The Chronicle of Social Change is highlighting each of the policy recommendations made this summer by the participants of the Foster Youth Internship Program (FYI), a group of 12 former foster youths who have completed congressional internships.
The program is overseen each summer by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Each of the FYI participants crafted a policy recommendation during their time in Washington, D.C.
Today we highlight the recommendation of Ria Esteves, 22, a graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey.
Esteves makes two proposals aimed at compelling states to stay engaged somewhat after a child in foster care has achieved permanency, either through reunification, guardianship or adoption.
She would have Congress require that all states implement a needs assessment on the emotional and mental well-being of kids when they exit to permanency. Further, states would have to offer emotion support services to those youths until they turned 26.
The vast majority of youth who experience foster care also experience trauma, Esteves writes, and the federal government acknowledges that in policy. The Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) offers funds for the purpose of adoption promotion and support, but, she argues, defines the whole thing mostly as promotion. Separating the two purposes into separately-funded blocks within PSSF would force more state efforts at post-permanency support.
In Their Own Words
“While I was lucky enough to be placed in kinship care and eventually legally adopted, my pain and trauma did not end – it was only suppressed until later in life, when I enrolled in college. Attending college was a dream come true, but it also became a nightmare, when common college life experiences brought flashbacks of my past. The exposure to binge drinking, college parties, drugs and the sense of responsibility for those around me were all too familiar.”
The Chronicle’s Take
Some year in the near future, the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System is going to start including data about the frequency of disrupted adoptions in America – children who enter foster care after having already been adopted. It won’t be a complete picture, but it will be better than the total blind spot we have now.
If the data on disruptions is alarming, we could see the first real attention paid to the issue of post-adoption services on Capitol Hill. At the moment, while there are important demonstration projects and things going on in that area, it is surely one of the most overlooked corners of the continuum.
What Esteves proposes is the least we can do before we have a better picture of the situation. Send youth into adulthood or to permanency with a well-documented idea of their emotional and behavioral needs. Make states dedicate a part of PSSF to post-permanency, instead of leaving it as a suggested path.
Neither is a panacea for the real challenge of ensuring the system is preparing kids for life after foster care. But both are a good start.