F is for Fostercare

F

Foster care was created as a temporary measure to provide a place of safety for children who were experiencing abuse or neglect in the birth family.  The time apart for parents and children was intended to give the parents an opportunity to sort themselves out and identify what they needed to do in order to have their children returned to the family home. Today, in Australia, many children remain in foster care permanently and of these a significant number are shuffled from one home to another.  When foster care placements are unstable and short term, children experience increased trauma.  The psychological impact of such instability and impermanence lays the foundation for what has become a child and adolescent mental health problem of escalating proportions.

Children in the study were reported as having exceptionally poor mental health and social competence, relative to the general population and to other populations of children in care. More than half the boys and girls in the study were reported to have clinically significant mental health difficulties. They presented with complex disturbances, including multiple presentation of: • conduct problems and defiance • attachment disturbance • attention-deficit/hyperactivity • trauma related anxiety • sexual behaviours.  (Source)

The Vimeo clip link that follows is twelve minutes long but if you can stop that long and learn how a child experiences foster care you will be rewarded for your time.  It is heart-wrenching.

Here’s what fostercare is like for an abused child removed from her home 

 n 2012 in Australia 39, 621 children were in out of home care (OOHC).  In the same year 13, 299 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) children were in foster care.  This figure represents 33.6% of all the children, for that year, in OOHC.  Another way to present this information is as a ratio:  55.1 per 1, 000 children in care were identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander compared to 5.4 per 1, 000 non-indigenous children taken into care.  These ratios vary across all states of Australia with New South Wales having by far the highest rate of Indigenous children in out of home care. In the Northern Territory the placement ratio was 20.7 per 1, 000 while in New South Wales it was 83.4 per 1, 000 placements.  (Read more here).

Removal from family is enormously painful to children. While children may have frequent visits with their families – or only limited, supervised visits,  they leave behind their neighbourhoods, communities, schools, and most of their belongings. Many  feel anxious, uncertain, and helpless to control their lives, and may feel angry, rejected, and pained by the separation or  develop a profound sense of loss. Some feel guilty, believing that they caused the disruption of their birth family. Peers often tease children about being in foster care, reinforcing perceptions that they are somehow different or unworthy.

So why the enormous variance between indigenous and non-indigenous children in foster care?  The reasons are complex but include:

  • the legacy of past policies of forced removal and cultural assimilation (The Stolen Generation)
  • intergenerational effects of forced removals; and
  • cultural differences in child-rearing practices.

The reasons why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children might be more likely to be abused or neglected are complex, and need to be approached with consideration of multiple historical, social, community, family and individual factors. The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (1997) report, Bringing Them Home, concluded that some of the underlying causes for the poor outcomes experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and for the over-representation of Indigenous children in child protection and out-of-home care were:

  • the legacy of past policies of forced removal and cultural assimilation;
  • intergenerational effects of forced removals; and
  • cultural differences in child-rearing practices.

Aboriginal and Torres Islander communities have tended to internalise this trauma and racism as a consequence of historical and ongoing dispossession and marginalisation.  The trauma is expressed in ways that include psychological distress, destructive behaviours:  alcohol and other drug misuse, family violence, pornography and over-crowded housing.  As time goes by the evidence of intergenerational heartache, grief,  loss and adversity become more entrenched leading to whole communities experiencing social disadvantage, unacceptable levels of family violence, child abuse and neglect.

If you are still with me at this point thank you.  There is much work to be done but each of us can make a difference by not perpetuating discrimination in the form of racism and speaking about these issues to whoever will listen.

That we have treated the indigenous people of the land as we have is shameful.

That we continue to treat them in ways that are not honouring of their culture, language and human dignity is abhorrent.

But that we do nothing is tragic.

Who said that?  I did …

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6 thoughts on “F is for Fostercare

  1. A wonderful post, Linda! It is so tragic that so many children have to be removed from their homes and placed in foster care. There are many good foster homes, but others are not, and the outcomes from those and from the constant moving from one to another create life-long problems for many.
    The huge disparity is overall fostered children numbers and those of the indigenous population is horrific, especially in NSW! It certainly illustrates the history of dispossession and forced removal policies from the past.

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    • The research does not make for good reading although I have focussed on the negative side of foster care which is the general focus of media coverage. The other side of the story is there are many more stories of children growing up in nurturing environments that provide them with the emotional stability and appropriate care every child has a right to; we just don’t get to hear about them. Each one doing what they can will make a difference as well as using positive discrimination for the first people of this land. 🙂 Thanx for the visit.

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      • So glad to hear there are so many positive stories about foster care. We hear too many of the negative ones.
        I enjoy (is that the right word for such serious topics?) your posts and find them enlightening. I was away for a few days and couldn’t comment on some of the m, but I did read them. Keep at it girl! 🙂

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  2. Jaimie, you are absolutely right there are so many wonderful foster carers who open their homes to children in need of protection and love. Unfortunately we hear so little of these homes and the experiences of children who have been blessed to have spent time in families who love them unconditionally. Thank you for visiting 🙂

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  3. My family had a foster daughter/sister for several months when I was in first grade. Kristy stayed with us about six months and then for a variety of reasons (many of which I still don’t quite understand) was moved to a different foster family. We stayed in contact with her for quite a few years, however, and visited her at her new foster family’s home. It’s been about five years since I heard anything from her, but I hope she’s doing okay.

    As tough as it is on kids to be removed from their homes and placed in the foster system, I’m thankful for those families who are willing to provide a safe, loving environment for children. Foster families are pretty fantastic!

    Stopping by from the A to Z 🙂

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