Archive for May, 2007

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?

Alec Baldwin

Friday, May 11th, 2007

Well known celebrities and highly rated movie stars Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger made the headlines recently when  Alec’s outburst  on his daughter’s  voicemail  became so well publicised.  He obviously reacted in an inappropriate way, but it is good that he recognizes this and he has apologized to his daughter  publicly. His ex-wife, Kim Basinger  may have leaked  this voice mail to the public and in the process violated terms of the closed custody hearings.

 There are views  both in support and against the actions of  Alec  Baldwin.  As both parents are also well liked by fans and friends one  should  examine what is behind the custody battles, the inappropriate voicemails,  the leaking of this information to to the public and the effect on this tussle and trauma on the  child.  They  appear to continually hurt  each other and  the real issue of sharing joint custody, respectfully,  gets lost in all the emotional drama.

 Some of the  feelings they display are   anger, distrust, disrespect, unfairness,  hurt, disappointment and  frustration. What is masked is their great  need  for respect, belonging,  love,  being involved, recognized and appreciated amongst other unexpressed needs.

 Many of us are unable to recognize our needs and express them. Instead we get caught up in trying to get even , in circular arguments are often not aware of the effect of all of this on  children.   

If this family is able to use the suggestions of  Nonviolent Communication or NVC  they may be able to recognize that each party has a number of unsatisfied needs that result in these outbursts and blaming and shaming behavior.

NVC advocates couples to learn to really listen to  and empathize with each other. When they learn to do this they will be able to see that both actually want the same thing, the well being of their child. It is then that they will be able to work in compassionate ways to satisfy everybody. This approach will enhance relationships and strengthen family ties.

This website has a  fuller explanation on NVC at Nonviolent Communication and links to NVC website.

Paris Hilton Jail Sentence

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

Records indicate that Paris Hilton has a record of reckless driving. On September 7th 2006 she failed a field sobriety  test and had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent which is a violation of the law for an adult. She received a sentence of 36 months probation,  alcohol education and $1,500 in fines. Her license had been suspended for 30 days  but she was allowed to drive for work purposes for 90 days.  Her driving  around  11p.m on January 15th 2007 does not appear to have been work related.  Reports indicate that she was speeding and had no headlights on,  prompting the California Highway Patrol to pull her over.

Records  show that she was also  pulled over  2 other times after the September incident and she had  failed to enroll for  traffic education.  The judge must have considered all of these factors when sentencing Paris Hilton to 45 days in jail. Her driving records indicate a lack of understanding of the dangers of driving  under the influence of alcohol and a blatant disrespect of the law. 

She has asked her fans to influence governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to intervene in her sentencing.  I believe Paris Hilton has loads of talent and is good business woman but she has “chosen” to disregard the safety of people and the law. If this is the path she chose, then inevitably she has to face the consequences. 

You can read more on how we are responsible for decisons we make and therefore are responsible for the consequences at Choices. 

Quality Living

Monday, May 7th, 2007

Do First Appearances Matter?

I believe it does matter.

Most of us take special care over our appearance when meeting with prospective employers at job interviews and meeting new acquaintances at parties or other social events?

Good grooming is not just for others to get a good impression of you, but to make yourself feel good and confident about yourself. I think you some how slip into another “persona” almost, when you know you are looking good. While there is a time and a place to just be yourself most of us don’t want to meet strangers when we look like we just got out of bed.

I have learned that time does take its toll on the physical body and higher maintenace becomes necessary as you age. “Age-spots” adds another dimension to the make-up routine and good grooming as there is more to cover up! A term my husband adopted from my brother-in-law and loves to brandish, is that I have to “panel beat.” This is a South African description that refers to fixing vehicles that have been bumped, bruised and dented and need the services of a body shop. I will describe my “panel beating” routines in forthcoming blogs.

Although most of us take precautions to ensure against bad breath and body odor, there are still those who smell really nasty. It just makes it so hard to communicate with someone who has an unpleasant smell. Hand in hand with physical appearances is the need to be polite, speak clearly, use acceptable language and sit gracefully.

It is a sense of confidence that helps us to mingle with the crowd, and look for clues to make small talk that eases the ability to fit in and feel comfortable.

They say beauty is only skin deep, but feeling good about your appearance just helps to bring out the rest of the inner beauty which has a lot to do with good manners, considering the needs of others and the ability to communicate effectively. For more on this subject, browse the web page on Nonviolent Communication.

Just as we take care to improve our physical appearance, we need to watch other aspects of our lifestyles that can leave a lasting impression.