Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Failure and Success in Foster Care Programs

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Failure and Success in Foster Care Programs

Article excerpt

The purpose of the current study was to classify types of services provided for youth in one sample (N=208) of children in foster care. A comparison review of average Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scale (CAFAS) scores on these youth in pre and post intervention groups showed an 14% reduction in average score of impairment of functional status in the post intervention group. CAFAS scores for each class of service were presented. A review of utilization trends and omissions in service suggests that even though some youth and their families benefit slightly from prevention efforts, 82% of the cases in the post intervention group of this sample still have clinically significant elevations in CAFAS scores following provision of services. Considering the persistence of elevated CAFAS scores, it appears that satisfactory services for youth referred for child abuse and neglect are not readily apparent for all children in need.

For decades, the number of children in foster care has steadily increased (Courtney, Piliavin, Grogan-Kaylor, & Nesmith, 2001). These children have remained in the foster care system for longer periods of time (Clark et al., 1994), and the long term outcome of the care they received is not systematically monitored or reported (Galaway, Nutter, & Hudson, 1995; Reddy & Pfeiffer, 1997). Some of these children carry the effects of child abuse and trauma, while others are diagnosed with a variety of physical, emotional, behavioral and mental handicaps. Local service agencies are required to adapt, alter and expand the types of services available in the community while budgets and other resources are shrinking.

The need for research to guide policy and service planning for child welfare systems of care is evident. Between 1970 and 2000, reports of child abuse and neglect increased from approximately 60,000 to 2.4 million (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000). Estimates of the percentage of children in the foster care system who are in severe to critical need of mental health services range from 40% to 62% (Boyd, 1992). At the same time, it is estimated that the number of available foster homes for endangered children has decreased. In recent years, the number of youth in foster care nationally has remained steady at approximately 550,000 (Shealy, 1994). In one year (1999), 183,000 children had been in foster care for more than three years while 99,618 of the youth were between the ages of 16 and 21. Approximately 20,000 youth age out (emancipate) from state foster care systems each year (Courtney, Piliavin, Grogan-Kaylor, & Nesmith, 2001). In addition, the percentage of children needing foster placement has increased by 48%, whereas the number of foster homes available has decreased by 27% (Terpstra, & McFadden, 1993).

Classification of Types of Services

To meet these needs, in recent years, approaches to preserving the family's ability to care for their children have included therapeutic foster care, in home family services, individualized case management, and independent living skills training programs. As early as 1960, several residential treatment programs for children began developing therapeutic foster homes to supplement or serve as an alternative to long term residential care (Galaway, Nutter, & Hudson, 1995; Bryant, & Snodgrass, 1992). In such a program, training support services, enhanced payments and treatment team status is extended to foster parents. The findings of multiple research studies in the U.S., England, and Canada suggest that youth who experience serious emotional and behavior problems are served well in therapeutic foster care. Therapeutic foster care programs are less costly than the institutional and group home alternatives to which they have been compared (Chamberlain, 1990).

In Home Family Service is an intensive parent and child intervention which offers therapy, education, referral, and case coordination in the client's home. …

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