Effects of Abuse and Neglect


According to a report by the Children’s Bureau, child abuse and neglect may stunt the physical development of the child’s brain and lead to psychological problems, such as low self-esteem, which could later lead to high-risk behaviors, such as substance abuse. Children raised in abusive or neglectful homes are often, but not always, removed from their homes and placed in foster care until a court deems it safe to once again give the parents’ custody of their child. However, the foster care system has received backlash for the lack of resources foster youth receive and the lack of preparation for the transition into adulthood and independence. Over the past several years the foster care system in California has begun addressing many of the issues affecting youth in the foster care system, such as youth transitioning out of the foster care system and how to best support their transition into adulthood. Several nonprofit organizations have also begun to provide services to foster youth transitioning into adulthood, such as employment assistance, education assistance, and mentorships programs.

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Aiding Marginalized Youth As They Transition Into Adulthood

My name is Caterin Miralda, and I am a second-year student at Santa Clara University School of Law. My ultimate goal is to become a public defender and to work on educational reform policy to benefit youth of color. I am currently interning at the Office of the Public Defender for the Santa Clara County, where I work on post-conviction cases. Additionally, I am an associate at the International Human Rights Clinic, where I am working on two human rights projects. I previously interned at Legal Services for Children (LSC) as an immigration intern, and at Legal Advocates for Children and Youth (LACY) as a dependency intern. My interests and previous work involve providing legal access and assistance to youth and marginalized populations, such as immigrants and indigent communities. This semester, my research will focus on extending existing policy that aims to help foster youth transition into adulthood. Specifically, I would like to extend existing resources offered only to foster youth to all youth who come from impoverished, abusive, or neglectful backgrounds. I contend that the well-documented poor outcomes of youth in the foster care system are largely attributable to poverty, in addition to the abuse and neglect they experience. I also contend that the foster care system fails to account for all abused and neglected children. Together, these issues suggest that many abused, neglected, and indigent youth need services they cannot access because they never make contact with the foster care system. Society needs to focus on this population—what I will call foster-adjacent youth—and create successful programs that will make existing resources more widely available.

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Sense of Stability: Specialized Group Homes and Their Benefits

In this final post, I’m going to begin by stealing a phrase from a former Australian politician and say that this is the post that brings home the bacon; this is the one that pulls the whole game together. In my second post, I talked at length about the particularly bad outcomes in foster care for TGNB youth. In the third post, I described the shortcomings of existing group homes and how legislative reforms may stymie efforts to create a congregate care facility designed specifically to meet the needs of TGNB youth.  In this final post, I will lay out in detail the logistical challenges of—and practical solutions to—the emotional and housing needs of TGNB youth, how specialized group homes are uniquely capable of meeting those needs. Continue reading “Sense of Stability: Specialized Group Homes and Their Benefits”

Sense of Belonging: Kinship, Companionship, Community, and Gender Identity in Foster Care

NOTE – It is necessary, now, to make a correction of an error in this post, and to better fit these posts up with a bit more vocabulary to enhance understanding of gender issues in foster care generally. Repeatedly throughout this post, I used the term transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) to refer to children and adults who are not cisgender. Cisgender [PDF pg. 1], according to the American Psychological Associations’ “Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People” is an “adjective used to describe a person whose gender identity and gender expression align with sex assigned at birth; a person who is not TGNC.” The issue with the TGNC terminology is that it is, in and of itself, exclusionary. A better terminology would be trans and gender non-binary (TGNB) because it fundamentally recognizes that gender is a spectrum, rather than a binary state.

As stated in my last post, transgender and gender non-conforming youth face unique and grave challenges in the foster care system. At its core, the fundamental risk faced by trans and gender non-binary (TGNB) youth is that they will suffer mistreatment, due to prejudice or indifference, in the care of non-specialized group homes—group homes that, as a result of the federal and state reforms seeking to move away from such institutions, will lack specially trained staff and targeted programming. This change means that TGNB youth will either be in group homes that don’t address their needs or be isolated in resource homes that also lack specialized training and programming.

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The Conundrums of Scaling Up

This post is part of the series of posts where I explore the question “Why does a pilot project succeed, but the following implementations fail?” In my previous post, I looked at how even successful social impact pilot projects fail to show similar results on being replicated due to various factors. I also hinted at pilot projects’ added complexity: while experiments only need to be replicated, pilot projects also need to be scaled up. In this post, I will deal with three essential aspects of scaling up that need to be accounted for: (1) the manner in which we define scaling up and its impact on funding; (2) the locational peculiarities of certain projects and finally, (3) the economics of demand and supply in scaling up.

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ACE Detection and Treatment: A Holistic Approach for Foster Youth

As explained in my previous posts, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are detrimental to juvenile development and have lasting affects that shape adult behavior. Therefore, the subsection of youth in the foster care system is vulnerable to the detrimental affects of ACEs and should be afforded additional care and services.

But since ACEs seem to be fairly pervasive, how do we determine who has ACEs and how many they have?

Implementation of a Universal Form of ACE Testing:

The 1998 Kaiser-CDC study that introduced ACEs found that 52% of participants reported at least 1 ACE, and 25% of participants had more than 2 ACEs. It is unlikely that the Kaiser-CDC ACE findings have decreased given that the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, greatly surpassing our neighbors abroad.  In the US, almost 1 in 28 children have a parent who is incarcerated. For that reason, it is important that a standardized ACE test is implemented as a base determination of child trauma and as a mechanism to assess what services may be beneficial to youth who are entering the dependency system.

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What Youth Need

Now that we have discussed how the basic needs of children include love, protection, a sense of nurturing and belonging, stability, and support, how do we ensure that youth within the foster care system are provided with these staples so they need not seek them from outside influences such as gangs? In this post, I will talk about how community-based services can help minimize and hopefully prevent gang involvement for youth within the foster care system, as well as ways in which we, as members of the community, may be able to provide these children with some sense of stability and consistency while they are in the chaos that is currently the foster care system.

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