Sunday, February 27, 2011

Foster care is not the best choice for most children with problem families


In my column this week I examined the work of an organization called Youth Villages, which offers intensive in-home services to help children in the foster care system return to their families, or extended families, wherever it is possible to do so safely. My point was to highlight the fact that this approach, which is vastly underutilized and underfunded, is proving to be superior to the current practices in the child welfare system. It’s now common for youth to remain in foster care or residential treatment for years. When they age out of these systems, many are unable to live successfully as adults.

Readers raised legitimate questions, including whether this strategy is safe. A number expressed doubts — even consternation — at the idea that Youth Villages could consider the troubled families who get entangled in the child welfare, mental health and juvenile justice systems as suitable for raising children. “For those hundreds of thousands of cases in which the parents create the unsafe environment, children should be removed from homes” explained Lucas from Champaign, Ill. (48). “[T]hat is, unless the author can justify leaving infants in the care of low-functioning addicts or toddlers in the care of convicted child sex offenders.” [...]

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