Saturday, March 19, 2011

Aging Out of Foster Care

I aged out of foster care. The day I graduated from high school--with honors--I was booted out onto the street without a dime. I didn't have a driver's license or a car. I didn't have a job.

I went straight back to my father's home. That was June. By November, I had a job, a car and an apartment. I couldn't have done it without the support of my father, and the upbringing of my parents. Before I ever went into foster care they had taught me how to run a household, budget and shop, and take care of myself. I could delay gratification, exercise good judgment, make and achieve goals and I had a good work ethic. I was lucky to have been raised by my parents long enough for them to teach me what I needed to know for life.

My foster care givers taught me nothing, but were happy to exploit my housekeeping and child care skills to their advantage. Imagine this, they got paid to have me live in their home, cook their meals, babysit their children and clean their house. I must point out, this was a good foster home. I could have been placed in worse.

The Children's Advocacy Institute has released a report called The Fleecing of Foster Children which discusses children aging out of foster care.

I take exception to the popular myth that children suffer untold damage caused by abuse at the hands of their parents, a myth which is perpetrated by this publication. I was exposed to abuse in my family home, at least what is considered abuse by today's standards. Having been there and done that, I can firmly assert that the bond of love between me and my parents went extremely far to mitigate any long-term damage that might have occurred by virtue of purported abusive parenting practices. I suffer more trauma decades later from the emotional abuses I endured for the year I spent in my good foster home than from the more severe purported abuses at the hands of my parents during my entire childhood.  

Getting past that myth, the findings about the exploitation of children in foster care by their protectors is extremely enlightening. The lengths to which the child welfare professionals will go to line their own pockets at the expense of the children they protect is astonishing to the uninitiated and makes this report a valuable resource to the child welfare practitioner. 

This report focuses heavily on social security issues, but it also provides tidbits about other ways that children are exploited before being discarded.

And they are discarded. In Wichita, Kansas, children who age out of foster care are routinely driven by the caseworker to the local homeless shelter and dropped off without a dime. If they are lucky, they haven't been fingered for crimes committed by others in the foster home, as happened to K.C.  in Pennsylvania.

After being removed from the family home on false accusations, and being set up for termination of parental rights, then being vindictively removed from an excellent foster home where the foster parent actually advocated for him and worked with the parents, K.C. was placed in a group home and put on chemical restraints. When he aged out he was charged with sexually assaulting another foster child. He was summarily dumped into jail upon aging out of foster care. He had been told his parents didn't want him, despite the fact that they were begging the agency to tell them where he was once he turned eighteen. His father had died shortly before his mother found him. His trauma from this brand of child protection is incalculable, and permanent.

He is a throw-away person, primarily because the people who would have loved him enough to protect him were legally removed from his life. Not having that connection makes these children extremely vulnerable to the worst kinds of exploitation. These are the ones who are, for example, patsies, taking the fall for someone else's crime--often a foster care provider or friend who did the dirty deed--and they don't even know they can defend themselves, much less how to defend themselves. The justice system doesn't care who did it, they just want a conviction--the easiest conviction they can obtain. These children have absolutely no support network, no skills, poor education, and nobody who even cares what happens to them. They are alienated and isolated and targeted, and completely unable to protect themselves from any kind of exploitation that befalls them.

Attempts by foster children who age out to reunite with their real parents are thwarted by the agencies. They tell them the parents died, or don't want them, or anything else to deny these children any method to learn the other side of the story about what happened or reconnect with the parents they love and restore their support network.

Why? Why is it so important that so many facts about these cases remains secret? That these discarded children are denied the information they need to reconnect with their real parents? Think about it. Decide for yourself what purpose this kind of secrecy serves.

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Leave the emotions, propaganda and rhetoric at the door. This blogger is only interested in intelligent, logical, well-thought out, factually based comments which are on-topic, indicating the writer has an open mind and a mature ability to reason.