What are the facts about foster care?

May is National Foster Care Month. What are the facts about foster care? How many youth and children are in foster homes? What are the results for youth who have spent all or part of their lives in foster care?

Simmons College School of Social Work created an Infographic that details the harsh realities surrounding youth in the foster care system across the country based on information from national surveys and reports. They found that, nationwide, one in 184 youth are in foster care.

The Infographic shows how youths of all ages, races are represented in the foster care system. However, according to the data, “If one child were to represent all others in the foster care system,  he would be nine years old, white, more likely to be disabled than a child living outside of the foster care system, and trying to reunify with his family.”

Sadly, but not surprisingly, youth who have spent time in foster care are more likely than the general population to have a difficult life. These young people are more likely to become homeless, unemployed or dependent to drugs and alcohol. They are less likely to graduate from high school or college and more likely to commit a crime. 

How do we change these statistics? At Plummer Home we believe three ingredients are essential for these youth to succeed as adults. First and foremost, they must have families who are committed to them for a lifetime. In addition, they need skills and community connections. These beliefs are the basis of the Plummer Home Intervention model. The Simmons’ Infographic shows us all that there are kids out there who need help and why that help is important.

Check out Simmons College’s Infographic for more details on the facts about foster care.

infographic

Foster Parenting Dilemmas: Understanding Puzzling Behaviors

Girl with suitcaseAll children and teenagers exhibit challenging behaviors at times. Usually parents have an idea where such behaviors are coming from. Is the child hungry, cranky, or perhaps experiencing typical challenges and insecurities of the teenage years?

When we understand a behavior, it’s easier to respond in a way that is helpful for the child and comfortable for the parent. Often foster children act in ways that seem to make no sense to their foster parents. A young foster child who is desperate for playmates may consistently push away other children. Or an adolescent foster daughter may act out before an event she has been eagerly anticipating. A foster child may hoard food in his room, attracting both “critters” and the confusion of his foster parents, who provide plenty of food for their family.

A concept called the “invisible suitcase” can be a helpful way to understand such puzzling behaviors: http://bit.ly/1T1cDWR. Children in foster care typically bring with them just a few physical possessions, but along with that they bring the sum total of all of their life experiences. These experiences are the contents of the invisible suitcase.

If a child has learned that he’s not lovable, he carries that feeling in the invisible suitcase he brings to his foster home. And he’ll likely act accordingly as if to ensure that others affirm his negative view of himself. If a child has learned that she can’t trust adults, she carries that in her invisible suitcase and may be resistant to trusting a new adult in her life.

Rest assured, it’s not personal! The behavior that makes no sense to you likely makes perfect sense to your foster child.

You can help unpack that invisible suitcase. Over time, as you provide a healing, loving and consistent set of experiences, the contents of the suitcase will disappear. This will help your foster child let go of the suitcase and move on to tackling the more typical challenges of growing up. We’ll address some specific strategies for managing challenging behaviors in foster care in a future post.

And remember, you’re not alone. These puzzling behaviors can be difficult to manage. Reach out to fellow foster parents and to the social worker at your foster care agency.

Note: For more information on the concept of the invisible suitcase check out http://bit.ly/1T1cDWR on the website of The National Child Traumatic Stress Network.