and move forward.”
Another way we could offer these young people help is by extending support and services to age 21. Research confirms that foster youth in states where the age limit has been raised are more likely to have some college education and earn higher incomes. They’re also less likely to experience teen pregnancy or incarceration. “Aging out at 18 was, to say the least, a very big challenge,” said Dylan, a young adult in his early 20s. Had he “…been able to stay in foster care until age 21,” the three extra years “…would’ve allowed me to learn how to budget, live independently, and make sure that I could survive on my own.”
Foster youth like Amy, Dana, and Dylan need a supportive pathway to independence. That’s why I support House Bill 50 that Representatives Dorothy Pelanda and Cheryl Grossman introduced earlier this year which, among other provisions, extends foster care supports to age 21.
Such an extension would benefit both foster youth and taxpayers: According to a 2013 study by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, every young person who ages out of foster care costs communities an average of $300,000 in public assistance, incarceration, lost wages and more over that person’s lifetime.
The most significant costs, of course, aren’t counted only in dollars and cents. And simply housing foster youth for three more years won’t guarantee a successful journey toward adulthood.
After she turned 23, Amberly was, in her words, “…on welfare assistance and homeless…the system failed me when it came to protecting and teaching me. I feel that no child should be left alone at 18.” Community agencies should use the extra three years to help foster youth like Amberly work through personal issues, learn practical skills, and help ensure they’ve been given the guidance and resources that will help enable them to embrace adult responsibilities.
I support extending support to foster youth from age 18 to 21. Ohio’s foster youth deserve all the assistance and preparation we can give them.
(THIS IS A BAD THING)
Number of US children in foster care up sharply
WASHINGTON (AP) – For the first time in a decade, there was a notable increase last year in the number of U.S. children in foster care, according to new federal figures released Wednesday.
The annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services tallied 415,129 children in the foster care system as of September 30, 2014, up from about 401,000 a year earlier. The peak was 524,000 children in foster care in 2002, and the number had dropped steadily since 2005 before rising slightly in 2013.
The long-term drop resulted primarily from shifts in the policies and practices of state and county child welfare agencies. Many shortened stays in foster care, expedited adoptions and expanded preventive support for troubled families so more children avoided being removed from home in the first place.
HHS offered no immediate explanation of why the numbers had risen.
“We are concerned about any increases in the foster care numbers, and we are working hard with our state partners to better understand the reasons behind the increase,” said Rafael Lopez, commissioner of the department’s Administration on Children, Youth and Families.
Of the children in foster care a year ago, 52 percent were boys. Twenty-two percent were Hispanic, 24 percent black and 42 percent white. Just under 108,000 of them were available for adoption, up from 104,493 in 2013.
During the 2014 fiscal year, 50,644 children were adopted from foster care, roughly the same as in 2013, while 22,392 youths in their late teens aged out of the system without being placed with a permanent family.
Three-fourths of the children in care last year were living with foster families, while 14 percent were in group homes or institutions. On the day the data was reported — Sept. 30 — 4,544 foster children were listed as runaways.
(THIS IS A GOOD THING)
Ruling Finds Limits To Foster Kids' Right To Attend Hearings
By Associated Press
Sep. 25, 2015
A new court ruling says foster children's right under Arizona law to attend court hearings in their cases can be trumped by other considerations.
The state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a judge was allowed to consider a foster child's best interests when deciding whether to permit the child to attend and testify at hearings on terminating parental rights of the child's mother and father.
The child's therapist said that seeing the mother would be detrimental to the child's stability, and a psychologist said attending the hearing would cause the child to regress.
The Court of Appeals said judges must make case-by-case decisions on whether children can testify as witnesses in termination cases and that judges may weigh conflicting rights and interests of the parents and children
Social Work Education Key to Retaining Foster Care Workers, Advocates Say
By Joe Guszkowski | September 24, 2015View as "Clean Read"
Antoinette Rucker was 16 years old and looking forward to moving from a foster care group home to a permanent placement with her older sister.
But the process dragged on for almost a year, Rucker said, because the social worker handling her transition went on maternity leave and didn’t come back.
That meant Rucker had to get to know a new caseworker, who was learning Rucker’s case at the same time, slowing the process. Altogether, Rucker had three different caseworkers during the transition, she said.
“It’s almost like they’re your parent,” Rucker said of case managers. “They take you to the doctor, parent/teacher conferences. So when you have someone that’s starting over consistently, you have to adjust to a new person, and they have to adjust to you.”
That adjustment was made more challenging by workers who came from a patchwork of educational backgrounds, Rucker said.
“I thought the agency hired people that had a B.S.W. [bachelor’s degree in social work],” she said. “But they hire people with [degrees in] criminal justice, psychology, sociology. So everybody doesn't practice the same.”
Though Rucker was able to eventually move in permanently with her sister, other foster youth who experience turnover are not so lucky. A short-term 2005 study of foster youth in Milwaukee County, Wis., requested by the governor’s office, found that worker turnover hurt foster children’s chances for permanency.
Dr. Katharine Briar-Lawson, co-principal investigator for theNational Child Welfare Workforce Institute, said a lack of specific training contributes to worker turnover.
“Sometimes workers are seeking more help with their cases, and if they don't have the right skills, if they're just hired with a degree in anything … they may be more vulnerable because they're not comfortable with what they're seeing,” she said.
Their solution? Find a job that’s less intense, Briar-Lawson said.
Gathering national data on turnover is difficult because of the different ways foster care is operationalized across the states, said Mary Jane Dessables, director of research and information for theCouncil of Family and Child Caring Agencies.
Growing attention to the issue in the early and mid-2000s resulted in a number of national surveys. A 2003 report by the U.S. General Accounting Office found that child welfare staff turnover was between 30 and 40 percent, and a 2004 American Public Health Services Agency report found that the rate of turnover among foster care and adoption workers was around 20 percent.
More recent, though incomplete, data is available at the state level. In California, which has the country's largest foster youth population, the turnover rate among public-sector child welfare social workers in 47 of the state’s 58 counties was 7.1 percent in 2011, according to a report by the California Social Work Education Center. That number does not include Los Angeles, which accounts for one-third of the state’s child welfare staff.
[Related: Compassion Fatigue Rampant in Youth Service Industry]
Among foster care case planners at 47 not-for-profit agencies in New York, which has the country’s second-largest system, average annual turnover was 31.9 percent in fiscal year 2013, Dessables said.
Rates in individual agencies can fluctuate over time due to changes in leadership or crises such as the death of a child, said Dr. Joan Zlotnik, a senior consultant for the National Association of Social Workers. But for the most part, turnover has been steady.
"The patterns have pretty much been pretty stable," said Dr. Mary McCarthy, co-principal investigator for the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute. "Now what people are focusing on more — because data-gathering is so complicated — people are focusing more on intervention."
"The question is no longer whether or not there is turnover and what should be done about it," Eileen Mayers Pasztor, a professor of social work at California State University, Long Beach, and a consultant for the Child Welfare League of America, said in an email. "But, instead: What will it take to implement the recommendations that have long been established?"
Those recommendations include hiring workers with an education in social work.
Retention via education
The New Jersey Department of Children and Families began taking steps to retain workers in 2004, when its turnover rate was 15.9 percent, said Commissioner Allison Blake.
Among the department’s strategies, which included reducing caseloads and lowering the supervisor-to-worker ratio, was a program called the Baccalaureate Child Welfare Education Program, formed in 2005.
The department partnered with social work programs at nine colleges and universities across the state to give students pursuing bachelor’s degrees in social work an opportunity to intern with the department and eventually be hired to work there.
The program is funded in part by Title IV-E, a federal fund for child welfare education and training, which has been used to create similar partnerships between universities and agencies in other states.
“A social work education program exposes future child welfare staff to the values and knowledge that prepare them for the work that they’re going to be doing,” Blake said. “It really begins to create a sense of professionalism and confidence.”
Thanks to the program and the department’s other efforts, its turnover rate has dropped to 7.24, Blake said.
In 2012, the department created a new initiative, in partnership with three graduate programs, to send supervisors back to school for a master’s in social work.
Blake said it sends a message to new graduates considering career choices that the department values a social work degree, and that employees will be working alongside other people who have such degrees.
Several studies have shown a link between agencies that require social work degrees and lower turnover rates.
Judith Schagrin, assistant director of the Baltimore County Department of Social Services, said her department’s requirement that front-line workers have a master’s in social work and are properly licensed has been a key to retention.
"When you bring people in with just a college degree to do work, you totally overwhelm them," said Schagrin, who has been with the department for 32 years. "I do believe that [the requirement] contributes to retention because you're working in a professional workplace with other professionals who share the same ethical code and same ethical values."
A 2008 national survey of child welfare workers found that about 18 percent of workers had a master’s degree in social work, and about 20 percent had a bachelor's degree in the field.
Baltimore County is one of the few places in the country that has such strong requirements, Zlotnik, of NASW, said.
Schagrin said she does not have recent turnover data for her department, but that it has been steady over the last 10 years or so. Out of a staff of 50 workers and 10 supervisors, she estimated that about eight to 10 leave their jobs each year.
A 2007 report by the University of Maryland School of Social Work found that the turnover rate among child welfare workers in Baltimore County was about 23 percent in 2006.
"For the most part, people aren't leaving here because they hate it here," Schagrin said, but because of life changes or better job opportunities elsewhere.
And though advanced-degree workers might come at a higher cost to agencies, Zlotnik said it’s worth it in the long run because of the high costs of turnover, which include payments for recruitment and training.
Antoinette Rucker said she thinks standardized requirements would make turnover less difficult for foster kids. A background in social work gives workers the core skills and code of ethics required to do the job, she said.
“That would make everything a lot better, honestly,” she said.
Rucker, now 22, is doing her part. In December, she will graduate from Albany State University in Albany, Ga., with a social work degree. After that, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in social work at the University of Georgia.
By Jenifer Abreu,
Caught up in everyday life, it may be easy to take family for granted. One organization is spreading the importance of kinship.
September is Kinship Appreciation Month and on Monday, the Allen County Children Services spoke at the Exchange Club's meeting.
Kinship care is a better alternative to foster care, according to experts. It's when children are placed with a relative or someone they already have a relationship with, like a family friend or a coach.
In 2014, Allen County Children Services helped 71 families and one 118 children .
"The children that are in kinship care experience a lot less difficulties, they are usually able to stay with family members who they know. It's a lot less traumatic for them. They are usually able to stay in the same school system," said Shelly Conrad, Family Stability Supervisor.
If you'd like donate, or get involved with the kinship program, contact the Allen County Children Services.
Ed Goldman: Meet Tobias Lake, foster-home survivor -- and then some
Tobias Lake, who turns 25 on Sept. 30, looks, dresses and acts the part of a young state Senate staffer. He’s extremely well spoken, has a deep, authoritative voice and a sly sense of humor. But his back story doesn’t fit the pattern. The child of deaf parents who were in and out of trouble with the law, Lake spent most of his young life in more than 50 foster homes and group care facilities -- even “camping,” as he calls it, for a while. “You know what I mean by ‘camping,’ right?” he asks politely but with a slight edge.
“Look, he was sleeping under freeway overpasses, he was homeless,” says Larry Bolton, Lake’s mentor, with civil but genuine exasperation, as though we’re all dancing around the subject. We’re not — but Bolton’s passion for the cause is nearly palpable. A semi-retired attorney for various state agencies, Bolton is president of the Foster Youth Education Fund, a Sacramento area nonprofit that, in its own words, is “dedicated to raising awareness about the needs of abused and neglected children who have been in, or are emancipated from, foster care.”
In brief, the FYEF raises money to help young people like Lake once they leave the foster care system — by helping them get into college, buy supplies, find jobs and apartments and learn the ins and outs of daily living. The latter are closely guarded secrets for most foster kids. According to Bolton, around 500 young people “age out” of the foster care system annually. “An awful lot of them wind up without a job or in jail,” he says matter-of-factly.
Lake had a rough start as an “emancipated” youth of 18. “None of us like that word ‘emancipated,’” he says. I suggest that it sounds as though the kids had been indentured servants or prisoners (to which Bolton nods and says under his breath, “Exactly”). Lake’s life began to change for the better when he met Bolton on a light-rail train. Lake says “I was practically pleading with my girlfriend at the time” to pick him up at the light rail station because otherwise he’d have a very long walk home in the dark.
“I noticed he was carrying some materials from FYEF,” Bolton says, “and told him who I was and what I did. I offered him a drive home.” That began a relationship far more nurturing than any Lake had discovered in foster care (or, years earlier, with his parents). Bolton taught Lake to drive and helped him get off academic probation at a community college. He saw that FYEF got Lake a computer and even found someone to help Lake fix his busted moped (a favorite form of transportation for him).
Today, Lake lives in an apartment in midtown. “I always wanted to live in an urban area with the hip kids,” he says. “I wanted to live in a place that would make me happy.” He’s worked for the state senate for five years — two for Darrell Steinberg, former California Senate President and majority party leader from 2008 to 2014, and the past three for State Sen. Ed Hernandez.
I ask Lake how, growing up in such disenfranchised arenas, he learned how to simply conduct himself as a young adult. “A lot of my behavior is (what I learned) from watching TV,” he says. “I’d see people go into a store and buy some milk and eggs. So I thought, well, I can do that.” He says he loves science — “I’ve been erring on the side of nerdiness all my life” — as well as science fiction. But he says what he enjoys the most is public service.
“I like going to sleep at night knowing I’ve helped someone,” Lake says. I shoot a quick look to his mentor, Larry Bolton. He’s beaming.
Ed Goldman, president of Goldman Communications Inc., is a Sacramento writer and marketing consultant. His collection of Business Journal columns, "But I Digress," is available at Amazon.com.
In 1962, six year old John Tuohy, his two brothers and two sisters entered Connecticut’s foster care system and were promptly split apart. Over the next ten years, John would live in more than ten foster homes, group homes and state schools, from his native Waterbury to Ansonia, New Haven, West Haven, Deep River and Hartford. In the end, a decade later, the state returned him to the same home and the same parents they had taken him from. As tragic as is funny compelling story will make you cry and laugh as you journey with this child to overcome the obstacles of the foster care system and find his dreams.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John William Tuohy is a writer who lives in Washington DC. He holds an MFA in writing from Lindenwood University. He is the author of numerous non-fiction on the history of organized crime including the ground break biography of bootlegger Roger Tuohy "When Capone's Mob Murdered Touhy" and "Guns and Glamour: A History of Organized Crime in Chicago."
His non-fiction crime short stories have appeared in The New Criminologist, American Mafia and other publications. John won the City of Chicago's Celtic Playfest for his work The Hannigan's of Beverly, and his short story fiction work, Karma Finds Franny Glass, appeared in AdmitTwo Magazine in October of 2008.
His play, Cyberdate.Com, was chosen for a public performance at the Actors Chapel in Manhattan in February of 2007 as part of the groups Reading Series for New York project. In June of 2008, the play won the Virginia Theater of The First Amendment Award for best new play.