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Children in Foster Homes Essay (Critical Writing)

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Nesmith, A. (2006). Predictors of running away from family foster care. Child Welfare League of America, 85(3), 585-609.

Study Participants

352 individuals with age range from 11-18 year old. Most of the youth in this sample were Caucasian with ethnic minorities comprising only 25% (Nesmith, 2006). Males comprise 59% and females comprise 41% of the sample.

Setting: A private treatment family foster care agency assigns these youths to foster parents. They were placed in the agency’s family foster homes located in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Study Design/Methodology: They were placed in foster homes between October 1995 and July 1995. They stayed in foster care for at least three months. The methodology can be described as prospective, longitudinal, and focused to a single group of participants. Measures used to determine factors contributing to running away are: child demographics; child behavior checklist; biological family investment scale; foster parent decision-making scale; foster home assessment scale; and other single-question items. Analytical tools are: descriptive; bivariate comparisons; and multiple failure time hazard analysis. Independent variables were selected based on risks identified in literature. Independent variables are identified through cumulative risk theory and developmental theories that help point out their importance in terms of adjustment outcomes (Nesmith, 2006). Variables include biological family investment; quality and warmth of the foster family; child internalizing and externalizing behaviors; number of close friends; history of running away; and number of previous placements (Nesmith, 2006).

Purpose of the Study (how does this apply to OT): The study helps OT to understand the root cause of running away when teenagers are already in foster homes. If this knowledge is made available to OT practitioners then they can develop therapy strategies that can help teenagers to overcome the mental and emotional struggles that they go through and by doing so prevent them from running away once again. For instance the negative impact of maltreatment received from biological parents can be dealt with because it has been identified as a major reason for running away from home. The teenager has to overcome the impact of such experiences in order for negative feelings not to create a chain-reaction of emotional responses that makes it impossible to deal with the current situation.

Intervention(s) Highlighted through the Research: Intervention techniques were not evaluated in this study but insights can be gleaned from the research when it comes to devising appropriate intervention strategies. For instance, it would be helpful if therapists adapts regular use of the CBCL; evaluate the quality of foster parenting to locate more effective foster parents; reassessment of the permanency plan; and strengthening the competence of foster care parents (Nesmith, 2006).

Outcomes/Main Findings (if quantitative, were results statistically significant p<0.05):

American Indian youths were more than likely to run away as compared to Caucasian youths. The older the youth, the greater is the likelihood of running away. A history of running away also increases the odds of running away again. Youth with permanency plans of “other’ were 89% more likely to run away and a change in permanency plan reduces the likelihood of running away.

Study Conclusions/Implications for OT Practice: The OT practitioner can use insights gleaned from this study to develop intervention strategies.

Strengths/Weaknesses of the Study

A major limitation of the study is the lack of a nonfoster care comparison group and the inability to model the selection process to foster care (Nesmith, 2006, p. 597). There is a possibility that an important independent variable was omitted but this is an inevitable limitation considering that this is social research. Finally, there was no information collected that pertains to inputs coming from biological families. It is important to find out the similarities and differences in the way biological and foster care parents treat the participant. The strength of the study can be seen in the fact that it is longitudinal. Furthermore, the proponents of the research were able to track down the participants from the time they were assigned to foster homes and the time they were discharged.

Gramkowski, B. et al. (2009). Health risk behavior of youth in foster care. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 22(2), 77-85.

Study Participants: Youths with age range between 11-17 years old. The sample was 56 youth in foster care.

Setting: Data was taken from a larger study “Improving Health and Development of Foster Adolescents.” Data was gathered using the Demographics Form. Participants are from the San Francisco Bay Area.

Study Design/Methodology: The CHIP-AE has six domains and interviewing the adolescents and asking them questions verbally they have to make comments regarding six domains of health which include discomfort, disorder, satisfaction with health, resilience, achievement, and risks (Gramkowski et al., 2009). The study also looked into the 3 subdomains of risk: individual risks; threats to achievement; and peer influence. Data entry was made using a SPSS 15.0 and then analyzed using t test and ANOVA.

Purpose of the Study (how does this apply to OT): The purpose of the study is to determine the link between risk behavior and foster care. Risky behavior can lead to health problems and therefore it is imperative to identify risk behavior.

Intervention(s) Highlighted through the Research: No intervention strategies were tested in this study. But insights gleaned from studying the results would help OT practitioners in developing appropriate intervention strategies. One of which is to help adolescent cope with problems when the subject are still in their younger adolescent years. The older the subject the more difficult it is to intervene and expect positive results.

Outcomes/Main Findings (if quantitative, were results statistically significant p<0.05):

It was discovered that “youth in foster care demonstrated increased risk behavior when compared to youth in a normative adolescent population” (Gramkowski et al., 2009, p.78). Another important finding is that participants belonging to a younger age group exhibited less risky behavior ( Gramkowski et al., 2009). It was also discovered that risk behavior is greater when it comes to youth in group homes. Risk behavior was also greater when the adolescent experienced parental death or had a history of physical or emotional abuse. Risky behavior was also greater for adolescents with a history of attempted suicide.

Study Conclusions/Implications for OT Practice: The OT practitioner can glean insights and important information from this study. OT practitioners can focus on younger adolescents because according to research findings there is higher chances of successful intervention in this age group. OT practitioners can also issue warnings when it comes to older adolescents because of their greater propensity for risky behavior and therefore a specialized program can be designed just for them. OT practitioners can also develop intervention strategies for adolescents that went through traumatic episodes in their lives.

Strengths/Weaknesses of the Study: There was no control group. There should be a comparison made in other foster homes in other states. The group studied has relatively younger age. The participants had an involved mentor and Court appointed advocate that may have reduced the tendency for risky behavior. Finally, many of the risk questions involved vehicles but most of the participants had no access to vehicles. However, the strength of the study is the use of appropriate analytical tools as well as the consideration of the literacy levels of the participants. Furthermore, the strength of the study can also be seen in the findings that adolescents are more accurate in describing the state of their health as compared to data gathered through observation.

Geenen, S. & Powers, L. (2006). Are we ignoring youths with disabilities in foster care: An examination of their school performance. Social Work, 51(3), 233-241.

Study Participants: Adolescents ages 13 through 21 who attended school in a large urban school district in Oregon.

Setting: Foster care adolescents studying within an urban school district in Oregon.

Study Design/Methodology: 278 foster care youth were identified and it was determined which among this group received special education services. There was “a comparison group of 81 students ages 13 to 21 who were in special education only but not in foster care was used” (Geenen & Powers, 2006, p.234). ANOVA was used as the primary analytical tool. The independent variable was “group status: foster care and special education; foster care only; special education only; or general education only” (Geenen & Powers, 2006, p.235).

Purpose of the Study (how does this apply to OT)

The purpose of this study was “to investigate the academic achievement of youths involved in foster care and special education” (Geenen & Powers, 2006, p.234). OT practitioners can use insights gleaned from the study to develop intervention strategies aimed at foster care adolescents receiving special education services because this group performed poorly as compared to other groups.

Intervention(s) Highlighted through the Research: No intervention strategies was tested in this study. However, OT practitioners can use the results of the study to develop appropriate intervention strategies. One of which is to develop a program that would help foster care adolescents that have disabilities.

Outcomes/Main Findings (if quantitative, were results statistically significant p<0.05):

Youths in foster care “with disabilities had lower GPA, earned fewer credits toward graduation, lower scores on state testing, and more likely to be exempted from testing” (Geenen & Powers, 2006, p.239). They fared poorly compared to adolescents with disabilities and yet not in foster care. This means that it is not their disabilities that caused poor performance. The problem can be traced to the tremendous challenges faced by foster care adolescents that are at the same having some form of disability. The adolescent had to make adjustments regarding foster care and at the same time had to deal with the challenges that come with being in a special education class.

Study Conclusions/Implications for OT Practice: The study revealed that children in foster care had a difficult time achieving academic excellence. This is exacerbated by another factor which is disability. Thus, the adolescent in foster care and struggling with a disability has lower GPA and other academic related scores as compared to adolescent in foster care only and adolescent with disabilities only. This suggests that the problem is related to the need to deal with two different challenges. The adolescent in question has to deal with the intricacies of foster care and special education at the same time. OT practitioners can develop intervention strategies specifically designed for foster care adolescents that have disabilities.

Strengths/Weaknesses of the Study

It is possible that some of the children in the foster care only group have a certain type of disability but were not singled out for special education services. This can be due to wrong diagnosis or undocumented problem. The sample is limited to only one urban school district. There was no way to determine the level of severity when it comes to disability. Finally, there was no way to determine the type of care received in the foster home and how they were treated in special education classes had impacted their academic performance. However, the use of stratified sampling provided assurance that the different groups resembled one another in terms of disability type (Geenen & Powers, 2006).

References

Geenen, S. & Powers, L. (2006). Are we ignoring youths with disabilities in foster care? An examination of their school performance. Social Work, 51(3), 233-241.

Gramkowski, B. et al. (2009). Health risk behavior of youth in foster care. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 22(2), 77-85.

Nesmith, A. (2006). Predictors of running away from family foster care. Child Welfare League of America, 85(3), 585-609.

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