U.S. CWS Redesign – 1.5 Intervention: Redesigned CWS – After Recovery Care Options


United States Child Welfare System Redesign

Strategic Action Plan


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1.5 Intervention: Redesigned CWS – After Recovery Care Options

In the current Foster Care System, children who are not reunified with their family, are not adopted, and are not under a guardianship “age-out” of foster care and are released out into the world at age 18 (or 19-21, depending on the state). Most of these former fosters have received no mental health therapy to overcome the trauma of their abusive childhood, most have been in the “warehouser” type of foster care “home,” yet they are released and the door shut behind them.

What happens to those who age-out of foster care? Up to half of them may become homeless, depending on the state in which they live, as can be seen from the following table. The table lists the percentage of foster care graduates who age-out of foster care and report being homeless at least part of the successive years in which they are interviewed: once at age 17, then at age 19, and then at age 21. The table is sorted by the percentage who experienced homelessness at age 21. One take-away from this table is: if you age-out of foster care, hope that you are in Illinois, not Idaho.

Foster Care Graduates Percent Reporting Experiences with Homelessness
Age 17 Age 19 Age 21
FY 2014 FY 2016 FY 2018
Puerto Rico 0% 0% 0%
Illinois 14% 14% 7%
West Virginia 11% 25% 14%
New Jersey 8% 11% 16%
Arizona 15% 8% 17%
Connecticut 11% 15% 17%
Missouri 17% 9% 17%
Arkansas 27% 13% 18%
Maryland 8% 9% 18%
Indiana 17% 16% 19%
North Dakota 22% 24% 19%
Mississippi 5% 17% 20%
Alabama 4% 7% 21%
Louisiana 8% 16% 23%
New York 15% 10% 23%
Utah 24% 14% 23%
California 14% 18% 25%
Georgia 14% 17% 25%
Massachusetts 18% 25% 25%
Hawaii 30% 44% 27%
Iowa 20% 23% 27%
Rhode Island 17% 19% 28%
National 17% 20% 29%
Nebraska 13% 15% 30%
Wyoming 21% 28% 30%
Kentucky 22% 28% 31%
Maine 31% 23% 31%
New Hampshire 9% 22% 32%
Oregon 25% 16% 32%
Pennsylvania 16% 27% 32%
Washington 37% 25% 32%
Michigan 21% 24% 33%
North Carolina 27% 27% 33%
Tennessee 7% 23% 33%
Texas 20% 25% 33%
Minnesota 18% 28% 34%
South Carolina 33% 16% 34%
Delaware 18% 31% 35%
Kansas 14% 25% 35%
Colorado 19% 25% 36%
Virginia 17% 16% 36%
Florida 20% 18% 37%
Ohio 15% 29% 37%
Wisconsin 19% 24% 38%
Nevada 33% 41% 42%
South Dakota 6% 34% 42%
Alaska 22% 36% 44%
District of Columbia 25% 19% 44%
New Mexico 43% 23% 44%
Oklahoma 33% 29% 46%
Montana 27% 53% 50%
Vermont 5% 44% 54%
Idaho 32% 55% 58%

Homelessness, incarceration, teen pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse, and a range of other lives in turmoil await graduates of the currently designed Foster Care System. This totally unnecessary and thoughtless treatment of abused and neglected children is one of the many drivers for the Redesigned Child Welfare System, which needs to be changed from the beginning of the child’s interaction with CWS until the end.


Foster Care Youth and Alumni Take Action Against Homelessness

Source: Lisa Dickson, Communications chair, ACTION Ohio (Alumni of Care Together Improving Outcomes Now), Columbus https://www.dispatch.com/opinion/20200824/letter-young-people-in-foster-care-authored-housing-voucher-bill?fbclid=IwAR28ApcVQMgPZjUdUzCE7zaitmn4-vsf7lgt_rsRVt3V_zUI5kyqzK5Ouus

“ACTION Ohio is deeply proud of what Ohio foster youths accomplished by designing federal housing mechanisms that are creating a positive ripple effect throughout the nation. Their 2019 meeting with HUD Secretary Ben Carson led to the creation of the Foster Youth to Independence Initiative.

Ohio’s foster care youth and alumni have authored a federal bill, which passed by unanimous consent in the U.S. House of Representatives, and is currently being considered by the Senate. This bill is based on the ability of child welfare to anticipate the date when a young person ages out of foster care, and to access a housing voucher that is timed with their exit.

This cost-neutral solution was designed by the young people themselves, with support from the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare, to weave together existing resources to create a platform for economic independence, resulting in employment, improved educational prospects and self-sufficiency.”


Runaways from Foster Care

“Youth in [a] study suggested ways to improve their experiences in care. In general, they want more opportunities to see their families and stay connected to their neighborhoods and friends. They want to talk to someone who will listen to them, get to know them, and help them work through difficulties. Although this need could be met by a foster parent, many of these teens felt they couldn’t talk to their foster parents.

Teens who ran also wanted more support from caseworkers, including more frequent visits where caseworkers spend time listening to youth to hear how they are really doing. Those who were unhappy with their placements felt a move would have helped.”

Source: https://fosteringperspectives.org/fpv18n2/runaways.htm




Redesigned Therapeutic Respite Care System

In the Redesigned Therapeutic Respite Care System, the traumatized and abused child is taken to a caring home, which may belong to a relative (kin) or a stranger, but in which the child receives care, support, medical and mental healthcare, therapy, and self-esteem building most children take for granted in a loving, caring family home. Rather than languishing in a “warehouse” until they are 18 years old, the intent of the Therapeutic Respite Care Home is to rehabilitate and result in a healthy recovery for the child, at the child’s pace. The intent, in most cases, is to heal the child, educate and heal the family, and return the child safely to the family, with frequent visitations by Family Services Workers until all, especially the child, feel that the child is safe at home and can be released from CWS oversight.

Although statistics and other such data are obviously not available until the Redesigned Child Welfare System is implemented and functioning smoothly, it is anticipated that at least 80% of the children who had to be removed from the family home due to concerns for the safety of the child and/or extensive injuries to the child, will be reunified with the family – when both the family and the child are in agreement that the child will be safe at home. Therapeutic Respite Care Homes are temporary healing homes. 

In the Redesigned Child Welfare System, no parent is ever forced to surrender custody of the child – unless the parent chooses to surrender their rights or the parent is arrested for child assault and battery, child rape/incest or other criminal charge for which the parent will be incarcerated for years, and there is no other parent for the child. It is anticipated that these cases would be minimal, with the resultant major reduction in the number of children needing adoption or guardianship in the future. This would also mean that there would be a major reduction in the number of children who age-out of Therapeutic Respite Care; those that do age-out will have every opportunity any other child has thanks to the supportive care of the Therapeutic Respite Care Home.


Recommendations from the Foster Care Youth and Alumni:

Action 1.5.1 Implement the Foster Youth to Independence Initiative in all 50 states.

Action 1.5.2 Provide more opportunities for a child in a Therapeutic Respite Care Home to see their family and stay connected to their neighborhood and friends.

Action 1.5.3 Ensure the Placement Worker visits the child in the Therapeutic Respite Care Home weekly and schedules time to listen to the child without Care Home staff involved; they want to talk to someone who will listen to them, get to know them, and help them work through difficulties. Although this need could be met by a foster parent, many of these teens felt they couldn’t talk to their foster parents. Teens who ran also wanted more support from caseworkers, including more frequent visits where caseworkers spend time listening to youth to hear how they are really doing. Because the Placement Worker sees the child every week, a closer relationship between the child and the Placement Worker may provide the listening needs of the child.

Action 1.5.4 As part of the weekly visits to the child at the Therapeutic Respite Care Home, the Placement Worker listens to the child if they were unhappy with their placements, and determine if a move would help the child and be in the child’s best interest. The Placement Worker would notify the CPS Caseworker of the request from the child, locate a suitable Therapeutic Respite Care Home, have the child visit the Home, and, if satisfied, help move the child to the new Home.


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To submit questions or comments, please email Jo@Jo-Calk.com. I welcome all input, ideas, and suggestions. Thank you for caring for children.


Jo Calk