Pilot Child Welfare System Redesign
Strategic Action Plan
These webpages are a work in progress. They are open to the public to encourage comments, ideas, and improvements.
14. Foster Care
“More than 250,000 children are placed into the foster care system
in the United States every year.”
Basic Principles of State Child Protection
Current CPS Approach
Touchstones Tribal Approach
“The Casey Family Programs Northwest Foster Care Alumni Study was of various aspects of children who had been in foster care. Individuals who were in foster care experience higher rates of physical and psychiatric morbidity than the general population and suffer from not being able to trust and that can lead to placements breaking down. In the Casey study of foster children in Oregon and Washington state, they were found to have double the incidence of depression, 20% as compared to 10% and were found to have a higher rate of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than combat veterans with 25% of those studied having PTSD. Children in foster care have a higher probability of having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and deficits in executive functioning, anxiety as well as other developmental problems. Later in life, these children experience higher degrees of incarceration, poverty, homelessness, and suicide.”
Foster care appears to be based on the belief that once an abused or neglected child is removed from the abusive home, the child is suddenly whole, well, and happy. Some couples become foster parents with that concept firmly implanted. The child should be grateful that they have been saved from the toxic environment of their birth family. These “rescuer” couples are often surprised and even shocked when the child is not grateful; in fact, the child is angry, defiant, abusive, or depressed, frightened, and doesn’t want to be touched. Too often the child is removed from the “rescuers,” due to the child not living up to their ideal of a grateful child, happy to be saved. The “rescuers” may try again and again to find a grateful, happy child. Sometimes they find one and all is well. Sometimes they never find one and stop fostering.
Some couples understand the trauma the child suffered and show compassion and love towards a child. They provide for professional therapy for the child and treat the child as their own biological child. Often, these “supporters” provide the hope, help, and love the child needs to develop a different, more compassionate and loving view of themselves and their world. Some of these “supporters” adopt the child they fostered, to continue the family of choice. These are the success stories.
Unfortunately, what appears to be the majority of the foster care homes recognize the economic value of providing a room and food for a child, with minimal contact or interaction with the child. These “warehousers” are the common view of foster care in the United States. The traumatized child, taken from the only home they know, is placed in a warehouse, told to stay in the room, and not to bother anyone. The child receives the message loud and clear: Here is further proof that their life doesn’t matter, that they are being punished, that they are not worth loving, and no one cares.
As bad as the “warehousers” are to the traumatized child in their home, there is one more type that could be considered even worse. These are the “abusers”: individuals and couples who are in it for the money and for the child on whom they can take out their own rage or sexual fantasies. The child, already traumatized by an abusive home, finds another abusive home awaiting them. Their “abusers” take advantage of the child’s low self-esteem, lack of self-worth, and worldview of victimhood. Often, the child is faced with even more horrific home than the one they left. Not all children survive this type of foster home; those who do are scarred by the experience for life.
No mention is made of the “institutions” where some victims of child abuse or neglect are sent. These are not foster care; these are prisons where the child is stripped of any sense of self-worth or safety. This is children being punished for being victims.
Action Step 14.0.1: Adopt the practice from the National Indian Child Welfare Association of supporting the family to help the child.
Action Step 14.0.2: Replace the current Foster Care System with Temporary Therapeutic Respite Care Homes for children who have been severely abused or neglected, to heal their injuries and provide therapeutic care for their mental health. While the child heals and gains strength, the family is provided services to heal their own traumas and effect lifestyle changes to reunite with the child, if the child chooses to reunite with the family (age-appropriate).
 Cyndi Sorrell, 51 Useful Aging Out of Foster Care Statistics | Social Race Media, https://www.nfyi.org/51-useful-aging-out-of-foster-care-statistics-social-race-media/, accessed 8/29/2020
 Terry L. Cross, Seneca Nation PhD, MSW, ACSW, LCSW, Founder and Senior Advisor, National Indian Child Welfare Association, Decolonizing First Nations Child Welfare, Gathering Wisdom Forum, Vancouver, BC, December 1, 2016
To submit questions or comments, please email Jo@Jo-Calk.com. I welcome all input, ideas, and suggestions. Thank you for caring for children.