Foster Culture

October 15, 2007

When Foster Care Ends

An article restating the facts about Aging Out Foster Youth and what they face. It is pretty clear that the symptom of the problem is becoming clear, but still no one addresses the issue of the young age at which foster youth are emancipated.

What happens when foster care ends?

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
September 12, 2004
Special to the Post-Dispatch

Estimated printed pages: 3

“On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System” By Martha Shirk and Gary Stangler Published by Westview, 307 pages, $24.95 For most members of conventional society, foster children are out of sight, out of mind, even though there are hundreds of thousands of them across the nation. Almost without exception, foster children attain that status through no fault of their own, having been abused or neglected by their parents. Most foster children end up being moved again and again until they reach the age of majority — 18 in most states, 21 in a few. When reaching that age, foster children tend to be ill-prepared to live independently. They lack a loving support network, are usually without money, and many suffer from learning disabilities, mental illness or disorders leading to violent behavior. Martha Shirk is a journalist who has specialized in children and family issues for a couple of decades, much of it at the Post-Dispatch. Gary Stangler is former director of the Missouri Social Services Department, which exercises responsibility for foster children, and now executive director of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, headquartered in Clayton. Together, Shirk and Stangler have written a searing book about one aspect of the foster-care mess — the older teenagers who age out of the system meant to protect their welfare. The bulk of the book is devoted to eight case studies, including the death by drowning of one-time foster child Reggie Kelsey at age 18 three years ago in Des Moines, Iowa. The child-welfare system had served Kelsey more or less well, given his learning disabilities and mental illness. But any semblance of effective service halted when Kelsey turned 18, despite his inability to negotiate life on his own. The other case studies are set in Lawrence, Kan.; Boston; Brooklyn; San Antonio, Texas; San Francisco; and Pembroke Pines, Fla. Those diverse locales show the national scope of the problem. Foster children end up in all sorts of situations after they age out, even when from the same family. Shirk and Stangler chronicle the story of Jermaine, Jeffrey and Lamar Williams, close-knit brothers from Brooklyn. After they were sent to a home for abused and neglected children, Lamar, the youngest, adjusted well. Jermaine and Jeffrey rebelled. Jermaine ended up dead at age 28 because of an accident related to a drug deal. Jeffrey ended up in prison for armed robbery. Lamar graduated from college, found a good-paying job, married and lives on Long Island. Casey-Jack Kitos of Lawrence, Kan., after aging out of the system, joined the military, but ended up with a medical discharge. He found a job at a service station paying just above minimum wage. He decided to save for a college education, but then backed away from that course. A municipal water department hired him, but a few weeks later fired him. He quit or lost other jobs quickly. As his chapter ends, Kitos is 21, holding a part-time job, trying college after all, but unsure whether he will graduate. Shirk and Stangler, assisted by a foreword from former President Jimmy Carter, suggest reforms in this book, which is part solid journalism, part advocacy. The only way to bring about true reform, however, is for many currently unengaged adults to open their hearts and their homes to children in need of assistance. All the money in the world devoted to social-service agencies (which, in the real world, are perpetually underfunded) cannot make much of a dent otherwise. ===================== Martha Shirk, Gary Stangler When: 7 p.m. Monday Where: Left Bank Books, 399 North Euclid Avenue How much: Free More info: 314-367-6731 or

Photo – “On Their Own: What Happens to Kids When They Age Out of the Foster Care System”


Memo: Steve Weinberg is a freelance journalist in Columbia, Mo.

Edition: Five Star Lift
Section: A&E
Page: D10

Index Terms: book review

Copyright (c) 2004 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Record Number: 1000089873

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What happens when foster care ends?



“Getting Older is Not Easy For Youth in Foster Care”

Getting older is not easy for youths in foster care

St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
April 23, 2006

Estimated printed pages: 3

Spring is the time of the year when most 17- and 18-year-olds begin to think about proms, high school graduations and entering college. Most teenagers have the emotional and financial support of family as they mark these milestones. Unfortunately, for youth in foster care, these events are fraught with challenges and obstacles. Without money for formal attire, transportation and graduation fees, some withdraw from these time-honored rites of passage. When youth who have aged out of foster care discuss their experiences, they often share what it is like when a parent or caregiver is not there to attend important school events, particularly their high school graduation. Every year, an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 young people exit the foster-care system, and many find it difficult to cope with the consequences of long and often unstable experiences living in and out of home placement. These young people tell stories of not wanting to form bonds with foster families or participate in the family’s social activities. Unlike their peers, youths in the system often are confronted with emotional, behavioral, developmental and health afflictions. To overcome these challenges, young people aging out of foster care need extra supports like economic security, stable housing upon discharge and access to health services. However, high unemployment rates, scarcity of jobs and the lack of affordable housing options put young people transitioning out of foster care at a significant disadvantage. Stepping up to the plate to help raise awareness and to give youths in foster care a voice is the National Foster Youth Advisory Council. Council members believe that with a solid discharge plan and a reliable support network, youths formerly in foster care can become thriving, productive and contributing members of their communities. Members of the National Foster Youth Advisory Council have developed a series of position statements to express their collective opinions about issues, like housing, education, permanency and peer mentoring, they believe are essential to successfully transition out of the foster-care system. The council believes all young people need and deserve: > opportunities to work closely with social workers to develop solid, effective transition plans; > information, resources and strategies that promote positive educational experiences; > compassionate, committed adults who are willing to be lifelong connections; > opportunities and resources that allow them to build a healthy peer support network; > safe, stable and affordable housing prior to discharge; > access to resources, services and financial supports that promote and support long-term success and positive housing outcomes; and > advocates who will support their needs and voice that all these things are connected. Fortunately, there are many young people who do not have to worry about where they are going to live or how much money they will have to earn to make this month’s rent, buy food, pay utilities or cover transportation costs. In fact, according to the 2000 Census, 4 million people ages 25 to 34 lived with their parents due to current economic realities. Unfortunately, many young people in foster care do not have the option of turning to their families for help. Instead, they have to figure out how to make ends meet on their own, even though events in their lives place them at an increased risk for experiencing adversity in the process. As with everyone, many facets of a youth’s life are connected, making it even more important to support them in all areas before and while they transition from foster care into adulthood. Let’s begin this spring by making a commitment to volunteer at your local foster-care agency or by participating in a mentoring program for youths in foster care to help bring hope for a brighter future to the thousands of youths who will age out of the system this year. The National Foster Youth Advisory Council, supported by the Child Welfare League of America and the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, is a diverse, national group of current and former foster youths committed to providing a voice and making a difference in the lives of youths in foster care. For more information on this issue, visit Source: ARA

When youth who have aged out of foster care discuss their experiences, they often share what it is like when a parent or caregiver is not there to attend important school events, particularly their high school graduation. Without money for formal attire, transportation and graduation fees, some withdraw from these time-honored rites of passage.

Section:  HOME
Page:  1SH

Copyright (c) 2006 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Record Number:  0010068365
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Getting older is not easy for youths in foster care

October 14, 2007

A Foster Youth’s Team

The following is a list of the adults in a foster youth’s life that is living in a residential treatment center:

Case Manager-The person that handles the youth’s case for the state, they are supposed to provide resources, file papers on youth’s behalf, represent youth, visit with youth, lead Family Support Team Meetings, etc. This person is a STATE employee, the typical overworked, underpaid state employee. Often times, it is difficult to get these folks to return phone calls, emails or faxes. If they are responsive, it is usually because they are working more than 40 hours a week and doing this on their own personal time. Even a bleeding heart can only live like this for so long. Most don’t last too long.

Case Manager’s Supervisor-This person helps to oversee a child’s case within foster care, often oversees the case manager to make sure they are following procedure and sometimes returning phone calls. It is pretty known that if they case manager is not following up with phone calls, calling the supervisor is the next step.

GAL- Guardian ad Litem- The following information was copied as the legal termonology becomes a bit complicated. Imagine trying to understand this as a youth in foster care. I copied it from this website. The descriptions are specific to those in Missouri.

The exact legal role of a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) depends on the jurisdiction in which the GAL is appointed and on whether or not the GAL is an attorney. There are several quite different models for representation of children in court: (1) the Child’s Attorney; (2) the Attorney/GAL; and (3) the Non-Attorney GAL.

The Child’s Attorney. The ABA Guidelines for Representation of Children in Abuse/Neglect Cases suggest that an attorney appointed to represent a child should act as in any other attorney-client relationship, advocating only the child’s wishes without making any independent judgment of the child’s best interests. A child in Missouri may have an attorney in addition to a GAL, but Missouri statutes, case law, and GAL Standards make it quite clear that the GAL-child relationship in Missouri is not the same as an attorney-client relationship. (Note: In the original draft of the GAL Standards, it was suggested that when the GAL’s recommendations were not in agreement with the child’s wishes, the GAL should inform the Court so that the Court could consider appointing a separate attorney to advocate for the child’s wishes. This was in Standard 3.0 in the committee draft, but was not included in the GAL Standards approved by the Missouri Supreme Court.) Since they are distinctly different from Guardians Ad Litem, attorneys appointed or otherwise serving as a Child’s Attorney should not be subject to the GAL Standards. They should, however, pay special attention to Missouri Rules of Professional Conduct 1.14 (Client Under a Disability), 1.2 (Scope of Representation), 1.4 (Communication with Client), 1.6 (Confidentiality), and 3.7 (Lawyer as Witness). For further suggestions, see the ABA Guidelines.

The Attorney/GAL. Appointment of a Guardian Ad Litem is authorized by statute in dissolutions/modifications, paternity cases, adoptions, and certain cases involving allegations of abuse and/or neglect of a child. The Missouri Supreme Court Standards for Guardians Ad Litem clearly state that “a guardian ad litem, whether a lawyer or a volunteer, shall be guided by the best interests of the child and shall exercise independent judgment on behalf of the child in all matters.” (Standard 2.0.) If you are a GAL in Missouri and you have not read the GAL Standards, you need to read them right now. These standards make it clear that the days of the Attorney/GAL acting as a “potted plant” at the counsel table are over.

The Non-Attorney GAL. Two Missouri statutes (210.160.5 and 452.423.5 RSMo) authorize appointment of non-attorney volunteers “to assist in the performance of the guardian ad litem duties for the court.” This has been interpreted in some courts to allow the appointment of such non-attorney volunteers directly as GALs, and this is supported by Standard 1.0 of the Missouri Supreme Court Standards for Guardians Ad Litem, which expressly authorizes the appointment of CASA volunteers, sworn as officers of the Court, as GALs. When a non-attorney is appointed as GAL, the Non-Attorney GAL is subject to the same GAL Standards as Attorney/GALs. A Non-Attorney GAL should have access to the advice and assistance of an attorney when necessary. (See Standard 4.0, 210.160.6 RSMo.) For further legal issues concerning Non-Attorney GALs and CASAs, see below. Placement Worker- This is the person that coordinates the case of each youth within the residential treatment facility. They coordinate appointments with Mentors, therapists, outside agency support, case managers, family visits, court dates, etc. They are often responsible for making sure the youth’s case file is in accordance with the Children’s Division, Division of Family Services or any other state run procedures. There’s a lot of accountability to this position, as with the case manager’s. Often times it placement workers are also overworked and have a huge caseload, by caseload, I ma of course referring to the youth they are serving.

DJO-Division of Juvenile Officer-All teens in Missouri have a DJo assigned to them for some reason, I’m not clear as to the purpose, since not all youth in the system have had legal issues in their case.

Therapist-What else needs to be said. Sometimes the therapist has the dual role of placement contact.

Staff-In shifts, these are the folks that work one on one with the youth in their “dorms” or “houses” or whatever they might be called. They make sure they are up for school, they are using proper hygiene, take them shopping, sometimes on outings. are at the cafeteria on time, meet with visitors, etc.

Mentor/Big Brother/Big Sister – A volunteer who befriends a youth in need of extra one on one time with an adult.

IEP-The more I work in the system, the more I realize that a large percentage of foster youth have IEP’s for school. An Iep is an Individualized Educational Plan. I am going to write a blog and try to do more investigation on the correlation of IEP’s with youth in foster care, but as for now I will state the people within a school district that is in the child’s life if they have an IEP. Special Education teacher, Special Education Representative, Child Advocate, a person representing school Administration, Speech/Language/Occupational Therapist (if needed), Tutor, Mainstream teacher, Educational Surrogate, School counselor and whomever else may be involved with the Educational Team.

CASA-Court Appointed Special Advocate – An Advocate for the child, duh.

Adoption Specialist – If the teen is interested in being adopted, an adoption specialist is always involved.

DMH Worker-Department of Mental Health Worker – If the youth has a mental diagnosis, their is usually a DMH worker appointed to the child to make sure they are receiving proper Mental Health Care.

Imagine all the adults in the life of a foster kid. Imagine how every aspect of a foster teens life is effected by procedure, policy, service, standards, outcomes, permanency plans, program goals and personal goals. A teenager. A person who is in a time in their life, when, despite circumstances, they just want to hang out with friends, learn to drive, go to prom, wear the latest trends, have a boyfriend/girlfriend and live life. I’m not trying to superficially minimize the life of a teenage living in a more traditional setting, but these are some of the major things that occupy a teens mind. Something to consider in the investigation into Foster Culture.

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