Foster Culture

March 30, 2011

What happens to youth that exit care??

Filed under: Uncategorized — fosterculture @ 2:46 am
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Well, it’s hard to say actually because at this time there is no way to adequately follow the youth to quantify their outcomes. Oh wait, someone just changed that. it’s called NYTD, National Youth in Transition Database. The idea is, that a youth will fill out this little form while they are still in care and they will fill it out once they’ve been out of care. A few issues I have with this:

1. If the Chafee Providers (older youth services) are not able to get youth to comply with this, they will lose funding.
2. Have you ever tried to find a youth once they are out of foster care…not that easy!
3. Youth and young adults that are homeless do not usually want people to know they are homeless. Seriously, they are embarrassed about this, so there’s probably not a lot of reason for them to be honest with NYTD.
4. If the youth is homeless (as most of the that leave foster care usually are) will they base that on the McKinney Vinto definition or the HUD definition.

There are more, but this is my first post in a long time, so I think I’ll stop while I’m ahead. I think tracking youth that leave care is a good idea, but it doesn’t seem like the NYTD is well thought out, as usual, it’s over-thunked.
I feel the need to offer a solution if I’m going to complain…I say, use facebook! Put the entire database on facebook somehow and friend each youth before they leave care.

Okay, it feels good to be back. I have lots of thoughts and topics to cover, so hopefully my next post will be sooner than later.

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April 4, 2008

Dysfunctional

That’s how I have to describe this children’s services system.

I thought I hated it when I was a client of it, when I was born and raised in foster homes, residential, career and behavioral – I think now that I see the other side, as an adult – an advocate for youth – I hate it even more now.

It would be incorrect for me to generalize the system too much, I have had the pleasure of meeting case managers and therapists and program managers that are very dedicated to the cause of serving youth in foster care. However, those that turn their nose, that don’t call back, that make a fuss – they are the ones that make the system unsuccessful.

There are times that I feel the need to put my job on the line and stand up and let these ass holes know the effect they have on their coworkers, team members and most importantly, the youth.

Yeah, the kids…

Keandre Jackson.  Does anyone remember her? Shouldn’t she be the lesson?

If you where once a foster youth scorned by the system, please check back soon…I’m going to put together a letter or petition or something and send it to Jeff City or somewhere, demanding that some new policies be put in place. I’ll figure it out.

March 8, 2008

Case Managers

   If you are considering becoming a case manager for youth in foster care there are a few things you should know first…

1. If you consider your 9-5 just that, maybe this isn’t the job for you. Your kids will need your time and attention, just like if they were your own.

2. If you get annoyed easily, then this isn’t the job for you. Working in this field requires patience with your clients as abuse and/or neglect hey have suffered as skewed their reality and they perceive the world around them in a much different way.

3. If you’re in ut to change the world, just sign up for peace corp or become a legislature. This is a thankless, underpaid job and the youth that you work with aren’t necessarily going like you let alone appreciate you.

4. Know that bureaucracies and red tape are a part of this system. A person going into this field should expect that if you are trying to get something done, it’s often about who you know and what you can offer back. Anyone brand new to the feild will have a hard time getting things done, especially of any of their ideas are innovative and actually make sense.

5. Salaried means just that – if your job demands more than 40 hours of your time, then make sure you cn give more than 40 hours of your time, otherwise you could be leaving an  at-risk youth at-risk.

6. There are foster parents that are in it for the money.

7. Sometimes you need to believe the kids.

8. You’ll need to have a firm command on the school system and the way it functions in order to properly serve your clients.

These are just a few things that come to mind right away. I’m sure I’ll add more eventually.

February 17, 2008

In preparation

I’m writing this in response to the comment I copied below:

“What were your main concerns were after leaving the foster care system? I work with kids in the FCS, and am interested on how best to prepare them for emancipation.”

I think there is a lot of information about preparing youth for independent living that social service organizations are putting to pretty good use. Those skills such as finding and keeping a job, using public transportation, budgeting and being resourceful are all very important.

The biggest problem with all this, in my opinion, is that a lot of the youth needing to learn these skills are more interested in their friends and social life. All the rest is secondary to them, especially youth in foster care. Since they often do not have a family structure as a support system, they rely on their friends for this, which of course is typical for a teenager, but this is a little more to the extreme.

Even when I after emancipation, I was still pretty immature, so putting my ILP skills to youth was still not as important. What I did was find a group of peers that were also considered “social misfits”and we all worked together (in a family structure) to survive, not always through legal means I might add.

Being in foster care gave me two very important survival skills for this time period in my life, 1.I was used to and comfortable with relying on other that I barely knew for help and resources, yet had good instinct about who was and was not trustworthy and 2.The knowledge that I could skip out on this group of “friends” anytime I needed to, ie. wasn’t getting  my needs met, felt uncomfortable or thought there was something better out there (the grass is always greener).

If any adult working with young people in foster care think back to their young adulthood, try to remember the moments you called your folks for help with bills, ride, food, laundry, anything. Create a foster youth canon text for your foster youth aging out, make sure they have the telephone number of every library, neighborhood center, youth outreach program, employment search out there. If you are the type of adult that gets really involved, give them numbers to reach you. You might get a phone call two years down the road from an emancipated foster youth needing a ride to a job interview and they can;t take the bus cause it’s raining, or help trying to understand how to buy a car or whatever.

There are certain thing we can prepare any young person for, but it’s not until they are there themselves that they’ll truly understand what the point of all that training was for and it’s about that time that they’ll realize they don’t actually know everything.

In each of these foster youth canon texts, along with community resources include their birth certificate, social security cards, family health history, transcripts, court document proving that they are independent  persons, immunization records, old tax documents, street guides (teach them how to use it), the name all the the free health clinics, a copy of their most important medical records…anything you can think of that they might/will need as a young adult in this society.

Teaching them to organize themselves is important, but a small plastic file folder/separator thing that they can throw their bills into. I know that I wasn’t nor did I care to be organized until I was in my mid 20’s.

These are just a few things that would have been good for me to have around, but really, even in all my rebellion, knowing that someone would still be there for me no matter what was what I needed…all the material thing I mentioned sure would have helped a lot too, might’ve even kept me out of come trouble. Hope that helps someone.

November 22, 2007

A personal story…

Filed under: foster parents,foster teens,Foster youth,life,me,personal — fosterculture @ 4:27 am

Since I never was able to really connect with a family while in foster care, the family structure/environment is uncomfortable for me. Which makes the whole holiday time of year a little difficult for me.

So for Thanksgiving day, instead of putting myself through the torture of trying to fit in and play the holiday family day, I’m going to a group home I work at sometimes for teenage girls in foster care that are pregnant or already have children. One girl I know that lives there is 16 and pregnant with her second child and is due December 2nd. She has no where to go for the holiday, so I’m going to her. Yes, a few people have said that that is very thoughtful and kind of me, but in reality, it is not that altruistic. Being in that setting, with other people that have no where else to go, that is my comfort zone. I know I will not feel out of place or intrusive the entire time I am there. Places like that is where I spent all my holidays growing up and they were rarely with the same people for more that one or two years in a row.

I have children now and am happy to spend the holidays with them, but when it comes time to visit  the family they have on their dad’s side, I am unable to participate. Sometimes I feel bad about it, but then I remember, that’s just me.

One of my favorite books is titled Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons. It is about a girl that goes to live in a foster home and so she renames herself Ellen Foster. I like that.

November 7, 2007

Kansas State Student Database

It is not uncommon for children and teens in foster care to move placements several times in one year, which also means new schools. Often times the previous school will take longer than necessary to send transcripts to the current school thereby delaying the students enrollment and/or placement in appropriate classes and educational support.

For example, I know a young man that required a full day of self contained classes and was developmentally delayed. The school had not yet received the students IEP and transcripts and so this young man was placed in all regular classes with the rest of the student population. As if moving to a new foster home wasn’t stressful enough, having to go through several school days without proper support made the transition a traumatic experience.

A personal example: I lived in a residential treatment center and went to the local public school. It was determined that I was ready to live in a transitional living group home in a new school district. In the RTC, one of my school books turned up missing (not unusual in these types of placements) and that school refused to release my transcripts to the new school until someone had paid for the book. Well after running away several more times and changing to two more school before the end of the school year, my transcripts still did not follow me. Several years later, when I was on my own, I had to prove to the college I was enrolling in that I had taken a college level algebra course in high school and had no way to do this, because alas, my transcripts were still being held hostage. And of course, I did not have the money to pay for that one book.

So finally, one state was brave enough to try something new, to identify a problem and come up with a solution, something that I find amazing seeing as how it is part of the whole, ya know, “system”.

The state of Kansas created a student database, with a focus on foster youth, that school will be able to access the most current up-to-date records for the youth no matter how often they move or where they move in the state.
The organization I work for will be going to the state capital soon talk to legislatures about this awesome database and how much it could help foster youth.

Click here if yo’dlike to read more about the Kansas student database.

October 23, 2007

Emancipation at 21

So here’s the thing…people who are under the age of 21 should not be emancipated from the foster care system. I don’t care if they think they are ready, I don’t care if they hate the programs, if they are on the run or anything. The fact is, people that age are jsut not ready to be out in the world completely alone.

Here’s an example of why, true story:

A young couple came to my work today seeking shelter, claiming that they were homeless. They were both 18 years old and did not have a place to sleep that night. Someone in my office sat them down with a resource book to call shelters around the area. There was nothing available to them that evening. The young man’s boss finally agreed to let them stay with him, but reluctantly so. I doubt when this young man asked to be emancipated that he had any clue that he would be homeless. Of course he thought he was going to have a place to stay. To make it worse, the girl that was with him mentioned that together they had 2 children and that both of them were deceased. WTF, who in their right mind thought that this was a person ready to be released into the world?

That kid had no idea that he was part of that 50% statistic.

October 17, 2007

Aging Out Stats

I just wanted to highlite a few of the statistics I have written in the margins.

50% of people that had been in foster care become homeless at some point in their lives.

30% of foster youth graduate from high school or obtain their GED before they are emancipated or age out of the foster care system.

I talked to a woman that runs a teen homeless street outreach program that told me that 30% of the youth they find living on the streets that they being to the youth shelter had been in foster care at some point in their lives.

These are just a few. I am personally very curious about the percentage of foster youth that receive disability services. I think we will find that a very high percent of foster youth having learning or behavioral disabilities and require special education services and vocational services. There’s more too, but I have to get off the computer now.

Entitlement

Foster youth often have a strong sense of entitlement that shows in their behaviors, especially if they’ve been instituationalized. This often comes from abuses they have suffered intheir lives and as a consequence, having to live in states custody. Yes, the initial abuse is no longer occurring, but for a teen living with the stigma of being a “foster kid” and not having the very nice clothes, the ability to hang out with friends or have freedoms that other teens may have, they begin to feel like they are “owed” even more. Why are they treated this way, when they were the victim in the situation. Some teens prefer to go back to the abuse so they are able to live, at least superficially, a more normalized life.

 Of course, everything I write is a generalized. I meet teens in foster care everyday that are humbling examples of the human spirit. When I encounter one of these youth, I am just so amazed and know that there is something very unique about them.

I feel like getting past the sense of entitlement is crucial so that a teen can progress in their life and learn to be responsible self advocates. I know that in my situation, I overcame this with age. I was an exception in that I lived in foster care my entire life…my joke was, “The state of Missouri is my mom”, so the sense of entitlement came from the idea that I did not feel as if my faux mom was taking care of my properly.

I also feel like allowing teens in foster care to have more control over their lives is important, the expectation must be that they will make several huge mistakes in this process, it is only natural for foster youth to subconsciousy sabotage their placement (a subject I will elaborate on, eventually).

ILP and TLP programs work with this idea in mind, but I feel their expectations of the youth are sometime too high.

October 16, 2007

Foster Culture, wah?

Foster Culture, wah?

I was in the foster care system for 18 years of my life before I was emancipated by a judge on my eighteenth birthday. In that 18 years, I lived in countless foster homes, residential facilities, group homes, transitional living programs, hospitals and even juvenile detention. Running away was just part of who I was a teenager and demanding to be moved for little or no reason was standard.

I am now an adult and work with older foster youth. There are many things that have come to light through this job. The dysfunction of the foster care system, the subculture of foster youth and even the grave statistics that they face when entering adulthood.

Through this blog, I will retell my own stories and those of people I lived with while in care, enter injustices as I see them, statistical facts and mostly, information about the subculture of foster youth. The last for the important reason that it is a subject I have never been able to read about and one that I am very much a part of. People that have lived in foster care think differently, relate to others differently and survive differently.

I will say this, I am not a writer by nature. I am going to put it down in the most real way that I can and hope that it all makes sense.  Word.

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