How Foster Care affects the criminal justice in the United States
A detailed history of the creation of the social agency
Historically, the destiny of dependent children has been put on adult’s contributions and goodwill where adults were expected to look after the dependent children. Throughout the history of the United States, the children welfare system has evolved according to shifting values and attitudes about what responsibilities governmental agencies should take in the defence and care of abandoned and abused children. In the US, it was English Poor Law, which led to the growth and eventual legislation of family foster care.
In the year 1562, these regulations permitted the placements of needy children into practice service until they were old enough to be self-sufficient. When the children became old enough, they were permitted to move on with life and live on their own.
This system was brought to the US and marked the foundation of placing children into willing families. Although this practice allowed cruelty and mistreatment, it was a step ahead from almshouses where children didn’t gain any skills and were exposed to unbearable environs and unsavoury people.
At this time, the early government interventions on behalf of children needing care were characterized more by realistic concerns about meeting the physical needs of children rather than by concern about the negative consequences of abuse and abandonment of children’s development.
John (1993) notes “in 1636, at the time the Jamestown Colony was found, aged seven years old, Benjamin Eaton became US’s first foster child.”
As public awareness about child abuse and the damage it caused grew, the importance of child protection received greater attention by government officials. (Tarren & Hazell 2006) notes “in 1853, Charles Loring Brace, then a minister and director of the New York Children’s Aid Society, formed the free foster home movement group with the main concern of the increasing number of homeless and hungry children in the streets of New York.”
Brace saw the need and came up with a system to offer these children homes. Acknowledging, it was Brace’s caring and imaginative actions which marked the beginning of the foster care agency. (John 1993).
Gradually, the foster care system started to take course. Starting in the early 1900s, the federal Government and other social bodies became more concerned and engaged themselves in looking and offering homes to these needy children. Now, foster parents were required to have licences and have reports and records to ensure that the children received proper care of in a decent and dependable manner.
In 1997, the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was enacted and was meant to reduce the duration children were permitted to remain in foster care before they could be adopted. The Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 was passed to help promote youths who were becoming of age to attain self-sufficiency.
The most recent legislation is the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008, which extends other benefits and financing for foster children at the age bracket, 18-21 and for Indian children in racial regions.
A presentation of the mission statement of the social agency
Foster care is inspired to provide a place where children can heal, fostering families build up, and where peacefulness and private development are achieved. The intention of foster care agency is to evade unnecessary institutionalization of children and adults by offering caring, community-based, in-home placings to the many needy children.
The mission of foster care under the child welfare system in the United States is to provide care to children. The system recognizes that foster care should be an inclusive teamwork effort among the care-givers, social workers, the placing agencies, the birth parents, the children and those contributing to the children’s welfare.
Foster care is not only put in place to cater for the provision of safe alternative homes for neglected children but to provide permanent and well being for the children. The role of foster care is a surrogate parent to the children and infants. The social agency’s role of provision of permanent and long-term foster care to children and young people in need of a permanent family placement is a very vital issue that the social agency strives to fulfill. It is not only relevant for the social agencies but also for the judicial system.
Foster care promotes family-based assistance to out-of-home children by: enabling the exchange of information among persons and organizations of different regions; enhancing foster care as a vital plan of family based care; organizing conferences and seminars; consultations; socializing; and assistance. It aims at providing safe, permanent and fostering families within the children’s own environment by sustaining bonds; thus reducing the negative impacts.
Financial reports/summaries of the operations of the social agency
In 1995, each state got more than $2.7 billion in federal aid for about half of the approximated The Federal government offers significant financial assistance to fund foster care programs. The government’s contribution is seen to have grown from about $300 million in 1981 to nearly $10 billion in 2005.
According to the General Accounting Office, in 1993 almost $1.2 billion Federal dollars were allocated to foster care maintenance, while a supplementary $1.2 billion in refunds were allocated to states for foster care-related administrative programs in 495,000 children in foster care. By 2001, federal assistance rose to $4.7 billion with the number of foster care children assisted by the federal increasing by about 26%.
According to a study conducted by the Child Welfare League of America, “the annual welfare cost of one child living with his or her mother is $2,644, while the average cost for the child’s care in residential group care is $36,500.” (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2004). Currently, the annual expenditures on foster care services are estimated at 15 billion dollar.
A critical analysis of the effectiveness of the social agency
The Fosters care agency has a lot of challenges that affect its effectiveness when caring out its mandate. The social agency plays a very crucial role as it has a character of the social rehabilitation agency. The social agency faces limited recourses despite the fact that there has been a growing demand for the services nationally.
Therefore the agency cannot carry it some of it vital roles hence lack the positive results that the agency is supposed to deliver. The lack of resources has resulted in missing the targets set by the agency as its daily expenditure increases especially in the training programs for the foster parents and adolescent children and in maintaining its interaction with the criminal justice system. (Harden 2004)
The agency has a very intensive program which is involved in the training of children who have different social problems. The involvement of children in juvenile delinquencies stems from exposure to abuse and an extremely distressing experience that causes severe emotional shock and may have long-lasting psychological effects often co-occurs with mood and anxiety problems among children and young people. Other causes may be depressing relationships between the children and their surroundings and social hostility.
For girls it is much more complex due to the fact that they are present in male oriented institutions and programs that are not well crafted to their specific needs. Therefore there is need for services to be based and set up in consideration of gender. This highlighted by figures showing a steady increase in delinquencies among females as compared to males (Lawrence, et al 2006)
ways in which the social agency could improve its effectiveness towards its social goals.
The social agency in its endeavor to improve its effectiveness and realize its mission and goal of providing permanence in foster care to underprivileged children, should prepare reports on a monthly basis so as to assess progress and analyze what needs to be done.
This reports should be discussed by all stakeholders so that solutions and policies being developed should be inclusive and be able to cater for all children under foster care whether males or females. The criminal justice board should carry out periodical monitoring workshops to ensure that the agencies are effective.
Cooperation between the social agency and the criminal justice system is very vital for effective services to be realized. The social agency should adhere to performance analyst monitors put in place by the criminal justice system and analyses performance in relation to warrants, community penalty breaches and awarding of licenses.
On the other hand, in case of breach of the rules and regulations by social agencies, the criminal justice system should effect penalties such as revocation of licenses.
Prediction concerning the future of the social agency and its impact on the criminal justice system
The Future of the social agency lies in it taking measures to correct the current challenges that it is facing in order to remain efficient and effective and more importantly, have a healthy and sustainable relationship with the criminal justice system.
In order to do this, the agency should be well funded to run its programs effectively thus not experience budgetary constraints as it is have before. In addition the agency should recruit more Para-legal and legal staff to assist in the judicial and legal operations that hence making it easy to work with the criminal justice system by bringing corrective programs into its system at an early stage.
Another issue affecting the agency is lack of enough placements hence more children are still being left out in hostile environments whereby they develop into juveniles at a very young age and carry with them this trait into adulthood or into the foster care program should they get a placement. Past research has shown that former children in foster homes, at least 42 per cent of them ended in prisons once they got into adulthood while 15 percent of them got to prison during their teen hood.
Therefore in order for the agency to be successful, apart from its economical and human resource factors, the agency should take into account the role that placement of children in homes has on them. Thus children who are placed in environmentally friendly homes grow to develop positive attributes while those who are in hostile environments develop negative attributes, a factor that plays a big role in them ending up in prison later on.
Thus both the agency and the criminal justice system should device positive and educative training programs to train the children into being more positive and self conscience while getting rid of attributes they might have acquired during the foster program. Also there should be continuous supervision of children in the program to ensure that they are in placements that contribute to their welfare in the end. (U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2004).
Hence if all the above factors are taken into consideration, the agency is bound to produce positive results while decreasing the number of children who end up in the criminal justice system.
Harden, B (2004). “Safety and stability for foster children: a developmental perspective”. The Future of children / Center for the Future of Children, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Vol. 11, pp 34-89.
John K. ( 1993). Adoption of Children with Special Needs, Brookings Institution: The Future of Children, Vol. 3, Adoption, pp. 62-76
Lawrence, C. Carlson, E & Egeland, B (2006). “The impact of foster care on development”. Development and psychopathology, Vol 1, pp. 57–76.
Tarren, M; & Hazell, P (2006). “Mental health of children in foster and kinship care in New South Wales, Australia”. Journal of paediatrics and child health, Vol 3, pp. 89–97.
U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, (2004). Child Maltreatment, Vol 6, pp.25-96.