How Can We Improve Outcomes for Oregon Foster Care Youth? (by Guest Blogger Aimee Hunter)

AimeeBlogPictureThis post is based on the community work and writing that the author has been doing in WR 122 at Portland Community College.  The piece of public writing is loosely based on a research question and research collection the author developed.  The public writing is a chance to use one’s writing to become part of the larger community dialogue about issues in the chosen theme.

The Public Writing

Dear Senator Tim Knopp,

As a Senator in the wonderful state of Oregon I am sure you enjoy seeing people succeed. However, in this country, and even in this great state, we are failing to help the people who could have the potential to follow in your footsteps one day. The people I am talking about are the children who are in our foster care system. Yes, we may be removing them from potentially harmful situations but even so, are we truly giving them what they need to succeed in life? The simple answer is no. We are failing them in their educational needs and psychological needs.

Currently there are over a half a million children in foster care in the nation. About twenty thousand age out of the system every year. Out of those twenty thousand, around ten thousand graduated high school and only about two percent receive a Bachelor’s degree. The system we have in place now is not working.

I urge you to look further into the statistics. Recently, congress passed the Uninterrupted Scholars Act that will make it easier to access student records, hopefully preventing loss of credits and unnecessarily having foster care students repeat classes or entire grades. In addition, Texas is working on a program to help foster students to stay in the same schools when feasible and to ease the transition into new schools if needed. It is being constructed by the Texas Supreme Court Commission on Children, Youth and Families. Both of these items are just the beginning of what we need to do to change the outcomes for these children.

In addition to not meeting the educational needs of foster care youth, we are not meeting their psychological needs. Most children in foster care exhibit signs of psychological disorders like PTSD, attachment disorder, etc. The symptoms are closely linked to being removed from their current families and placed in new homes, most of which, do not last. These children exhibit behaviors that are often masked or “treated” with medications while doing little to address the underlying causes. Later on, these children go on to make up around eighty percent of the prison population, and approximately one third of these “graduates of the state” will go on to have drug and alcohol problems.

Perhaps we need to look into programs like the Pressley Ridge foster care treatment program which works to re-educate these youths and uses foster parents as a tool to do so. Perhaps we should ask more of our foster parents, ask them to become more thoroughly educated in difficulties with foster children before housing them so we can work to provide more stable home environments where children can receive help and not just a warm bed.

I am asking you to look at the dire future that there currently is for these children. I ask you to look for programs that we can use here in Oregon to set a precedent for the nation to help overcome some of the barriers they are facing. I urge you to become a voice for change so that these children, who have come from unfortunate circumstances can have a chance at the same future you would want for your own children. Maybe, with the right programs in place, we can begin to turn the numbers around and reduce the overall need for foster care helping child welfare agencies to put more focus on each child. Let’s take a stand because these children are important to the future of our nation.

Sincerely,

Aimee Hunter

Registered Oregon Voter

The Research Question & Collection

Research Question: How can we improve the educational and behavioral outcomes of foster care youth?

Citation:

James Doncaster,et al. “Pressley Ridge Treatment Foster Care: The Model of Care Thirty Years Later.” Reclaiming Children & Youth 21.2 (2012): 22-26. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Mar. 2013

Summary: This article covers a treatment plan that helps troubled youth. It is called Pressley Ridge Treatment Foster Care, and it is a re-education program that seeks to help children in foster care overcome barriers and lead successful lives. The program utilizes foster parents by helping them learn to change the behaviors of their foster youth. This program can be used to help those foster youth who are at risk for residential treatment.

This article is an authoritative source because the authors of this article are reporting on something they know. Three out of four of the authors work for Pressley Ridge and the other is a Masters of Social Work student. They also use substantial sources that are from well respected and documented publications.

Importance: This article gives insight into a program that is working where it is being used. Even though it still needs more research they have seen success with the program. The use of this program is very important my theme and question. If it can be shown to be effective, it is a program that could change the face of foster care as we know it. It involves educating foster parents and using them as tools and it also involves helping youth to relearn proper behavior rather than just medicating to mask the behavior.

Citation:

Fisher, Philip A., and Kathryn S. Gilliam. “Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care: An Alternative to Residential Treatment for High Risk Children and Adolescents.” Psychosocial Intervention/Intervencion Psicosicial 21.2 (2012) 195-203. Academic Search Premier. Web. 9 Mar. 2013

Summary: This article gives insight into another alternative treatment program for at risk youth. This program is called Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care. This program seeks out certain types of foster parents who meet specific criteria. They are trained in the techniques, and this program has exhibited signs of success.

This article is an authoritative source because it is from a respected journal and the authors use reputable sources.

Importance: This program is another one that could be adopted to help change foster care. It involves training for foster parents about behavioral issues. These trainings as well as potentially having a “higher quality” foster parent could help foster children to end up beating the odds.

Citation:

Macias, Patricia A. “Transforming Education Outcomes for Children and Youth in Foster Care Using a Statewide Collaborative Model.” JP5-National CASA. Casa For Children, Jan. 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. <http://www.casaforchildren.org/site/c.mtJSJ7MPIsE/b.8486731/k.BE75/JP5.htm&gt;.

Summary: In this article, the author talks about what the Texas Supreme Court Commission on Children, Youth and Families is doing. It describes the plan that they have developed to improve the educational outcomes of children in foster care. Some of the principles of the program are to keep children in one school, if possible, make seamless transitions between schools and providing support to these children to prevent drop outs and promote secondary education.

This article is an authoritative source because it is written by a judge from the Texas family district court and who served on the committee that created the blue print mentioned in the article.

Importance: This article shows things that are going on currently to work to improve the outcomes of foster care youth. It creates a model that could be adopted nationwide if it is successful and shows that work is being done to improve the system. 

Citation:

Heimpel, Daniel. “Congress Passes Key Foster Care Education Bill.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 02 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/daniel-heimpel/congress-passes-key foste_b_2388712.html&gt;.

Summary: In this article the Uninterrupted Scholar Act is discussed. The article states that this act was passed by Congress at the beginning of 2013. The article goes on to talk about how, if signed by the President, this bill will make it easier for child welfare agencies to access student records, helping ease the transition into new schools.

This article is an authoritative source because the author is writing for a reputable journal as well as being a writer for a blog that focuses on youth social issues, Chronicles of Social Change.

Importance: This article shows that in the current conversation people are working on change nationally. Steps are being taken to improve outcomes and people see the problems that are there.

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One comment

  1. Italia Hensley

    Aimee,
    Wow, you did an amazing job. You definitely appeal to pathos when you talk about the kids and the statistics in your first paragraph. By appeal to pathos in the beginning made me want to keep reading. You also hit a string that wanted me to look into foster care.
    Making a call to action was a great thing to do because you ask them to look into the statistics which if they do look into what they find will make they want to do something about it. It sure did for me. The problems that the children have that gets masked by treatments that they don’t need makes me wonder what can be done and if you are going to do anything to change these problems

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