Our Failing System: Foster Care

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Is foster care the best system to be using for the children involved? Since 1995 the amount of abuse and neglect related to foster care homes has tripled (Curtis 8). The fact that the abuse rate is so high means that this system should be improved so the children can feel more comfortable. Foster children have described their experiences as traumatizing and “the worst way to raise a child,” with description like that it is a wonder that we as a nation would allow them to continue experiencing these awful circumstances without intervening (Krebs 13). The reason we let this pass under the radar so quietly is because we cannot come up with a better way of handling the amount of children and variety of ages passing through the system. Even though this system is better than having foster children stay in state housing until they age out, the foster care system should be made better for the children. Since the children have no say in the matter of changing homes or families, they could get close to parents that may not keep them.

Being foster parents is known as being “stand-in” parents, the children are thought to not have all the love that most children have in life (Unrau 1260). Foster care settings include, but are not limited to, “nonrelative foster family homes, relative foster homes, group homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, and pre-adoptive homes” (Curtis 3). Foster placements are monitored until the birth family can provide appropriate care or the rights of the birth parents are terminated and the child is adopted (Unrau 1260). Most children in foster care have no say in their placements and therefore can be placed and moved to different placements as many times as the state chooses. Simone de Beauvior believes that “the child’s situation is characterized by his finding himself cast into a universe which he has not helped to establish, which has been fashioned without him, and which appears to him as an absolute to which he can only submit” (69). This explains why so many foster parents are able to abuse and neglect their own foster children because, when children are young they are not aware enough to this new world they are in to know that this is not the way it should be. “When a child arrives at the age of adolescence he begins to vacillate because he notices the contradictions among adults as well as their hesitations and weakness” (Beauvoir 70). By the time this happens the teenagers are not able to change their situations and therefore, have to continue to deal with the common maltreatment of most foster homes. The reason the families would wish to keep these children even though they are clearly unhappy is the money they are receiving for keeping them. In New York, “a foster family receives anywhere from $324 to $450 per month for each child. Foster care money helps ‘a lot of homeowners pay their mortgages,’ said a lawyer familiar with the foster care system” (Zegart 81). The fact that they are paying their mortgages with the child welfare they receive instead of using it to support their child is one of the primary issues with the system. If this money was used to support the child instead, the child may not have to deal with some of the neglect they currently suffer. Voluntary foster care may be utilized in circumstances where a parent is unable or unwilling to care for a child (Unrau 1263). In cases of voluntary foster care, the children and families must go through family court. A girl in foster care named Teresa said, “We too first entered the foster care system through family court, and we entered the family court system because of the foster care system. Neither is a place we want to be but for some people it’s the only option” (Krebs 1).

Changing the foster care system to a system that would better serve the children would reduce the high rates of abuse and risks of maltreatment associated with foster care. In the United States, foster home licensing requirements...
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