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Untended Consequence


Stone holm

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After having helped rescue a foster son from the foster care system, have been thinking a little more carefully about the impact of the family. I believe it is beyond question that there is nothing quite as effective as a loving and functional family. Recognising that fact has led us to put a major emphasis on strengthening families. What we fail to discuss is that there is nothing quite as destructive as a dysfunctional and abusive family. In many States we have moved away from group homes for children who are wards of the State. The result has been that foster children often bounce from one inept foster home to the next. As the States focus on trying to reunite and strengthen dysfunctional families they often miss the narrow window of opportunity to save the children. There have been some interesting experiments going on like the San Pasqual Academy. I am wondering if any Wards are encouraging couples to become foster parents?

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May not have been clear on my point.  The point is that the idea of doing away with group homes in favor of foster care and all the emphasis on fixing families instead of rescuing the kids may have created a colossal mess.  San Pasqual Academy has come up with some interesting concepts derived from Israel which had to deal with large numbers of orphans after the war.  At San Pasqual Academy they have on the campus homes with 8 kids and a resident couple who do the cooking, help with homework and make sure bedtime is enforced.  Otherwise the kids look out for each other and bond.  If a child has a younger sibling, arrangements can be made for the younger sibling to stay with the child and attend the local middle-school.  The school has a book bindery and some other business on the campus where kids can have part-time jobs, and they also have internships.  There is an elderly residential complex on the campus where the residents function as surrogate grandparents.  Since the school becomes the kids only home, they have created housing on campus where the graduates can come back to visit on holidays and college breaks.  They have also created an endowment to help graduates with college expenses.  They have a 90% high school graduation rate, and a 40% college attendance rate.  Those are simply fantastic statistics for a group of foster care kids.  While foster care kids, if they qualify are given the opportunity to go to the school, they have to choose to go to the school.

 

This takes a recognition that sometimes the absolute best thing for a child is to get the child completely away from the influence of his parents, relatives and siblings.  While even a good set of parents can have kids go wildly astray, it frequently takes a minor miracle to save a kid in a bad family.  We tend to extol the family, yet in a fair number of cases the family is in fact the problem.

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Not sure how appropriate this subject is for the Social Hall.

 

The State isn't a good parent either. The best situation is a loving home with two actively engaged persons as parents. We should be making it easier for parents to get the help they need to become even better parents. Of course some may have such problems that effective, nonabusive, parenting isn't possible. So foster parenting maybe be the only safe option, but that should be a final option, not the "Go To" choice.

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Not sure how appropriate this subject is for the Social Hall.

 

The State isn't a good parent either. The best situation is a loving home with two actively engaged persons as parents. We should be making it easier for parents to get the help they need to become even better parents. Of course some may have such problems that effective, nonabusive, parenting isn't possible. So foster parenting maybe be the only safe option, but that should be a final option, not the "Go To" choice.

 

Yeah, that is the current position.  But I read a pretty convincing argument in the Pacific Standard, that when it comes to rescuing an adolescent you only have a fairly narrow time window, and the Judge who helped establish San Pasqual Academy indicated that if you are concentrating on the family you might as well forget the kid -- because you will miss the window of opportunity.  I am also hearing this from educators locally and seeing it being the thrust of the successful magnet schools in the inner cities.  If you can get a kid away from the dysfunctional family and bad influence peers and get him excited and involved in structured time, you can take a kid from the roughest slum and have him/her knock the socks off people in test scores and productive behavior.  So yes its great to have the loving home -- but that isn't what we are talking about here.  We are talking about the home with the mother passed out on drugs on the couch and the kids with the boyfriend who is temporarily out of jail before getting arrested again.  Kids that miss maybe 40 days a year or more of school.  Kids whose grandparents and parents are on disability because the social services people wanted to get them off the State program and onto the Federal funded program and who have been making money on the side selling their surplus prescriptions, etc.  We aren't breaking the cycle with foster homes.  In Tennessee they have started up magnet schools where the kids are engaged in school 60 hours a week and have internships on top of that -- and they are doing amazing, why?  because they don't have contact with their families and thugs in their neighborhood -- they just don't have the time.

 

Nobody is arguing that families which are loving and functional are not the best route -- but there are a lot of dysfunctional and not particularly loving families out there.  An increasing number of their kids are in foster care or are couch surfing at their friends homes, in essence growing up on the street, "t'ain't Mayberry."

Edited by Stone holm
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Boys Town does the model described.   And the problem with foster homes is partly that they pay families so little in subsidy that lots of families don't foster because it will mean that they cannot give their children what they deserve and their bios shoulld not have to suffer because of the experiment. (I've never felt I was depriving my children in this way because we learn so much from this kind of giving.   But it is really hard to explain to teen that there isn't enough to buy their letter jacket because you don't have enough to buy underwear for the foster kiddo.    So this means there are fewer homes to choose from and it is nigh impossible not to use the foster homes that are problematic or marginal, even when the agency KNOWS they are that way.   There really is no excuse for the subsidies not being huge enough to really reimburse for a middle class experience (seriously how many of you spend only $150/yr on clothes for your teens). 

 

  Another problem is all of the restrictions that leave foster children unlike the bio children --- family can't afford allowances for kids, but have to give 15/mo to the foster kid out of the subsidy for allowance.  The foster kiddo isn't allowed to play sports unless the social worker agrees (and the worker doesn't have authority to sign off on the releases, nor insurance to cover the kiddo.    Foster kids can't go on vacations with foster families unless their bios or a judge agrees.   If you want to go to the drive in on the spur of the moment and it si a foot over the state line, you can't take your foster child.  And neither can you leave the child except with someone who has passed the state licensing background check.   You just cannot live a typical life.

 

Another problem is the same we are having in all of the public sector jobs and even in the appointed and political groups ----- when society is breaking down all over, not so honorable people, representing the current cultural mores, can be found in all public service.   We are getting  fewer and fewer people who are fully invested in doing their part to help children become, when there is nothing in it for them.

 

There is also increased risk for potential foster homes because of the seriousness of the needs of the foster children and that fact that they are often unknown until long after they come into care.  That makes it quite risk for younger children and creates a greater need for foster homes without young children, and with lots of siblings.

 

I recall reading about a small town in TX that fosters over 80 children even though that is a huge percent of the households in the community.

 

And although I haven't heard much about it recently, the One church one child effort in the 1990's lead to many churches (the focus was on increasing homes with minoritty parents) encouraging their parishioners to invite a child into their homes.

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Yeah we are very glad to have had the opportunity to have a foster son and we are still basically his parents. But the system is clearly broken. A well run program with a group home where the parent adults are not only competent, but are there for the long term - I suspect would not only in the long run be cheaper, but also be better.

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