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”

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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.

Continue reading “Sense of Belonging: Kinship, Companionship, Community, and Gender Identity in Foster Care”

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.

Continue reading “ACE Detection and Treatment: A Holistic Approach for Foster Youth”

The Dangers of Repressed Trauma: Mario’s Story of Overcoming Adverse Childhood Experiences

In my last post, I discussed ACEs and their effects on a macro-level. As previously discussed, adults with high ACE scores are more likely to exhibit maladaptive behaviors, including drug and alcohol use disorders. In 2017, approximately 19.7 million American citizens, aged 12 and older, had a substance abuse disorder related to abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs. In 2016 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) conducted a review of all drug overdose data. They found that accidental drug overdose was the cause of death for 63,632 Americans in 2016. The rate of overdose deaths increased in all categories, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socio-economic class.

Additionally, drug and alcohol disorders place a great strain on the criminal justice system. In 2018, 456,000 people were incarcerated for drug possession, trafficking, or other non-violent drug offense. According to a 2017 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug abuse and addiction cost the American economy more than $740 billion annually in “lost workplace productivity, healthcare expenses, and crime-related costs.” When the cost of addiction tops $740 billion and places such a strain on society, we are all affected by addiction, whether or not we personally struggle with substance abuse.

Continue reading “The Dangers of Repressed Trauma: Mario’s Story of Overcoming Adverse Childhood Experiences”

The Dangerous Classes: Why is Kinship Care the Hot New Thing?

In my last post, I explained why kinship foster care is the ideal out-of-home placement for children in foster care. The concept of extended families taking care of each other’s children is not new. Even today, millions of children are being raised by their relatives in informal kinship care, where government agencies are never involved. The modern increase in kinship care was a result of legislation intended to alleviate the nation’s decades-long foster home shortage. With their back against the wall, lawmakers are finally supporting the types of policies we should have used all along: placing kids with their families. Why did it take so long?

In this post, I will discuss the history of the Child Welfare System with a focus on socioeconomic class, and how that history impacts our system today. The forerunners of today’s Child Welfare System were right to focus on placing kids with families but were wrong about which families were best. That history helps explain why kinship care has been historically disfavored.

Continue reading “The Dangerous Classes: Why is Kinship Care the Hot New Thing?”

Stage 4 of 4: How Schools Can Improve the Academic Achievement of Youth with Trauma

I. Introduction

Part of what drove me to law school was a desire to leave the teaching profession. I left undergrad in 2008 and had been working with kids ever since. What I learned very quickly was that many of the youth I worked with had needs that I could never meet. The needs they had were not just educational. Many of the times they had emotional needs that I did not know how to handle. I cared SO much and yet felt so helpless. 

For my research this semester, I focused on youth in the foster care system as well as foster-adjacent youth because they ALL deal with some type of trauma. These youth have behavioral issues inside the classroom as a result of trauma from childhood (see my first post for more on how trauma directly impacts a youth’s education). The educational data is shocking. Youth in foster care are severely behind in reading, writing, math, and graduating from high school (for more on this, please see my second post). Most recently, I looked at what I thought were the 6 most common barriers that schools (teachers in particular) face when confronted with a student with trauma (post three). 

All of this research has led me to this final stage. How can schools effectively address the educational and emotional needs of youth with trauma? In this paper, I will discuss the various ways that schools can overcome the barriers I mentioned in my third post by examining how and why schools need to become “trauma-informed”, provide extracurricular activities, provide more counselors and reduce class sizes. 

Continue reading “Stage 4 of 4: How Schools Can Improve the Academic Achievement of Youth with Trauma”

Race Matters- Solutions to Address the Compounding Problem

In my first post I talked about why race matters in the child welfare system. In my second, I narrowed the focus to talk about why race should be considered in foster care placement decisions. I also acknowledged a significant limitation to considering race in placement decisions: the major shortage of foster homes. In this post, I will talk about potential solutions to the problems I discussed. While there are many ways in which I believe the child welfare system can be improved, I am limiting myself to three things that I believe can be done fairly easily in order to address race in placements: use kinship placements as much as possible, recruit more families of color, and provide better training to foster parents involved in transracial placements.

I would also like to recognize that none of these ideas is new or novel in this conversation, but I’m talking about them because they aren’t currently the norm. I believe that they need to be implemented on a much wider scale, and one way to start that process is simply by talking about them and letting people know that, first, there is a problem that needs to be solved, and, second, there are existing solutions that just need more support. Continue reading “Race Matters- Solutions to Address the Compounding Problem”