Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FOSTER CARE; Strengthen Families

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FOSTER CARE; Strengthen Families

Article excerpt

Despite the best efforts of well-intentioned volunteers, the state's foster care system isn't working properly.

That's the opinion of Nancy Dreicer, regional director for the Florida Department of Children and Families.

And there's a bevy of research to support her thesis.

For example, she cites an MIT study showing that 44 percent of foster care children eventually are arrested, compared to just 14 percent of those who stay with their families.

Over half of foster-care girls will become teen mothers, compared to only a third of the others.

One would think children would fare better with caring foster families than with biological parents who have been mistreating them.

But remember, a foster parent is a stranger. The parents are Mom and Dad.

BURDEN OF FOSTER CARE

Studies consistently show children of divorced parents struggle emotionally and socially as they cope with the trauma of being separated from one parent.

Foster children have to deal with the devastating effects of losing both parents.

All of this happens as the child is trying to cope with the psychological damage caused by the thing that put him in foster care - either abuse or neglect at the hands of his own parents.

That's an enormous burden to be carried by a child - who is, by nature, emotionally vulnerable, even under good circumstances.

The solution? Dreicer wants to "eliminate foster care as we know it."

For obvious reasons, she wouldn't completely stop taking children away from unfit parents. But she would try to avoid it.

In what could become a national model, Dreicer envisions three "paths":

- In egregious cases - a baby with a fractured skull, to use an extreme example - the child would be taken away and adopted quickly.

An electronic database would expedite the process.

- In less-severe cases, children would stay in the home. …

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