Foster Care Slideshow

December 7, 2009

By: Whitney Taylor

For over 20 years, Patrick and Pearl Ireton have been foster parents to medically fragile individuals.  The Iretons worked hard to make the foster care system better by doing things like pushing for legislation that will better the lives of their children.  Their main complaint about the system is that the children are not the priority.

It is hard for the Iretons to support their children because caring for them is a full time job for both parents.  Their main source of income comes from investing and property management.  The Iretons permanently adopted three of the six children who came into their care as babies in the late 1980’s: Ray, Mason, and Kristen.  They chose these three because they have the most functional disabilities and don’t need as much funding from the foster care system.  This funding is often harder to obtain when the child is adopted out of the system.  The other three, Noah, Jennifer, and Alex, require more government funding because their disabilities are more serious and intense.

Every foster child and foster situation is different, and this holds true in the Ireton family.  All the children have different medical conditions, family situations, and functional abilities.  Ray came to the Iretons with 37 skull fractures because of family abuse.  Now, he has a job in the community and also runs his own recycling business.  Mason was born with some of his internal organs outside of his body and had a feeding tube for most of his life, but today suffers only from Aspergers and ADHD and no longer requires a feeding tube.  In his free time, he likes to edit videos.  Kristen came to the Iretons with shaken baby syndrome.  This is a very serious condition that occurs when a parent or caregiver shakes a crying baby, in attempt to quiet the baby. Since infants are so fragile and their muscles and bones are not fully developed, the tissues in the brain can tear and bleed, causing serious and irreversible damage. She also required a tracheotomy for many years.  Now, she lives out of the house and has a boyfriend, but she still has to be careful and watch for seizures as well as other medical problems.  Noah has Vaters Syndrome and was not expected to live past 6 months or ever walk.  He has defeated the odds, and now he can use a walker, crawl, and is in his 20’s.  Jennifer has cerebral palsy and was also never expected to live past six months or walk, but in the Ireton’s care, he has learned to walk without assistance and is also in her 20’s.  Jennifer and Noah both attend a regular program that works with them intellectually and physically.  Recently, Alex has had multiple surgeries on his spine because he has an extreme case of scoliosis.  Alex still goes to the special education program at the local public high school.

Advertisements

A Foster Care Solution

December 4, 2009

Should the US government put more funding into the foster care system or is a reallocation of funds a better solution?

The foster care system is an important system for children with unfit family lives.  There are a variety of reasons that make children need foster care.  There is never a typical foster care case, but as adoption history researcher Professor Ellen Herman said, “kids don’t end up in foster care because they are well cared for.”   According, to the Casey Family Program, “there are over 500,000 children on any given day in America.” With so many children in care, the number of foster homes is too low, and too many existing foster homes are inadequate.  It is indisputable that the foster care system is struggling, which is why it is an issue on the whitehouse.gov website.   The foster care problem is a national problem, but it originates in local communities.  The problem is more concentrated in certain communities and states.  Should the US government put more funding into the foster care system?  Yes, but considering the current economic state of the country, more money isn’t the most viable solution.  There needs to be more local control of the foster care system.

Currently, many laws regarding foster care are the same nation wide, but every foster care situation is different, so this doesn’t make sense.  When dealing with foster care, it would be hard enough making suitable laws for every county, let alone the entire country.  In the fiscal year of 2006, there were an estimated 10,661 children in foster care in Oregon, while Mississippi had an estimated 3,126 children in care.  It is not possible that Oregon and Mississippi would handle such different numbers of children in the same way.  The answer to the issue of sheer numbers is giving states more control of the funds allotted to them. There are countless organizations dedicated to community building within the foster care system.  Some are national organizations, but almost all have local branches dedicated to helping foster families in need.  Some are parent organizations, and some work on the behalf of children.  The overwhelming amount of foster care organizations demonstrates the growing need for local control.

Local control of funds would help the system succeed because the local county headquarters would decide where their community is struggling the most. The major issues in the system are a lack of funding, a lack of foster homes, and a lack of information in communication and training.  However limited the funding may be, it would go a lot further in different communities.  If every county could spend the money how it was most needed, children would benefit.  For example, if foster children in one county were experiencing low graduation rates, an investment in education might be the best way to go about it.  If a different county was experiencing an overcrowding in foster homes, an investment in community outreach might be the best way for the money to be spent.  Since nearly every community across the nation is facing this problem that deals with children (America’s future generation) the national government does need to step up and help find the funds, but communities need to be the ultimate decision makers on where those funds are spent.

Local control is important because it creates a community of people with a common interest, and community is especially important in foster care. Children are placed in foster care because they don’t have anywhere else to go.  Having someone to turn to is important for children in foster care, and a community provides this to foster children.  It could come in the form of a foster home, a consistent caseworker, or CASA advocate.  It is a common complaint that foster children experience too much change once they enter the foster system.  For instance, Jessica Sanders, now 22 and living in Oregon, lived in the foster system for one year in Mississippi.  Before she entered the foster care system, she and her four siblings moved homes nearly every year.  When Jessica was 14 years old she entered the foster care system, and she and her siblings were all split up into different foster homes.  Keep in mind, all five of them experienced neglect and abuse in the overcrowded foster homes they were living in.  The siblings were reunited with their mother once, but this change came too soon.  Within just one month, the children were back in the foster system, all entering new homes yet again. With more caseworkers, volunteers, and foster parents in the county, the Sanders siblings could’ve all been kept together, with one worker who checked up on the mother more often.  In this community, outreach was a major issue.  There weren’t enough people working locally.  At the very least, more local organizations should have been there for the children, acting as an advocate and sense of community for them.

Many foster parents would agree that localizing the control and funds of the foster care system would improve the lives of foster children. One particular foster family, the Iretons, advocate for local control, and they have even lobbied the government for it.  They said that if more local control existed, their family situation could have been much different than it is today.  They had six medically fragile children since the children were infants, but when the kids turned 18, all the laws changed.  They had to choose one of their children to send to live somewhere else because a family can only have five medically fragile adults in one household, regardless of their situation.  If the system was localized and more flexible, the Iretons could have kept all six children in their home, since they had the space in their home and had been living that way for 18 years.  Instead, the Iretons had to send one of their medically fragile children away to a family friend’s home, due to a law created to prevent overcrowding in elderly foster care homes.  Luckily, their daughter doesn’t have to live far from home and comes to visit frequently, but the situation could have turned out better.

The system needs to change.  There are occasional success stories, but these stories usually defy the odds and require extremely dedicated parents.  The government needs to relinquish control of the foster care system and hand it over to the states, and the states to the county.  Every situation is different and every situation has a different solution.  Those solutions would be better assessed in local control. It’s not a matter of money but a matter of who is making the decisions.

Source Analysis

December 4, 2009

  1. http://www.youtube.com/CaseyFamilyPrograms This source explains the why the foster care system is struggling and what the Casey Family Program thinks needs to be done.  Their plan is to reduce the number of children in the foster care system by 2020 by giving help to families that need it most.  The Casey Family Program is a major organization within the foster care community, so this is an institutional source.  Stakeholders and researchers in the Casey Family Program comment in this video.  The audience isn’t the general public because the views on this video are very low, so it was most likely produced for those within the Casey Family and prospective donators, not to raise public awareness.  Since I first found this many weeks ago, the views have not increased much at all, maybe by 5 if anything.  If the video’s intensions were to raise public awareness it would give the wrong idea about foster care to many people because the video itself seems to be quite stereotypical.  If viewers watched all 30 minutes of video, they may feel differently.  The second video is stronger and makes the viewer want to help the system, but it has significantly less view than the first.  The introduction in the first video makes the viewer assume only minorities in poor excluded neighborhoods are in foster care, instead of the truth: children in need of foster care are in most neighborhoods across the country.
  2. http://www.nfpainc.org/ This is the site for the main organization that represents foster parents.  It has links to its sponsors and local organizations for foster parents.  It links to journalistic doucments for foster parents, tells the stories about exceptional foster parents, and publishes relevant press releases.  It’s a very straightforward site that works to bring support to foster families.  It also has links to events going on that foster parents could come together.  Foster parent organizations are important for support and for the foster parents to know their rights.  Their corporate sponsors and donators are probably the ones paying for the NFPA’s website and the things that they publish, and there are links at the bottom of the page to these sponsors and donators.  A foster family recommended this organization as a valuable source of information.  It is important for foster parents to have a support system of other foster parents, which is what the site aims to do.  It would also be helpful to new foster parents and foster parents who don’t foster on a regular basis.  There is information about parent’s rights and children’s rights in a straightforward format.  A lack of accessible information is a common issue for foster parents, so this organization and website is immensely helpful.  This helps show foster parents what they can do to help themselves and their children.
  3. http://www.casaforchildren.org/ This source is an nongovernmental institutional source that advocates for children in foster care.  It links to their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube sites as well as other foster care advocate and community sites.  It’s a little bit journalistic because it tells stories of foster kids and advocates, and it also tells about recent events.  This source is also trying to get volunteers and donations, so it’s promoting the CASA agenda.  It appeals to the general public, but specifically, those who want to help out in foster care situations without becoming a parent.  One of the most eye-catching things on this site is an interactive box, which allows the viewer to find a program near their community.  This site shows that the foster care system needs volunteers and foster parents.  CASA, and other organizations similar to CASA, work to set themselves apart from governmental organizations, but still make connections to them.  CASA makes it very obvious that it is looking to invest effort for the benefit of foster children while working side by side with government systems.  This shows the importance of community involvement and government funding working together to find the best solution.
  4. http://www.ncd.gov/newsroom/publications/2008/FosterCareSystem_Report.html This is a government report  on how foster care has a serious problems, especially with helping foster children with disabilities. The report is both journalistic and institutional.  This government organization, the National Council on Disability, uses this report to further their agenda, cause, and budget. The report was written by the members of the NCD and addressed to the White House in February of 2008.  It outlines the problems of the current system and states what should be done about such problems and why those solutions would help.  Their recommendations include an increase of the following: local control, government funding, training to parents, the number of foster parents, training to professionals and parents, quality education, concentration on those transitioning out of the system, communication to other government and welfare systems, and quality of data.  It is quite a large list of things that needs to be done, but the argument is that this would help many parts of society, not just foster care.  This government report also gives examples of the solutions it proposes already functioning and producing positive results. It also gives examples of where past solutions were not inclusive enough and need to be added to.
  5. http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2009/11/23/celebrating-national-adoption-day This is a press release on the whitehouse.gov website, so it is both institutional and journalistic.  It is an announcement that tells the involvement of the White House on National Adoption Day.  This article includes a short story about an adoption finalized on National Adoption Day, November 23; the main goal of National Adoption Day is to get courts to open their doors and finalize as many adoptions as possible.  The adoption story told on this page was of two children being adopted out foster care and into a permanent loving home.  This press release links to official government programs to gain more involvement within these programs and also to get more kids adopted out of the system. This document stresses the importance of good family lives for children, so they will become healthy and functional adults.  It mentions that President Obama also made November National Adoption Month.

  6. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/statistics/entryexit2006.htm This is a government institutional source and is in the form of a statistical report, which makes it a bit journalistic.  It includes state statistics about children entering and exiting the foster care system from the fiscal years of 2002 to 2006. The report outlines the trends of foster children in care and where they went after exiting care.  The main purpose of this site is to promote the budget of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ foster care division.  It gives a lot of data that could be used to focus in on the struggling areas of the system, or a reallocation of funds.  Although the site is for public view, it was probably created as a reference point and just published for public transparency and knowledge.  The Administration for Children and Families home page links to other programs, besides foster care, they are working with as well as other governmental sites.  Many of the ACF services directly deal with foster care because much of them deal with child welfare and community involvement.  The entire foster care division of this site gives all the technical answers that current and prospective foster parents and children need to know.  There are also multiple reports and answers to frequently asked questions.
  7. http://www.cffo.org/ This institutional source is the website for the Children First for Oregon organization, a non governmental agency with the motto, “We get results for kids.”  Their goal is to help the children struggling in Oregon by helping with finances, obtaining healthcare, and supporting the children with whatever they need to succeed. The people that are paying for this are asking for assistance to keep the organization helping kids.  It creates awareness that kids need help, and this site makes the issue a personal one because you can see how many kids are struggling in your community.  The sources within this site are other foster care sites and has an entire section devoted to the Casey Family Foundation.  It shows that foster care is a complex system and every part of it needs funding to benefit the children.  This site is a more local site than the sites dedicated to foster care from the national government.  It is much more personalized and touches the hearts of prospective donors or volunteers.  Under the “Latest News” section the first story is all about saying, “Yes!” to helping kids.  It is much more interactive and tries to make the issue hit as close to home as possible for all the viewers of this page.
  8. An Interview with Pat and Pearl Ireton. The Iretons have been foster parents in the Medically Fragile branch of the system since the 1980’s in Oregon and California, and they have fought many legal battles to gain rights for their foster children’s specific needs.  They are a citizen source, but have been actively involved in making legal changes to the system. The legal changes they want to make include more rights for foster parents and more funding for the system. They said that funding is hard to find, but it can be found in strange places and from different branches of the foster care system.  The interview took place on November 8th 2009 in their home. The Medically Fragile foster care branch is a unique sector of foster care.  On top of having an unfortunate biological family situation, these children also have mental and physical disabilities. The Iretons currently have five children at home, they have permanently adopted two and the other three were chosen for long-term foster care.  Another child they adopted was forced out of their home and into a family friend’s home due to a law that mandated only five mentally fragile adults could live in one house. The Iretons suggested few foster parent organizations as well as some people they worked with on the legal side of the issue.
  9. An Interview with Ellen Herman.  Ellen Herman, department head of history at the University of Oregon, published a book on the history of adoption in America.  In this book there is a section about fostering.  The interview took place on October 26th 2009.  Herman is more of an expert on adoption, but does have some knowledge of and experience with foster care.  She worked in court cases on the Citizen Review Board, or the CRB.    There, she and a panel of others decided court cases about where an individual foster child would go, usually either reunite with parents or terminate parent rights indefinitely.  Every case was confidential and very different from one another.  Most involved many people, but some involved only a few.  Some cases were very complicated and long, but some were very close to resolution and short.   She noted that overall most court cases were not the best solution for the children, and the goal in these cases was to get the children back to their biological family, if possible.
  10. http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2009/06/oregons_foster_care_kids_shoul.html This is an article intended to recruit volunteers to CASA. It is a journalistic source, but is also an institutional source, in a sense.  Since the author is advocating for more volunteers, specifically male volunteers, he is pushing an agenda. He mentions how an increase in funding would be helpful, but also how community organizations cost less money because they are usually non-profit and staffed by volunteers. It was written by George Reed on June 27, 2009.  He directly linked the phone number and website to the organization he was advocating for.  The OregonLive website links to other articles from the Oregonian, and has corporate sponsors down the side of the page.  Besides that, there are not links to other foster care articles.  There are only six comments on this article, which isn’t that many since this article has been up for many months.  It proves that the subject of foster care is a subject many people don’t know much about.

Preliminary Sources

November 13, 2009

Should there be more or a reallocation of government funding for the U.S. foster care system?

As it is now, the US foster care system is struggling.  Since there is no standard foster situation, every family has a different solution.  There needs to be a reallocation of funds within the system and a major reworking.  The system is outdated and overworked but still necessary.  While foster homes are in short supply, there are an ever-growing number of foster children.  The government and organizations need to step in and help the system function for the children again.

10 Sources with descriptions

  1. http://www.youtube.com/CaseyFamilyPrograms This source explains the why the foster care system needs to be changed and how the Casey Family Program plans to change the system.  Their plan is to make sure children in the foster care system grow up into healthy and functional adults.  The Casey Family Program is a major organization within the foster care community, so this is an institutional source.  Stakeholders comment in this video and researchers in the Casey Family Program.  The audience isn’t really the general public because the views on this video are very low, so it was most likely produced for those within the Casey Family and prospective volunteers or donators, not to raise public awareness.  If it was to raise public awareness I feel like it would give the wrong idea about foster care to many people because the video itself seems to be quite stereotypical.
  2. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=9128917 This source is a story on NPR about a foster child who was abused by the foster care system.  She didn’t know that she was entitled to money from the state while in care because of her learning disabilities.  These checks could have come in useful.  This story is a journalistic source telling a citizen’s story, so it was produced for the general public to hear.  The story’s intentions were most likely to expose issues within the system and create an emotional and personal connection with the system and whom the system hurts.  It ends with a call to action, so the story was definitely promoting an agenda.
  3. http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/children/fosteradopt/foster/ This source is directly asking for people to step up and become foster parents.  It plays on emotions, describing the need for good foster parents and why they are so desperately needed.  It says being a foster parent will not only better the child but the community and the parents who take them in as well.  It’s a government source, so it’s institutional.  They need more parents because the system is struggling, which they don’t mention on this page.  So this site is promoting their agenda (finding homes for foster children), their budget, and their reputation (which is under scrutiny now, because of the large number of inadequate foster homes that exist).  There are no outside links on this site.
  4. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6575915&ps=rs This source is another story on NPR, but is under the opinion section of the site.  It tells the story of a boy who was in foster care for over 10 years.  He tells the rare story of beating the odds of a foster child “aging out” of the system.  He graduated from a four-year university and went to work in Washington DC.  This story is also a journalist source telling a community story produced for the general public.  It was to create awareness and show that the foster care system does do good things for the kids in it, sometimes.
  5. http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/10/oregons_foster_children_find_f.html This source is another personal story, but it’s based around a foster parent.  In this story, the foster parent was painted in a positive light; the story says that there needs to be more foster parents like this man, Anthony Dixon.  This journalistic source was promoting an increase in number of foster parents because there aren’t enough of them.  It also talked about the problems of not having enough money to support all the children, but a focus on family values is what was key to having a successful foster family.  The source was definitely promoting being a foster parent to make a difference in the community.  The sources within this site are mainly connections to foster care institutions, government, and organizational sites.
  6. http://www.cffo.org/site/page/donate_now/ This institutional source is the donation page for the Children First for Oregon organization.  Their goal is to help the children struggling in Oregon by helping with finances, obtaining healthcare, and supporting the children with whatever they need to succeed. The people that are paying for this are asking for help to keep the organization helping kids.  It creates awareness that kids need help, and this site makes the issue a personal one because you can see how many kids are struggling in your community.  The sources within this site are other foster care sites and has an entire section devoted to the Casey Family Foundation.  It shows that foster care is a complex system and every part of it needs funding to benefit the children.
  7. http://www.casaforchildren.org/site/c.mtJSJ7MPIsE/b.5301295/k.BE9A/Home.htm This source is another institutional source, which is not governmental, advocating for children in foster care.  It links to Facebook, twitter, youtube, other foster care advocate sites, and community sites.  It’s a little bit journalistic because it tells stories of foster kids and advocates, and it also tells about recent events.  This source is also trying to get volunteers and donations, so it’s promoting the CASA agenda.  It appeals to the general public and specifically those looking to help out in foster care situations without becoming a parent.  It’s interesting because CASA and other organizations similar to CASA work to set themselves apart from governmental organizations, but still make connections to them.  They make it very obvious they’re looking to invest effort for the child’s benefit while working with government systems.
  8. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/tar/report14.htm This source is a government institutional source in the form of a report, so it is also a little journalistic.  It links to other government sites that are directly related to this topic.  The report outlines the trends of foster children in care and where they went after exiting care.  The main purpose of this site is to promote the budget of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ foster care division.  It gives a lot of data that could be used to focus in on the struggling areas of the system, or a reallocation of funds.  Although the site is for public view, it was probably created as a reference point and just published for public transparency and knowledge.
  9. http://www.childrensrights.org/ This source is an institutional source dedicated to helping kids across the nation get the support they need.  This site is definitely also a journalistic site because it tells about current legislation and how it affects children.  This site acts as an advocate for children that need one.  The external links are to the Children’s Rights Facebook page, Twitter page, and Youtube page.  They mainly work on court cases for legal advancements.  It is in no way unbiased, but actively fights against what it sees to be unjust.    The audience is for the general public, to raise awareness for their cause and find donators and volunteers.
  10. http://www.nfpainc.org/ This is the site for the main organization that represents foster parents.  It has links to its sponsors and local organizations for foster parents.  It has links to journalistic publishings for foster parents, tells the stories about exceptional foster parents, and publishes relevant press releases.  It’s a very straightforward site that works to bring support to foster families.  It also has links to events going on that foster parents could come together.  Foster parent organizations are important for support and for the foster parents to know their rights.  Their corporate sponsors and donators are probably the ones paying for the NFPA’s website and the things that they publish.

Visual Analysis

October 21, 2009

This image promotes the foster care division of the Department of Health and Human Services in Tasmania.  This is similar to the foster care system in America, a governmental institution, so the photo comes from an institutional source.  DHHS is trying to persuade people to work for their institution by appealing to their emotions with this poster.  In the frame, there is a toddler in an empty home that appears to belong to no one.  The floor is dirty and the walls are empty.  It is clearly not a loving home, and the child looks cold, upset, and lonely.  Many things in this scene could have been left out.  For example, more people (parents or siblings), furniture, lighting, or whatever it is that is capturing the child’s attention.  The advertisement makes the viewer want to help, and to make a difference in such a sad situation.

This video segment is about a child in foster care, yearning for a family. It is a journalistic source, because the video was produced for KXL4, a news station in Washington. It was produced as part of a weekly special featuring a child in foster care every Wednesday. The goal of these segments was to find a home for Cody and children like him. The news station was trying to find a gripping story and do a good deed, both of which were accomplished in this video. The video works to appeal to as many people as possible, by telling his interests. The frame includes Cody having a good time and being extremely articulate about his situation. What the frame doesn’t show is any hardships of actually taking a child in or Cody’s history and why he is in this situation. This video also makes the viewer want to get involved with this situation.

Timeline:

1851—Massachusetts Adoption of Children Act is the first piece of legislation for adoption standards.

1920—Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) is established, sets agency standards, and eventually becomes a leading authority for adoption.

1940’s and 1950’s—Demand for adoptable children increases in the baby boom era, known as the “Baby Scoop Era”

1973—Roe v Wade. Abortion is legalized.  There are not as many desirable healthy white infants to adopt.

1975—Adoption agencies redefine adoption standards and no longer consider any child without a home “unadoptable”

1980—Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act becomes one of the first federal laws to ensure adopted children are taken care of properly by providing money and physical protection

1997—Adoption and Safe Families Act adds more clauses to the AACWA and increases funding for the foster care and adoption system.

1999—Foster Care Independence Act signed into effect. This increases spending and coverage for young adults in foster care.

2004—Braam case settled and enforces old legislation more effectively and adds new areas of improvement.

2008—Arkansas Unmarried Couple Adoption Ban makes it illegal for anyone outside of marriage to adopt or become foster parents.

5 Alternative links:

http://www.uoregon.edu/~adoption/index.html
This site is devoted to the history adoption.  It provides a lot of good outside resources and facts that contribute to problems and successes in adoption and foster care.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2008103465_braam10m.html
This is an article published in the Seattle Times about struggling issues in the foster care system and how the Braam case affects the foster care system.

http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/children/fostercare/rates/
This webpage shows foster care reimbursement plans in Oregon.  The whole site is very useful to get an understanding of foster parents or prospective foster parents.

http://www.adoptioninstitute.org/publications/2005_listenparents_all.pdf
This document was a study conducted to see why prospective foster or adoptive parents decided against adopting or fostering a child.  The document suggests a lot of things agencies can do to increase placements for children.

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3402800022.html
This is an encyclopedia entry that tells a lot about the history of adoption and the problems in the past and present.  It’s also a useful guideline.

Summary:

These links provide a good background of the topic, as well as an entry into the current issues of the struggles in the foster care system.  One current issue involves increasing the amount of foster care families available to take in children, and there is much debate as to who is a suitable parent and who is not.  Another issue is the lack of funding that is going into the certain programs, and inadequately using that funding.  Child safety and sibling bonds are also issues that state foster care is dealing with.  All of these web pages are relevant and extremely helpful in this research.  It is indisputable that the foster care system needs assistance because there are many children in America without any type of safe and loving home.