In years past, being a foster parent was simpler and much easier. It
was enough to be a good person and to provide concerned care for children.
What’s more, the children in care were far easier to manage. Children with
serious behavior problems or who didn’t adjust easily to foster families were
simply sent to children’s homes, group homes, residential facilities, or
Within those settings, there was much more tolerance for behavior and
patterns of adjustment that would have been unacceptable in families. Instead
of helping the children deal with and resolve their problems, they were merely
seen as children who couldn’t adjust to family life and who had to have group
or residential care. Typically, the explanation was the children had attachment
or behavior problems and couldn’t deal with close family relationships.
Even those children placed into care were there conditionally. If the
child had trouble adjusting or the foster parent had difficulty managing the
child, the child was moved. The child could be “tried” in another
foster home or placed in a group or institutional setting. Moving children around
was just business as usual.
For far too many children, bouncing from place to place was how they
spent their childhoods. Of course, if they didn’t have significant problems
with attachment and close relationships when this moving around process started,
they usually developed them sooner or later.
In recent years, many of the children who previously would have gone
into residential and institutional care are now in foster care. Those children
who do go into residential treatment facilities are expected to “step
down” into foster care, once their behavior and adjustment problems are
lessened. The result is any child who comes into care is more likely to have
serious behavior and adjustment problems than would have been the case only a
few years ago.
This shift from institutional to foster care has been very good news
for children. Even though they do have behavior and adjustment problems, these
difficulties are viewed differently. Instead of seeing them as
“conditions” the children have which are related to attachment or
other disorders, they are seen as normal and expected. Children can’t just be
abruptly taken away from what they have known and put into a strange
environment without some problems adjusting.
Compounding the challenge for foster parents, children coming into
care today are more likely than in past years to have been affected by
unconscionable family and neighborhood violence, drug abuse, severe poverty,
criminal activity, and extreme parental and family dysfunction. This means children
in care may be very challenging. Simply being a good person and assuring a safe
home for them will likely, by themselves, not be enough.
Along with the many challenges children in care bring to you, the
expectations for foster families have changed. At the heart of these changes
are changing expectations for public and private child protection agencies. At
local, state, and national levels, law-makers have become much more critical of
what happens to children once they come into care.
Hundreds of thousands of children remained in out-of-home care for
years after they were separated from their families. These children drifted in
and out of the system. They moved from foster home to foster home. Many were
uprooted from their neighborhoods, their schools, their families, and their
personal cultures. Yes, some developed and adjusted successfully; but far too
many didn’t. The urgent need to improve the life prospects for these lost
children was the main reason why caring foster parents were no longer enough. It
was clear the children deserved and had to have more.
point of view:
thoughts after each question.
are the effects of family and neighborhood violence, drug abuse, poverty,
criminal activity, and severe parental and family dysfunction for growing
happens to children when they are abruptly uprooted from their neighborhoods,
their schools, their families, and their personal cultures?
happens to children who are moved into and out of the system or are moved from
foster home to foster home?