Friday, May 25, 2007

Foster Care Legislation Introduced

US Senator Barbara Boxer introduced the Foster Care Continuing Opportunities Act that would provide federal funding to States to continue providing essential foster care services such as food, housing, and legal services to youth over the age of 18.

Boxer is quoted as saying “This legislation would help improve the services for foster care youth so they can better transition from childhood to adulthood. The future for foster youth, once emancipated, is often bleak. In my state of California, about 65 percent of emancipated youth are homeless, less than three percent go to college, and 51 percent are unemployed. We must do more for these youth adults who deserve much better, and there is no better time to do it than during Foster Care Month.”

As someone who has worked in the foster care system for over 45 years, this is a bill that is long overdue. However, it is only the beginning, our system for helping foster youth is sorely lacking. Hillsides recently implemented Youth Moving On, an emancipation program to assist foster youth in the transition from foster homes to independent living. We were shocked on how ill-prepared these foster youth were to make this move. Many of the foster youth entering our program had never worked, had their own bank account, knew how to shop and prepare meals. They were ill-prepared to be living alone.

Even though independent living classes for foster you in California is part of the program that all foster youth 14 years and older take, it does not seem to be doing the job. We need to look again at what we are doing in preparing these youth to leave the foster homes they reside in. We need to make sure that any legislation that extends the states’ rights to access federal funds for foster youth up to age 21 includes services that will give the youth support during this critical time in their lives.

Reflecting on Foster Care Awareness Month

As I reflect during Foster Care Awareness Month, I realize in my 45 years of working with children in foster care I have never been as optimistic as I am now about the public policy being enacted to address the issues of abused children and their families. I have learned over the years that most parents want the best for their children and will do almost anything to see that they are successful. Situations of abuse usually arise out of the problems of adults; drug and alcohol abuse leads the way with dysfunctional relationships taking up a close second. Being out of work, stress, homelessness and poor parenting skills all lead to situations where children are being hurt.

For many years protective services solved the problem of abuse by removing the child from the home which, in far too many instances, only prolonged the abuse. Families were ordered to change their ways with no real guidance or help to do so. Children drifted through the system hoping that something would change so they could go home.

Over the past five years public policy, particularly in Los Angeles, has changed. There is recognition that families need immediate help and if given that help, their children can remain with them safely. In instances where children were formerly removed, it is possible to get them involved with a variety of services that help them stay out of the system, resolve the issues and allow the children to remain at home.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

We received this information via email and wanted to share it with you.

The Census Bureau has opted to eliminate the “foster child” category from the 2010 Census and thereby strip us of the ability to assess where foster children reside, the demographics of the families caring for these youth, and how best to allocate scarce resources. Instead of requiring that Census respondents identify foster children in their home, these youth will be grouped with an all-inclusive group of “other” children, whether related or not, residing in the household. The less than satisfactory reason offered by the Census Bureau for eliminating this invaluable information on the size, composition and economic status of families caring for foster youth is that the extra line for respondents to report on foster children would have extended into the page fold and tripped up scanners that read the answers.

Please join us in expressing the view that foster children count -- and deserve to be counted! It would be truly unfortunate to allow our most vulnerable youth to become invisible.

A fact sheet and sample letter in regard to this issue is attached. The issue will be considered by the House Sub-Committee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. If you’d like to express your opposition to the change, please send a letter to Representative William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Chairman of the Sub-Committee. Letters can be faxed to the attention of Tony Haywood at (202) 225-2392. Thanks, in advance, for any support you can offer on this important issue.