AbstractThis paper summarizes the mainreasons that children are brought into foster care. It discusses the severaldifferent types of abuse including, physical, sexual, and neglect. The paperbrings us a closer look at how poverty affects the way a child developsemotionally and physically. We also look at how parental drug abuse can bringchildren into foster care and how their drug abuse plays a role in their life.
The foster care system is far from perfect and this paper takes a closer lookinto some of their problems. Keywords: neglect, poverty, abuse, drug, foster care How Children in Poverty and Abuse come tothe Broken Foster Care System Children enter foster care fora number of reasons. For some children, the journey begins at birth, when it isclear that a mother cannot care for her newborn infant.
Other children come tothe attention of child welfare when a teacher, a social worker, a policeofficer, or a neighbor reports suspected child maltreatment to child protectiveservices. Some of these children may have experienced physical or sexual abuseat the hands of a loved and trusted adult. More often, parents battlingpoverty, substance addiction, or mental illness woefully neglect theirchildren’s needs.The foster care system is a very important part of thecommunity. As a foster parent people take into consideration the types ofsituations that kids come from to be placed into this system.
There are almosthalf a million children in foster care in the United States today (U.S. Department of Health and HumanServices, 2015). The numbers have doubled since the 1980s, and the typeof children coming in is getting worse.
Children and adolescents who enterfoster care often do so with complicated and serious medical, mental health,developmental, oral health, and psychosocial problems rooted in their historyof childhood trauma. Today more and more children are coming into care asvictims of violence or sexual abuse and neglect. There is a need for greater efforts to strengthen theimpoverished communities where foster children often come from. Whencommunities break down, the foster count grows and the cycle feeds itself.
Children are at the greatest risk of poverty. They make up 35% of the U.S.poor, that is 16.1 million people under the age of 18 (Macionis, 2015) livingin poverty. Many people think that those living in inner cities are the onesthat make up the majority of this number. The majority of the poor children arewhite (62%) and live in suburban and rural areas (56%).
Psychological researchhas demonstrated that living in poverty has a wide range of negative effects onthe physical and mental health and well-being of our nation’s children. Povertyimpacts children within their various contexts at home, in school, and in theirneighborhoods and communities (American Psychological Association, 2016).Homelessness is another social problem that stems from poverty. There is anestimated 610,000 people that are homeless on any given night. Homelessness isprimarily an urban problem but it is moving from the central cities to thesuburbs and the rural areas (Macionis 2015).
Poverty is especially harmfulto children during the early years of life. It has been linked to disruptionsin learning and academic performance. Poor children are more likely to repeat agrade, to be expelled or suspended from school, and to drop out of school.Children from poor households are also more likely to suffer from chronichealth conditions, including asthma, diabetes, hearing, vision and speechdelays. The United Statesfoster care system was in a bad financial condition even before the currenteconomic crisis. Last fall the Washington Post reported “in nearly everystate..
. the cost of providing basic care for a foster child exceeds thegovernment’s foster-care reimbursement rate.” Researchers at theUniversity of Maryland, who conducted the study, factored in basic needs suchas food and clothing. The ensuing economic crisis has likely halted plans forany future government increase in funding for children currently in fostercare.Poverty, homelessnessand unemployment are some of the main contributing factors to children beingplaced in foster care. Considering the current economic condition across thecountry, many experts believe it is possible that the number of childrenentering foster care will rise in the coming months.
The American foster caresystem is already facing challenges due to a lack of funding and workers. It isdifficult to recruit and hold on to trained social workers who might improvethe experiences of children in foster homes, which have gained a reputation asbeing unsafe in recent years. Further, the economic downturn takes a toll onstruggling families; the number of children and youth entering and remaining infoster care is expected to increase as the economy worsens. Child welfareworkers are already seeing a rise in reported child abuse and neglect cases,with increases of more than 20 percent in some areas. Poverty is defined in terms of inadequate food, shelter, andclothing.
As a result, poverty can be mistaken for and labeled as neglect. Thestates definitions of neglect may vary, however they often involve a primarycaretaker knowingly or negligently allowing a minor child to be deprived of thebasic necessities of food, clothing, shelter, or care. Children experiencechild neglect more than any other form of child maltreatment.
In federal fiscalyear 2007, 59% of maltreated children experienced neglect, while only 10.8%were physically abused (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services USDHHS,2009).
Child neglect depends on how a child and society perceives the parents’behavior; it is not how parents believe they are behaving towards their child.Parental failure to provide for a child, when options are available, isdifferent from failure to provide when options are not available. Neglectedchildren are at risk of developing lifelong social, emotional and healthproblems, particularly if neglected before the age of two years.
The definitionof child neglect is broad. There are no specific guidelines that determine whena child is being neglected; therefore, it is up to state government agenciesand professional groups to determine what is considered neglect. Povertyand neglect are so intertwined that it often times leads kids in to foster caremore than abuse. Abuse can be seenin many different ways for example, emotional, physical or even sexual. Thegovernment defines child abuse as any recent act or failure to act on the partof a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotionalharm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presentsan imminent risk of serious harm. Child abuse wasn’t an issue until Dr. Kempediscovered it in 1958.
At this time, people believed that they had theright to discipline their children as they deemed fit. They felt as if whatwent on in their own home was a family matter. Child abuse became a socialproblem and in 2012, 3.1 million cases were made (Macionis, 2015). Child fatalities arethe most tragic consequence of maltreatment.
In 2014, 50 states reported 1,546fatalities. Some children who diedfrom abuse or neglect were alreadyknown to child protective services (CPS) agencies. Of all the children who died from maltreatment in 29states, 12.2 percent received some sort of family preservation services in thefive years preceding the child’s death. In 38 states, 1.8 percent of childrenwho died from abuse or neglect had been in foster care and were reunited withtheir families in the previous five years (Children’s Rights, 2015).
Sexual abuse is one ofthe most perplexing problems that families face. Those that should beprotecting their children are either the perpetrator or oblivious to the factthat their child is being sexually abused. Child sexual abuse occurs at everysocioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions andall levels of education. Child sexual abuse isdefined in Federal law by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act as theemployment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any childto engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicitconduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visualdepiction of such conduct; or the rape, and in cases of caretaker orinterfamilial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, orother form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.In 2012, 9.3% of cases of maltreatment of children were classified assexual abuse. In 2012 there were also 62,939 cases of child sexual abuse thatwere reported (DOJ, 2016). These are the types of kids that come in to thefoster care system.
While parenting a child who has been removed from his orher family, they may not know for sure whether or not the child in care hasbeen sexually abused. Child welfare agencies share all known information about thechild’s history with the potential foster parent. However, there may be noprior record of abuse, and many children do not disclose past abuse until theyfeel safe.
For this reason, kinship caregivers, foster or adoptive parents aresometimes the first to learn that sexual abuse has occurred. Even when there isno documentation of prior abuse, the foster parent may suspect somethinghappened because of the child’s behavior. However, children whohave been sexually abused may demonstrate behaviors that are unusual,excessive, aggressive, or explicit. There is no one specific sign or behaviorthat can be considered proof that sexual abuse has definitively occurred, butthere are a number of signs that are suggestive of abuse. Some signs that weare taught to look out for are nightmares, trouble sleeping, or fear of thedark, unexplained avoidance of certain people, places, or activities, an olderchild behaving like a much younger child: wetting the bed or sucking a thumb,for example, talking about a new, older friend, suddenly having money.
Theseare not normally signs that would associate with your everyday child, but infoster care these are telling signs. Drugs also play a tremendous role in kids landing in thefoster care system. When kids come into foster care because of drugs it isbecause their parents are consuming drugs like heroin. Heroin is a type ofdepressant in the form of an analgesic.
This is a type of drug that istypically used to dull pain (Macionis, 2015). The way parents with substance abusedisorders behave and interact with their children can have a multifacetedimpact on the children. The effects can be both indirect (e.g.
, through achaotic living environment) and direct (e.g., physical or sexual abuse).Drugs and alcohol can lead tochildren being abused, but when drugs are in the picture neglect is acertainty. Most people who have substance-abuse issues aren’t violent orabusive, but once someone becomes addicted to a substance your life becomesabout getting or using (drugs) and your money goes towards those things, too.When there is something taking over your time and your money, kids often thentake the back seat. Kids ofaddicts might be left unsupervised or in the care of inappropriate caregivers.
They might fail to thrive from a lack of proper nutrition. They might not getproper medical attention.While there are some babiesthat come off the drugs, they can suffer tremors, feeding difficulties,vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes seizures. They also are likely to needhospital stays of two to four- weeks and sometimes as long as six months, whichmakes it difficult for them to bond with a parent or caregiver and causeslasting developmental challenges. It also makes it more difficult for thecaregiver.
Babies that are born with addiction are extremely hard to take careof and often times don’t go to the greatest homes. Increasing numbers of childrenand youths who enter foster care because of abuse and neglect by chemicallyinvolved parents bring with them their own substance abuse problems. Theseyouths also tend to continue their drug use after leaving care. The drug habitsof youths in foster care can seriously impede their chances of continuing theireducation or finding employment, often with dire consequences.
It is not knownhow many youths in foster care become homeless once they reach the age ofemancipation, but many youths involved in substance abuse do experience boutsof homelessness. The problems facing childrenin the foster care system in America are varied. The consequences of anextended period in foster care depend on the child, the situation from whichthe child was removed, and the foster parents who provided the child with care.Although it is possible for a child who has spent just a short period of timein the system to suffer long term damages, more often the problems onlymanifest themselves in children who have spent an extended period of time inthe system.Young adults who have grownup in foster care also need more help in making the transition to independentliving. When children, especially teens, are placed into group homes, they’redenied the ability to connect with a permanent, adoptive family. Without thoseconnections, they’re likely to age out of the system without a supportivenetwork in place.
Aging out is a very common and serious problem in the UnitedStates foster care system. Aging out occurs when a child reaches the age of 18. Many times they do not graduate from high school, and thosewho do complete their education generally receive much lower test scores thenother children of the same age.
There are a variety of different reasons, allof which are directly related to their situation and their existence in thefoster care system. Children who are living in the foster care system do notexperience the same support, encouragement, and stability as their peers. Thishas an adverse effect on the education that they receive. The low qualityeducation that a foster child acquires will negatively impact their future andmay restrict them from effectively providing for them.
The primary goal of socialworkers and child protective service agencies is to establish a permanentsituation for a child who has entered the foster care system. A permanentsituation may include adoption or reunification. For all of the reasons that children get placed into the foster caresystem the main goal is reunification with their parents. At the end of the daychildren are better suited to be with biological parents or family members.Being placed in foster care is usually a last case scenario and it is aprocess. Kids are left in their families even after multiple hotlines andparents are usually given the benefit of the doubt. Foster care is intended toserve as a temporary haven for abused or neglected children who cannot safelyremain with their families. However for some children, the journey throughfoster care is characterized by further trauma and abuse; and even in the bestsituations, foster care is inherently fraught with uncertainty, instability,and impermanence.
The number of children and families who require foster careservices has grown substantially over the past two decades, and these familiesare typically contending with a multitude of complex and interrelated lifechallenges such as mental illness, unemployment, substance abuse, and domesticviolence. Child welfare agenciesface chronic organizational challenges that undermine their ability to provideappropriate case management, services, and supports to the children andfamilies in their care. Reports of children being injured while in care thrustthe system into crisis and reaction, yet reforms in response to tragedy havegenerally failed to result in meaningful change. The social workers thatgenerally work for the state are young and right out of college. They areunderpaid and overworked so foster parents get a firsthand look at how flawedthe system is.In sum, the child welfaresystem faces daunting challenges.
Not a single system at all, but a network ofmultiple intersecting and overlapping agencies. The overtaxed child welfaresystem has had to take on more children who are suffering from more complexproblems than ever before, all under the white-hot spotlight of media scrutiny.The crisis orientation that infiltrates the child welfare system can be discouragingto many hard working professionals in the field, and this is reflected in highturnover rates among child welfare leaders and caseworkers. However, crisis canalso be a window of opportunity for change.
The challenge in front of the childwelfare system is how best to capitalize on the momentum initiated by crisis,mobilize agents for change, and steer the system toward reforms that willimprove the lives of children who come into foster care.