How many of us would do well with no long term relationships, friends to fall back on, a family (even a very troubled family) to turn to when life kicked us in the stomach?

NYT article the terrible data that we all know and have been unable to fix for many years.

Why the gangs flourish, schools fail, streets become unsafe & preteen girls give birth.

The last study showed 80% of youth aging out of foster care leading dysfunctional lives.

Blaming children for being born into dysfunctional families would not be a stated public policy, but I have found it to be de facto public policy. Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz has stated that “90% of the youth in juvenile justice have come through the child protection system”.

Every child deserves a chance to obtain the skills necessary to lead a productive life.

It is a much better investment to grow a child than it is a convict, a preteen mother, or an unstable person.

Study Finds More Woes Following Foster Care
Published: April 6, 2010

Only half the youths who had turned 18 and “aged out” of foster care were employed by their mid-20s. Six in 10 men had been convicted of a crime, and three in four women, many of them with children of their own, were receiving some form of public assistance. Only six in 100 had completed even a community college degree.

Phil Sussman for The New York Times

Cameron Anderson, 21, who went through several foster homes, completed homework in Tampa, Fla.

Times Topic: Foster Care

The dismal outlook for youths who are thrust into a shaky adulthood from the foster care system — now numbering some 30,000 annually — has been documented with new precision by a long-term study released Wednesday, the largest to follow such children over many years.

Researchers studied the outcomes for 602 youths in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, and compared them with their peers who had not been in foster care. Most youths had entered the foster care system in their early teens and then were required to leave it at 18 or, in the case of Illinois, 21.

“We took them away from their parents on the assumption that we as a society would do a better job of raising them,” said Mark Courtney, a social work researcher at the University of Washington who led the study with colleagues from the Partners for Our Children program at Washington and the Chapin Hall center at the University of Chicago. “We’ve invested a lot money and time in their care, and by many measures they’re still doing very poorly.”

Over the last decade, the federal government and many states have started to assist former foster care youths with education grants, temporary housing subsidies and, in some places, extra years of state custody and support. The new data showed that just over half of them are doing reasonably well and benefit from such aid. But they throw a spotlight, researchers said, on two groups that need more sweeping and lasting help.

About one-fourth of the people in the study, mainly women, are receiving public aid and struggling to raise their own children, usually without a high school degree. Researchers found that one in five in a second group, mainly men, are badly floundering, with multiple criminal convictions, low education and incomes and, often, mental health or substance abuse problems.

Once they leave foster care, these most troubled youths often have no reliable adults to advise them or provide emotional support, said Gary Stangler, director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, a private foundation. “When these kids make a mistake, it’s life altering, they have nothing to fall back on,” Mr. Stangler said.

Finding a mentor who provides “that backbone you need” has made all the difference, said Cameron Anderson, 21, of Tampa, Fla., who entered foster care at 15 after he got into trouble with the law, then lived in group homes.

Mr. Anderson, who is now in community college and works at a printer cartridge company, receives education and other financial aid that has helped him keep an apartment. But he has made some missteps since moving out on his own, he said, like not paying bills in full so he could buy shoes and hanging out with old friends who were bad influences.

Last fall, he was introduced to a mentor, an investor in Tampa, by a Casey program, Connected by 25. The two now speak daily, Mr. Anderson said, discussing “school and life in general, even to the point where he’ll say, ‘Hey, are you using protection?’ ”

Had he had such a relationship earlier, Mr. Anderson said, “it would have saved me from a ton of bridges I’ve had to cross.”

While younger children are often adopted when their parents’ rights are terminated, fewer prospective parents want to adopt teenagers. Recent research, including the new study, shows that most foster children, even though they have been removed from their homes, maintain ties with a parent or other relative. Some agencies are trying to support such ties or to locate relatives who might adopt the children or provide long-term support.

Illinois, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia now allow youths to remain in foster care to age 21, and some states help with transitional housing.

Congress in 2008 passed a law providing matching money to states that extend foster care to age 21, something that the authors of the study call for. But in the face of large budget deficits, few states have signed on so far.

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1 Comment

  1. This subject truly gets me fired up. All who are in or have been in foster care are not ill-socialized beings who drain society. While the success numbers are extremely small, we still have to be optimistic and realize while we can’t save the world, it can be done; one child at a time….My foster parents were a true God-send to me and my younger brother. Had I not had their influence in my life, I would have never had the desire or gumption to go college, go in the military and live the life I have been blessed with. They are the backbone to my life and I am forever indebted to them. I lost Mom last October and there is rarely a moment when I forget to thank her and Dad for making me who I am.
    Instead of complaining all the time about how awful the system is, get up off your duffs and put that energy into action!!!

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