Archive for the ‘Foster Care’ Category


Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

The US has lots of opportunties for most people to acheive a good education and employment.  An area that is sadly lacking is vacation days off for its employees.   The average number of days off in the US is 14 days annually, far below the number of days offered in other  countries.   Americans are  described as the ‘most overworked, vacation-deprived people on earth.’

Lynn Brenner in an article in the Parade San Francisco Chronicle,  dated 4/15/07  states that most employees only take about 10 of these 14 days and 37% of workers take less than 7 consecutive days off a year.   On the other hand there is a growing number of Americans who work more than 50 hours a week and this figure is steadily rising.  Often job performance is rated on the hours worked and rewards may go to those that worked the longest hours.

 A study by the Families and Work Institute, “Overwork in America”,  found that  1 in 3 workers experienced feeling overworked as a chronic condition. These long and stressful work conditions impact the ability to take care of responsibilites at home. Very often it is the children who are deprived of parental guidance and support as tired parents  are physically and in some cases mentally drained to effectively take care of other matters.

It is very hard on  parents  having worked a full day,  to  come home to the usual chores, after school activities  and the care of the family. Children need such a lot of time and attention that one wonders whether it is possible to meet their needs adequately.

In my experience,  taking few days off work has become an accepted phenomenon in the US and many people find the concept of more vacation time mind boggling. When  my fellow employees in the US  heard  about my past experience with  lengthy vacation times that South African employers offer,  they found the concept to be very strange. Employees here have become conditioned to accept the status quo and seem to lack the need to even ask for more.  I am surprised that even the presidential candidates do not address this issue at all. It is as if family time is not accepted as a health issue.  Yet it is well know that many physical symptoms such as heart attacks  and high blood pressure can be traced to stress, anxiety and unhealthy lifestyles.  The long work hours and extremely limited vacation time is a leading cause of  stress and other related problems.   

In some countries it is compulsory to take vacation days.  Most European countries offer their staff between 4-6 weeks annually. Providing time off for workers and encouraging them to take the days off is regarded as an investment, as the employees  generally return refreshed, invigorated, relaxed and in good mental health to take on the job responsibilities with “vim, vigor  and vitality.”

 Healthy minds contribute to healthy and happy families and in turn to happy employees.     

When Does Foster Care End?

Thursday, May 31st, 2007

“Yes its ok to use my story. I hope that people will see what is going on and change the system a little. I was recieving money every month until I was 21 years old but What the system doesnt understand is that you dont just leave college when you turn 21 and Im still struggling. Its tough seeing other people who are in college and have family that they can depend on when they get into a rough spot not only financially but that is what most young, college students have problems with. Even the family that raised me is not there. Its like they feel that Im not apart of them since I left when I was 17. I dont have anyone but friends and the system does not help at all. I have applied for every kind of assistance that you can think of and have been denied because I am not a single mother. I think that is pretty twisted. Its almost like they want people to fail. I have taken pictures of my wrist. THe pictures are saved in my phone. I am considering pressing charges for false arrest and being roughed up. “

The above quote is an extract from an email of a 22 year old ex-foster child who is need of family support.  This young lady spent most of her life in foster homes having been separated from her parents at 2 years.  Her sadness and isolation and later apparent defiance antagonized many foster parents.  At 14 years her foster mother decided to adopt her and a sibling.  As there were many unresolved issues as well as a stipulation from the prospective adoptive mother that she was to end all attempts to contact her birth mother, she declined the adoption offer. 

In her case the reality of coming to terms with her mother who is still addicted to drugs and leads an  unstable life is very hard to accept.  She really hoped that her mother would be there for her after foster care. Even after failing to keep appointments and other promises it hurt her very deeply when her mother did not attend her high school the graduation.  She was the first in her family to graduate and no family was there to share this important day in her life.      

Her mother has added to her problems by using her social security number as they share the same first and last names.  Due to this mix-up the young lady was recently arrested by a traffic officer when a drivers license check revealed that there was a warrant out for her arrest.  Her mother has used her identity to make several fraudulent charges.  She had to find money to retrieve her car which had been impounded and other expenses pertaining to this arrest. The arresting officer is also alleged to have handled her in a rough manner and showed no sympathy when she tried to explain that her mother had used her identity.

Foster care has provided a safe haven for many children as there are exceptional foster parents who do so much more than provide food and shelter. There are those who truly understand the trauma that befall children when separated from parents and everything that is familiar to them.  These foster parents support the children in spite of acting-out behaviors and continue to find resources within themselves and the community to help the children become successful adults.

Children often do not comprehend why they have to leave their birth parents and often blame the social workers for “breaking up the family.”  They may also feel guilt and remorse as they believe that they are responsible for the problems.  It takes a long time for children to cope with all these losses. They are often unable to express their frustrations verbally and what is seen as defiance, rudeness and a lack of interest  to comply with the rules is often an expression of their pain and anger.      

Counseling and supportive foster parents are a great resource for foster children as they are often troubled  and very much in need of someone to take care of them, even though this is not the message that is “heard.”  It is hard on foster parents to cope sometimes and it takes a great deal of patience to know what is behind the acting out behavior.  One has to provide care and understanding yet set limits to curb unruly behavior and  teach more appropriate ways to express frustrations.  When foster parents decide to discontinue with a placement, the cycle of separation anxiety,  loss, rejection, distrust and feelings of low self esteem surface again as children move on to the next foster home.   

Many children in the foster care system have been deprived of bonding with caregivers, nurturing,  and being exposed to activities that stimulate them mentally. This deprivation as well as the pain of separation  and other anxieties often make it hard for children to concentrate and understand the class work. Poor grades often affect socialization among one’s peers.  Sometimes the adjustment in the foster home is also setback by children having an unrealistic and idealized image of what life would be like with the birth parents. This is often true of children whose birth family have not kept in touch with them.

It is very sad that these children who most need the support of adults are expected to cope by themselves after they turn 18 years of age.  Although state aid is available for children should they want to attend college, they have to comply with rules including keeping a certain standard of grade.  Sometimes these minimum grade expectations are difficult to manage by children who lag behind academically.

A few private agencies like CHOICES  – Children Have Options in Caring Environments in Dayton, Ohio  do have programs that help foster children to adjust to adulthood by providing them with subsidized apartments, budgeting and other life skills.  However these resources are very limited. Other independent living skills programs are also in place to help children develop independence.  While these programs have their merit the majority of children  seem to need   the guidance of people that continue to be connected to them.  

Most birth children continue to receive the support and guidance of families well after they they turn 18 years.  It is not uncommon for parents to pay for a child’s boarding and car repairs when children are at college and do not earn enough to pay for these expenses.  Even when they do leave home, they know that they have a home to come back to should things not work out.  Many adult children return home after graduating college to save on rent while they search the job market.

Most foster children have nobody to turn to. Yet they all have to pay rent and  buy food and clothes.  Public transport is not easily accessible in most cities.  Therefore it becomes necessary to invest in another high maintenance expense by buying a used car if one wants to work.

The picture is bleak. A high number of ex-foster children become victims of the Criminal Justice System. How can we save these young men and women?