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Article

Joyce E. Everett

Social work has long been involved in child foster care. Though its initial involvement de-emphasized the importance of infant–caregiver attachment, Bowlby’s theory of attachment is particularly relevant for child-welfare practice. This entry chronicles the history of child foster care and describes the evolution of legislation most pertinent for the provision of foster care. The characteristics of children in foster care since 2000 and the dynamic flow of children entering and exiting care are described. A brief account of foster care services and future trends in the field are highlighted.

Article

Edmund Sherman and William J. Reid

Ann Wentworth Shyne (1914–1995) was a founding member of the influential Social Work Research Group, which promoted research on social work practice. Her work had a considerable impact on family and child welfare services and on social work research.

Article

Carole B. Cox

Kinship care refers to the full time care, nurturing, and protection of children by relatives or others with a kinship bond to a child. Although such care is offered by many in relationships to children and is defined by states in many ways, the majority of kinship caregivers are grandparents. Among the primary reasons that children enter kinship care are parental substance abuse, neglect, abandonment, parental physical and mental illness, incarceration, domestic violence, and military deployment. Kinship care families tend to be poor with most caregivers outside of the formal service system. Consequently, they face many challenges as they struggle with policies and services that frequently are not responsive to their concerns. Social workers can play major roles in assuring that programs, which build upon the strengths of these families, are both available and accessible for them.

Article

Richard P. Barth

Adoption of children from foster care and international adoptions have accelerated since 1987. Federal policy changes have markedly increased the termination of parental rights and adoption of children in foster care. Adoption by relatives and single parents has also grown markedly. Open adoption is increasingly normative. Adoption outcomes are generally positive although there is substantial call for post-adoption support for children adopted from foster care. These services are emerging but their efficacy is still untested. More work is needed on post-adoption services because there are now more former foster children in post-adoption status than there are children in foster care.

Article

This entry focuses on the transition to independent living process required of youth and young adults who are “aging out” of the foster care system. It addresses the multiple risks and challenges faced by young people who are aging out of care and those of young adults who have “aged out.” This entry addresses existing policies and programs intended to assist youth who are transitioning from care. Current research findings about the experience of these youth over time both prior to and after exiting foster care are presented. Finally, the unique risks and challenges faced by as well as existing resources for LGBTQ youth who are in the process of or who have aged out are presented as an exemplar of unique needs and experiences of youth from vulnerable populations. Attention is also given to the strengths and resiliency of many former foster care youth who successfully make the transition from foster care to independent living.

Article

Every year thousands of children are removed from their families and are placed into out-of-home care. While these children are placed in care settings with a hope of a better future, they are often faced with many challenges that impact their short and long terms growth. As of 2017, 442,995 children have been removed from their families and placed in the U.S. foster care system for an average of 20.1 months. Placement occurs for several reasons, such as neglect, parent incarceration, drug abuse, and caretakers’ inability to cope. Twenty-seven percent (117,110) have been in care over two years, and all of these children face many obstacles in life that can impact their short- and long-term well-being. One of the most significant challenges they face is access to a stable educational environment that supports positive mental, emotional, behavioral, physical, and social growth. Frequent moves, lack of coordination between schools, and underdeveloped infrastructure to support unique needs are some of the significant predictors of disproportionately poor education outcomes for children in foster care and other residential settings. The lack of stable educational environment leads to a number of challenges related to enrollment, stability, access to special services, peer relations, grade retention, and caregiver and teacher familiarity with academic strengths and weaknesses of the child. To improve their educational outcomes, there is a need for advocacy and significant changes at the at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels. Consistent efforts need to be made by stakeholders, such as state and federal government, schools, child welfare systems, and community partners to address systemic inequities, improve current policies and practices, increase accessibility to quality schools, provide mental health services, and, most importantly, establish a stable environment that will enable the youth to flourish and succeed.

Article

Peter J. Pecora

The mission of child welfare is multifaceted and includes: (a) responding to the needs of children reported to public child-protection agencies as being abused, neglected, or at risk of child maltreatment; (b) providing children placed in out-of-home care with developmentally appropriate services; and (c) helping children find permanent homes in the least-restrictive living situations possible; and (d) providing “post-permanency” services to children so they do not return to foster care. This section describes the mission, scope, and selected issues of major child-welfare-program areas.

Article

Child welfare services in the United States evolved from voluntary “child saving” efforts in the 19th century into a system of largely government-funded interventions aimed at identifying and protecting children from maltreatment, preserving the integrity of families that come to the attention of child welfare authorities, and finding permanent homes for children who cannot safely remain with their families. Since the 1970s, the federal government has played an increasing role in funding and creating the policy framework for child welfare practice. That child welfare services are disproportionately directed toward members of ethnic and racial minorities has been an enduring concern.

Article

Deborah Bass-Rubenstein

Runaways, throwaways, and homeless youths have always been present in the United States. In recent decades, however, society has become more aware of the problems they face as the problems have become more severe. The effectiveness of new approaches to helping these youths is yet to be determined.

Article

Allan Moscovitch

John Joseph Kelso (March 31, 1864–September 30, 1935) was a young journalist when he became involved in child welfare in his adopted home of Toronto. He was instrumental in the passage of the first child protection legislation in Canada, and in spreading the need for voluntary children’s aid societies across Ontario and for similar legislation across Canada. He became superintendent of child welfare in 1893 and remained in that post for 40 years, shaping the development of the child welfare system in Ontario and Canada.

Article

Yin-Ling Irene Wong and Claudia J. Vogelsang

Homelessness is a major social problem in the United States. The article starts with an overview of homelessness in American history, followed by the definition of contemporary homelessness, its prevalence, and the composition and diverse characteristics of the homeless population. Contrasting perspectives on what causes homelessness are discussed, while the multidimensionality of the homeless experience is explored. The unique experiences of three subpopulations, including homeless persons who are involved in criminal justice, emerging youth leaving foster care, and older homeless persons are further featured. Public and community responses to homelessness are examined, highlighting evidence-based and emerging practices that aim at reducing and preventing homelessness. A discussion of international homelessness follows, as homelessness is recognized as a global issue affecting people living in poverty in both the developed and developing world. The article concludes with discussion of the implications for social work.