Foster Care In California

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Foster Care in California

Foster Care in California


Of the nearly 1 million children who fall victim to abuse and neglect annually, approximately 150,000 are removed from their homes and placed in foster care (JCPR, 2000). Out of home placement is considered an option of last resort, to be used only when a child's family is unable or unwilling to provide a safe home environment. Currently, there are approximately 560,000 children in the nation's foster care system (JCPR, 2000). California accounts for a substantial proportion of these cases. As of July 1, 1999, there were 112,541 welfare-supervised children in out-of-home care in California (California Department of Social Services, 2001).

In California, young kids go in the foster care system under the auspices of either county progeny welfare services or probation departments. Children supervised by the child welfare system usually have entered due to parental abuse or neglect. Children supervised by probation departments are those removed from home by a juvenile court order, usually as the result of their own behavior, but who receive child welfare (Title IV-E) funding. In 1999, 94 percent (105,756) of California children in care were supervised by county child welfare agencies, while the other 6 percent (6,785) were supervised by probation departments. For the most of young kids, foster care is a temporary experience. For instance, half of the children who entered care in California between 1993 and 1999 exited care within 17 months (California Children's Services Archive, 2001a). Within 2 years of entering care in 1993, approximately 41 percent of children were reunified with their families (California Children's Services Archive, 2001b).

Many children also find permanency through adoption and legal guardianship. However, for a growing number of children nationwide, foster care has become a permanent situation, spanning the entire length of their childhood. These children do not leave foster care until they reach the age of majority or otherwise become legally emancipated. This study examines the subset of children for whom foster care ends only when they reach adulthood. Ideally, all children who come through the foster care system would be successfully reunified with their families or placed in another permanent home while they are still children.

For children who do not find permanency, ideally they would emancipate fully prepared for adult life. This is particularly important for these children, who may not have the continuing family supports available to those who grow up in families. In this study, we begin to describe outcomes for emancipating youth during their early adult years. It has been approximated that almost 20,000 U.S. children emancipate from foster care each year. Previous research has indicated that these youth often face serious challenges as they enter the adult world (e.g., Barth, 1990; Courtney, Piliavin, Grogan-Taylor & Nesmith, 1998; Dworsky & Courtney, 2000; Festinger, 1993, Jones & Moses, 1984). In particular, studies have found that it is difficult for youth to find stable employment, that many receive means-tested cash assistance (welfare), and that in general, youth often are unprepared for ...
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