Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Why Permanent Foster Care?

Most kids in the foster care system eventually go back to birth family. Some get adopted. For a few, neither of these options is appropriate. Some kids have otherwise good parents who are too ill to care for them or are incarcerated. Some kids have experienced failed adoption placement and don't want to go through that again. And sometimes they are just "too old."

People who say that they are willing to adopt an older child are usually thinking about 8-12 year olds. Sometimes they are willing to consider younger teens. Once kids hit 16 though they are pretty much unadoptable. It is not just that the potential adoptive parents aren't interested -- the kids are no longer interested. They need to seriously think about planning for adulthood. They often don't have the emotional energy to go through the adoption process.

In many parts of the country those kids stay in "normal" foster families long term. Sometimes they get bounced around, sometimes they stay put. The problem is that the system is not set up to deal with their particular needs. They age out of care with little to no resources.

I work with a private agency that specializes in permanent foster care. Much of the training and support we receive is designed to help families maintain a long-term commitment to difficult children. So, for instance, they don't just offer counseling to kids, they will also pay for family counseling and occasionally even individual counseling for the parents.

They provide services for emancipated youth, including money for post-high school education and job training, although many of the youth do not take advantage of those services.

Parenting these kids often requires a light touch. Many of them do not want (or think they do not want) an emotional connection. They are not looking for a mommy, but they might accept a mentor.

5 comments:

  1. We really wanted to get into that when we started, we had a sibling group for 18 months, anytime we got close to adopting they would pull away. We tried to get the state to leave them with us in permanent foster care, but the state needed to get them adopted. They eventually got their wish, only the kids ran away, and it was the "new parents" problem. We tried to get the state to let us get involved, but they were not willing to educate the benefits of a mentor family to the new family and the new family wouldn't allow contact with us. So, three plus years later the kids have a "family" but are receiving no help. The oldest just aged out and contacted us, he hasn't lived with his family for a long time, I wish that there were more agencies who looked at permanent care as an option. Although I know that there are too many incentives for them to adopt everyone out, consequences be damned.

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  2. This makes so much sense to me. What state do you live in? My husband and I are going to do foster parent training this spring. It's great to hear about those services available through the agency you work with! I'm going to read a lot more of your blog.

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  3. Yondalla, Just over a year ago, I took in a sixteen year old girl, permanent foster placement. Now the plan is to keep her for one extra year, until she is 19 and graduates high school. I have been completely unable to access my local foster parent support group (my schedule) so I thank you for your blog, I feel better every time I read it. The day to day stuff is like a roller coaster, some great days followed by horrid, make me cry days. You help me every time I read your blog, to feel less insane and out of control. Thank you again.

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  4. My husband and I are feeling like we would really love to do something to impact the lives of teenagers. I was a ward of the state of Va and he is just not a "baby" person. We would love to offer a few teenagers the opportunity to have a "normal" life and stay in one place for all of thier high school, neither of us got that. We would adopt or be willing to have them placed with us for however many years necessary. Beyond the fact that we can pay our own bills and have no criminal background, how do we get involved with helping children that we can really help and make an impact on thier lives. Ant help is so appreciated!

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  5. I am against forced adoption and the 'recycling' of children so the state does not have responsibility for them and like you said makes it 'someone else's problem'.
    So the idea of permanent care is a fair one all year round on the children, birth parents who are unable to have them back and the carers who can get the support they need from the state without being fobbed off with adoption.

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