More than 1200 children in 24 foster care residential facilities along the Texas coastline have been evacuated and taken to other facilities and churches in the San Antonio area. These other facilities include the Children’s Shelter, Boysville, St. Jude’s Ranch for Children and Roy Maas Alternatives.
Renee Garvens of Roy Maas Alternatives said,
“[These kids are] pretty amazingly resilient in their ability to just grab their stuff and walk away from one home to the next.”
Think about that for a minute. Amazingly resilient, or sadly accustomed to it? This “ability” is one no child should possess or be good at. But it’s the sad truth for many, if not most, children in foster care across the country. They learn not to put down roots anywhere, because they could be relocated any time.
They’ve most likely learned this the hard way, from previous failed placements. Learning things the hard way often results in a tough, bad-ass child/teenager/adult, who is unable to follow through with or commit to much of anything or anyone. And so the foster care cycle begins again for these children’s children, not in every case, but in many.
Blessings to the facilities and churches that took in these evacuated kids, and blessings to the staff who most likely followed the kids to ensure care was provided to them during this upheaval. Perhaps something remained constant for the kids if they at least had some familiar caregivers.
Roy Maas Alternatives
St. Jude’s Ranch for Children
The New Mexico Children, Families and Youth Department has announced a pilot program designed to provide McDonald’s Happy Meals for kids newly placed in state custody.
Cabinet Secretary Monique Jacobson knew kids were often hungry when removed from their homes and awaiting placement in a foster home. McDonald’s restaurants in New Mexico were approached about providing meal cards to CFYD so kids could have a meal they were familiar with that also comforted them during this stressful wait time. The amazing thing about this pilot program (which began in August and runs through December) is that every single McDonald’s in New Mexico (over 100) agreed to participate in supplying each CFYD office with meal cards. When’s the last time you remember an entire state’s worth of any company agreeing with their state government on something? Never? Me neither. So, that’s good.
The sad things about this program are, number one, that these kids are so familiar with and comforted by a cheap, quick meal, bought on the fly, eaten in the car, requiring no planning or consideration or tradition, and is synonymous with “dinner” perhaps more often than it should be.
Number two, if more services and supports were available and were funneled to families in crisis in a larger effort to maintain kids in their own homes whenever possible, then maybe fewer would come into custody or be hungry when they do. Just my opinion.
To report child abuse or neglect in New Mexico, call 1-855-333-7233 or #SAFE from any cell phone.
I’ve worked in the foster care field for nearly 25 years, and over that time span, I’ve formed strong opinions about what probably works better than foster homes for some kids in foster care. There is also another reason I have these opinions, which I’ll reveal later.
I believe family foster homes are best for some children, say age 10-ish and younger. Why? I think the littler kids adapt better to a foster home and foster family than older kids do. Perhaps younger kids, and especially sibling groups, need a family atmosphere more than older kids. In my experience, I’ve found that the older kids actually do much better if placed in group home or residential settings compared to foster home placements.
Here are some reasons this may be true:
1. Group homes are more structured than foster homes. There are few opportunities to do something wrong or overstep one’s bounds in a rule-driven, scheduled environment.
2. Group homes have staff as opposed to parents who aren’t theirs.
3. Kids’ loyalties aren’t torn between their own parents and the staff, since the roles are nothing alike.
4. Kids’ loyalties aren’t torn between their own home and a group home, because the setting is totally different.
5. Kids don’t feel like they have to pretend people are their parents when out in public with staff, the way they do when out in public with foster parents.
6. The perception of others in a child’s home neighborhood or school is often one of blaming the child for his placement in a group home. Alternatively, when a child is placed into a foster home, the blame more often is placed on the child’s parents by others. It’s very difficult for kids to know others hold their parents in low regard.
7. When kids return home from a group or residential setting, they have a little bit of “status”, as some sort of survivor.
8. When kids return home from a foster home placement, they are often the subjects of unwanted pity for having such losers as parents.
The prevailing trend in foster care placement is to place all children in homes instead of group settings. The national average of kids in out of home care who are placed in group settings is 6%. Some states pride themselves in having a lower percentage, and strive for a lower percentage. I wonder if the outcomes and futures of these children back up the perception that family home settings are best for all kids. I can find no long-term follow-up studies of children’s well-being 5 years, 10 years, 20 years after aging out of foster care. Believe me, I’ve tried. The only other reliable source I have for my beliefs listed above is myself, because, you see, I was a child in foster care many years ago, and experienced all those things and thrived much better in the group setting in which I was finally placed.