Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Troubled Homes are Still Better than Foster Care

I was reading an article in USA Today while on my beach vacation in Florida (possibly pictures to come later). Anyway, the gist of the article is that children who stay in troubled families fare better than those put into foster care:

Children whose families are investigated for abuse or neglect are likely to do better in life if they stay with their families than if they go into foster care, according to a pioneering study.

The findings intensify a vigorous debate in child welfare: whether children are better served with their families or away from them.

Some statistics provided by the study were 14% of those who stayed with their troubled family were arrested at least once vs. 44% who were arrested if they were placed in foster care; 33% of those who stayed with their troubled family became teen mothers vs. 56% of those who went into foster care and finally, 33% from troubled families were able to hold a job for three months vs. only 20% for those in foster care.

I agree with a professor in the article that says more research is needed to determine whether or not kids do better in foster care; however, if state intervention is found to lead to more problems for kids, perhaps figuring out how to keep children in their homes is a better solution.


Blogger Jerub-Baal said...

Hmmmm.... this sounds like a time to parse the study itself. First order of business, I'm a foster dad, so I have some obvious biases here.

I would want to know how they arrived at their statistics, and what their connections and biases are. There is a strong componant of people 'in the system' who believe that the birth family is always best, regardless of the situations of each individual case. I find this as equally suspect as those who believe the state should have an unlimited right to intervene. Anyone arguing from dogma is suspect.

Secondly, I'd like to ask a second set of questions, specifically about abuse. What is the rate of kids from abusive homes who stay there who go on to abuse their kids (or spouses, or other kids) verses those who go into foster care.

The fact that the article mentions abuse, but then does not follow up with results for that may be the fault of the article's author, as opposed to a lack of the study, but the possiblilty of selectively revealed results sets off my fraud-o-meter.

1:45 PM, July 03, 2007  
Blogger ErikZ said...

It probably depends on the type of trouble in the "Troubled home".

2:14 PM, July 03, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

I agree that the type of trouble is a big factor. Also, children that are taken fom their home are typically taken because really bad things have happened to them at home. I would expect that these children would have more struggles.


2:38 PM, July 03, 2007  
Blogger Evil Auntie said...

I think this merely is an sign that foster care and children's homes are still of bad quality, so I'm not surprised about the statistics at all.

If you leave the kids in their abusive environment you also create problems for their children -- how can you expect them to become good parents if they don't have an idea what a good parent is? Abuse like that perpetuates itself across the generations.

Besides, fostering problem children is a very different kettle of fish than fostering orphans -- broken kids come with all sorts of heavy baggage, and someone who just fosters isn't going to be easily able to solve problems that most specialists have nightmares about.

3:17 PM, July 03, 2007  
Blogger Unknown said...

Don't draw your conclusions from a USA Today article. A pre-publication draft of the original article is here. [scholar.google.com is wonderful]

4:24 PM, July 03, 2007  
Blogger Glenn Reynolds said...

adam becker sr,

Thanks for the link.

5:23 PM, July 03, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmm...if a child is removed from its biological home because of some sort of rampant abuse, how is he / she allowed some form of closure to the situation? Do you talk them through it with years of therapy that may or may not work?

I have been exposed to some things I felt were unfair as well as damaging to my reputation, finances, even left me having to leave where I lived - not just my house, my town.

Granted, all of this occurred as an adult. So, I am supposed to be able to take it all in, somehow eventually understand it, forgive, and self repair. Oh, and pay.

My reputation is still shot - from lies. The police, courts, lawyers, judges, all knew it. But it went full force anyway, because it was a female. A very ill female. A man would have been jailed for a very long time.

My finances are still in shambles, and I'm still in a place I would rather not be, I want to go back home (the town), and I want to be living in the home I owned that I put so much of myself into. Got it like I wanted it. Took years of work, and lots of cash. (sorry for the long build)

If I were a kid with all this going on upstairs, and no closure, I may well be a hell raiser too, and be mad at the world. And what if that anger turns violent - or inward?

I'm pissed off. So I can understand a child being so. Confusion, anger, hurt, even blaming themselves. Something may give, or blow. Even with special foster parents, it would still take a special kid to be able to see his/her way clear.

5:35 PM, July 03, 2007  
Blogger Viola Jaynes said...

This is an interesting study. I grew up in a pretty good orphanage from about 1-14 years old. Once my American father found me and brought me to the States, my painful experiences really started. The director of the orphanage did not know that my father and his wife were alcoholics. I am thankful that I had such a good foundation in the orphanage since that is what kept me sane and strong.

11:50 PM, July 03, 2007  
Blogger Jerub-Baal said...

Some additional thoughts, (and I'm looking forward to reading the real study, my thanks also Adam Becker Sr for posting the link. It's 2:00 AM as I'm coming back to the thread, so I'll read it through later).

One of the serious problems in foster care is instability. In Massachusetts, the goal (not always met) is that any kid in the system will have a real long term stable plan within the first year, backed by a completed court proceedure. As a fostering family, we have made it our goal to be there for the child who is with us for as long as that child needs us (and the state allows us). A lot of kids get bounced around for most of there pre-adult lives. That level of instability obviously can't be a good foundation for a stable adulthood.

I look forward to reading the study, and seeing if there is any differentiation between kids who have been fostered (and maybe even adopted) into stable long-term family situations, and those who have been bounced around, and those left in the original abusive or neglectful enviroment.

2:02 AM, July 04, 2007  
Blogger Lisa said...

As a former foster child and current youth advocate,

I think previous comments (above) did a good job of restoring some balance to this issue.

There is no "magic formula" for families that break down.

- Sometimes parents are willing and able to change. Sometimes not.

- Sometimes children who stay with abusive parents die or are forever scarred (physically or emotionally) by their parents' actions.

- If a child was taken from an abusive home and placed in ONE secure, nurturing, healthy placement that the child felt was secure and might even become permanent, and that they had a choice in the matter... that situation would be ideal.

But that's not what we have.

- We have SOME great foster parents who are in it for all the right reasons (and who may or may not receive enough support).

- We have SOME caseworkers who are dedicated and resist burnout, even though their caseloads are large and the job is difficult.

- We have SOME foster placements that lead to a fairy tale ending -- and some that could be Stephen King novels -- and many others that fall in between.

Most of all, what we have is INSTABILITY (please forgive the caps), which leads to feelings of powerlessness.

Repeated broken connections feels like repetitive abandonment, and can seriously erode self-worth.

Oh -- and even more than that, we have a system that needs more funding and greater accountability.


7:25 PM, July 04, 2007  
Blogger ricpic said...

I guess only a professional would fail to get it that a child is better off with his family, even if it is dysfunctional, than he is with strangers. But then, professionals are scientific, love don't count. God protect us from the monstrous regimen of professionals.

8:34 PM, July 04, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

ricpic wrote: "I guess only a professional would fail to get it that a child is better off with his family, even if it is dysfunctional, than he is with strangers."

The children that I have seen taken from their family have been raped, brutalized, starved, chained, and the like. Children are not to be taken from dysfunctional situations, they are to be taken from very dangerous and harmful situations.


9:34 PM, July 04, 2007  
Blogger Serket said...

I agree that instability is probably a strong factor in this outcome. I have two male cousins (brothers) who went through the foster system and they were definitely moved around a lot to different families. I can understand if the state wants to make sure the family is a good fit, but they should allow a longer time to find out.

5:27 PM, July 05, 2007  
Blogger Hanley Family said...

Hmmm....interesting. But what are the controls? A child who is removed likely (at least in theory) has suffered worse abuse.

But then, once kids are in the system, they are bounced around so much with the long-term plan always saying reunification until that option has been exhausted. They can be in the system for over a year with no sense of permanency and knowing they will likely be moved again.

The system is a great factory for attachment disorders.

3:09 AM, July 06, 2007  
Blogger TMink said...

"The system is a great factory for attachment disorders."

Wow, truth spoken there. And you think of the trauma that leads the kids into the system, many of them have a head start.


12:58 PM, July 06, 2007  
Blogger Kathy said...

My parents fostered back in the 70's, and in the state we lived in at the time, almost all children were pretty quickly returned to their homes. Strangely enough, the fatality rate for children who had previously been in foster care was very high. My parents quit fostering because they couldn't take the emotional upheaval of taking in these kids, starting to get them fixed up, and then seeing them go right back into the terrible situation, perhaps never to emerge again.

10:51 PM, July 06, 2007  
Blogger geekWithA.45 said...

Tough call, need to see the data, really.

Anecdotally (the plural of anecdote not being data) I was a youth advocate worker back in the 80's, tasked to working with adjudicated youths. About half of those were in foster care, and of those, ONE fostering family was motivated from civic responsibility. The rest made a business of it, cramming as many as they legally could into their dwellings, operating on the simple equation of (foster kids * state paid benefits) = household income.

Is this better than what waits for them at home? I guess it depends on what waits at home.

Is it better than some sort of orphanage/institution?

That's entirely arguable, I would tend to think compassionate institutions in this day & age would be better for the kids and more cost effective to boot.

People have this idea that foster care is a quasi normal family environment for the kids, which is better than an orphanage....what I saw going on in the state of NJ leads me to severely question whether that is what actually happens most of the time.

3:40 PM, July 09, 2007  
Blogger Relinda85 said...

Hi I found this post while trying to find research in a somewhat biased study, for my educational research class. I am a former foster youth who was never reunited with my family and who has beaten the statistics of the system. I currenlty work part-time and attend school fulltime, and I am acquiring good grades. I was moved constantly from house to house. Notice I use house Not home...however back to my reason for posting. while I was in the "System" for eight years, and never was reunited with my parents I am fine, but that is not without saying the sacrafices. My emotional self went through ups and downs never really balance until my own realization. I was told by many foster parents, school officials and even social workers that I would fail and become nothing, leading me into deep depressions. My emotional sense would have been alot better off with my parents I probably wouldnt of had any suicide attempts, after being told over and over again I was worthless... foster care is an experience that differs for each individual and the professionals should always use there qualitative studies to validate their quantitative studies. especially in regards to such generalized theory or ideas. there are the stories that differ and do to the personal nature of this research these stories should be taken into consideration... I may have been better off financially and with education but was it really worth my emotional stability.. I was much more stable in the life with my parents... there I had an Identity, I was someone and I was always told I mattered, they were who made me strong enough to take on the emotional abuse and neglect that I had encountered in Californias foster care system. I would have loved to put up with my drug addicted father and my schizophrenic mother than those, who starved me, abused me, molested me, broke down my emotional stability, and my sense of identity.... My emotional self would have had a better life but I am currently better off in both manners financially, educationally, as well as emotionally... but I give no credit to the "system," only my strong nature and my parents who helped me build the start of my identity.. One thing to remeber is I am one of the rare statistics who is not pregnant, who is in school, who is not homeless, who is not addicted to drugs, or some other negative path that is often associated with foster care.... foster care is a failure... I wish people of these professions ( the ones doing the studies posting blogs) could realize that... or at least create a more rounded study... I would have been better off with my parents.... while my parents were not educated themselves they stressed the values and importance of aquiring them.. So I honestly believe in this papers premise I probably would have been better off.. and without all the social stigmas set from being in the system...

1:28 AM, September 10, 2008  
Blogger Nu8gDva said...

Like the previous writer, I stumbled upon this blog while searching for research. I have read the article mentioned above. I'm thinking there is some research that came out in 2007 on this topic. If anyone is following this subject and knows of it, could you post it?
I think this is an important discussion and appreciate the commenets from others on the topic.

4:43 PM, September 17, 2008  
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