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California Politics: Foster Care System

19 Aug 2016Government and Law Essays

Bruce Willis once said “too many children in foster care are falling through the cracks…Be a hero – take the time to learn about adoption today” (Thinkexist.com, 2006).

For many children in the California foster care system, the road ahead will lead to many challenges. While foster care is meant to be a temporary living situation for children who are awaiting the opportunity to be reunited with their parents or another suitable guardian, it does not always prove to be a pleasant experience for youth. For older adolescents, a foster care program can be designed to provide education and resources to prepare the adolescent for the transition into independence. Overall, California has more than 80,000 abused and neglected children in foster care, accounting for about 20% of all of the foster children in the United States (Wikipedia, 2006).

For many children in the California foster care system, the road ahead will lead to many challenges. While foster care is meant to be a temporary living situation for children who are awaiting the opportunity to be reunited with their parents or another suitable guardian, it does not always prove to be a pleasant experience for youth. For older adolescents, a foster care program can be designed to provide education and resources to prepare the adolescent for the transition into independence. Overall, California has more than 80,000 abused and neglected children in foster care, accounting for about 20% of all of the foster children in the United States (Wikipedia, 2006).

In 2004, the California Performance Review Report was presented to the governor labeling the current foster care system as a "system in crisis", in dire need of more state leadership (San Francisco Chronicle, 2005). Reform was also called for by the Commission on Children in Foster Care, which criticized the system’s lack of collaboration between agencies and the courts. In response to this, the governor signed several bills into law, with expectations of changing and revamping the entire foster care system in California.

The highest level of responsibility in implementing the foster care system in California occurs at the county level. As a result of this, quality and commitment vary in each of the states 58 countries. However, a few things are true among all foster care children. When a child enters the foster care system, the role of the parent is no longer held by a single individual or even the household. Rather, multiple parties are involved, and the child is basically raised by a collective group of entities who all hold different responsibilities in overseeing the well-being of the child. More often than not, the state assumes the general custody and responsibility of the child. This responsibility tends to be in name only, as delegations are extended to groups and individuals based on the laws in the county. Once the state of California assumes custody of the child, a court appointed attorney or child protection services agency is given the responsibility of the primary decision making for the child’s welfare. A foster care provider is assigned the duty of the physical custody. The provider can have any level of training in handling and raise children. In most states, the foster care provider must be at least 21 years of age and have a source of income beyond that of what his received for providing for the child. The provider may be single, married, divorced or widowed.

Once a foster care provider is determined, the child is placed in the direct care of the named individual or individuals. However, the determinants of care does not stop with the foster care provider. Judges and other court officials may also have a say in the care and welfare of the child. The child’s biological parents or guardians can and will also remain involved. The parents are generally offered the opportunity to maintain relationships with the child through visitations. In many cases, the parents maintain the right to be informed of their child’s well-being and care plan (Molin and Palmer, 2005). This generally occurs until the parent makes a decision to give up custody of the child. And, the child will remain in foster care until the parent gives up custody of the child or is in a state worthy of taking back the child. Adoption can not occur until the parent relinquishes rights to the child or a judge determines that the parent will never be fit to raise the child again and it is in the best interest of the child to be adopted.

It is important to mention that being removed from their homes and placed in a foster care setting is a difficult and stressful experience for a child. “Many of these children have suffered some form of serious abuse or neglect. Research shows that, as a result of the stress caused by being placed in foster care, or the abuse that led to the need to place the child in foster care, has led to about 30% of children in foster care have severe emotional, behavioral or developmental problems” (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 2005).

The end result of a large number of decision makers in the foster care system has been shown to have further detrimental effects on the well-being of the children. The cost to maintain a system with so many players raises financial concerns and often puts the immediate needs of the child on the back burner. Additionally, foster care children may not necessarily receive the type of care they need and may be “particularly vulnerable to not receiving care for their mental health needs because they often lack a person in their life who feels responsible and accountable for their well-being” (Kerker and Morrison, 2005). Because of the lack of individual attention and focus on the child’s well-being, due to the complexity of the foster care system and a number of decision makers, children in foster care are continuously ending up homeless, in prison or in mental institutions as early as adolescence.

One major issue that has lacked in the address by California legislators until recently was the question of where young adults go when state aid drops at 18 years of age. Regardless of the bipartisan support attributed to the eight foster-care reforms signed into law by the governor in 2004, there was little left to the young adults aging out of the system. As a result of this, the California voters took action and successfully passed Proposition 1C.

Proposition 1C is a $2.85 billion housing bond that carries within the package $50 million in subsidies to developers who include housing tabbed for former foster-care youths. While many of the units will be combined with other projects focusing on housing for seniors, low-income families and the disabled, they will, nonetheless, provide the opportunity for the foster young adults to mainstream into the world and move ahead in life. Additionally, the housing developers would be expected to offer job and educational counseling to further guide and support the young adults in their quest for success (San Francisco Chronicle, 2006).

It is expected that the passage of Proposition 1C will change the lives of hundreds of children in the foster care system. However, the politics underlying the proposition may result in the Proposition being challenged in court, as many GOP supporters claim that the Proposition discriminates against the rights of the everyday citizen to have fair access to public resources. Nonetheless, the passage of the proposition is important in demonstrating that California voters have taken an interest in protecting the future of the children in the foster care system. Advocates need to continue to take notice of the needs of the vulnerability of the foster care children and create legislation and develop programs that serve their best interest. If these things occur, perhaps the cycle of the vulnerability of children in the California foster care system can be overcome.

References

  1. American Academy of Adolescent and Child Psychiatry (2005, May). Foster Care. Retrieved December 4, 2006
  2. Kerker, B., & Morrison, M. (2006, January). Mental Health Needs and Treatment of Foster Youth: Barriers and Opportunities. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 76(1), 138-147.
  3. Molin, R. (2005, January). Consent and Participation: Ethical Issues in the Treatment of Children in Out-of-Home Care. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 75(1), 1.
  4. San Francisco Chronicle Editorial (2005, October 14). Governor signs foster-care bills. San Francisco Chronicle, 10.2005, Retrieved December 4, 2006, from http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/editorials/article/Governor-signs-foster-care-bills-2602380.php
  5. San Francisco Chronicle Editorial (2006, November 2). Foster Care's Future. San Francisco Chronicle, 11.2006, Retrieved December 5, 2006
  6. ThinkExist.com (2006). Foster Care Quotes. Retrieved December 4, 2006, from http://en.thinkexist.com/quotes/with/keyword/foster/
  7. Wikipedia (2006). Foster Care. Retrieved December 5, 2006, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foster_care

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