Wednesday, December 21, 2011

State of Young America: Youth Housing

According to The State of Young America: Economic Barriers to the American Dream:

The share of young households spending more than 30% of income on rent was stable for two decades, but grew after 2000 to reach 41% in 2009.

Long-term economic trends, rising rental costs, and the Great Recession can all be seen in the decision to move home with parents.

The State of Young America: Student Financial Aid

According to The State of Young America: Economic Barriers to the American Dream:

Student financial aid has not kept up with increasing costs. In 1980 the maximum Pell Grant covered 69% of attendance, today it covers 34%.

The State of Young America: Lower Earnings for Young Adults Without a High School Diploma

According to The State of Young America: Economic Barriers to the American Dream:

Young men without a high school diploma have experienced a 28% drop in earnings since 1980. Young women’s earnings also lost ground, dropping 8 percent.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Authentic Youth Engagement

The Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative recently released a publication titled: Authentic Youth Engagement: Youth-Adult Partnerships.

Unpacking the "Why" Behind Authentic Youth Engagement:
  • "Engaging adolescents in planning and decisionmaking regarding their own lives—and the larger community—reaps critical benefits throughout the process of transitioning to adulthood."
  • "Emerging knowledge in the field of neuroscience tells us that during adolescence and young adulthood the brain is undergoing extensive remodeling and that experience plays a critical role in how the brain matures."
I completely agree that:
  • "Young people in foster care have often been removed from natural opportunities for decisionmaking, community engagement, and leadership and they experience a sense of powerlessness and isolation."
  • "The intentional creation of leadership and community engagement opportunities is therefore particularly important for this group of young people."
Read more in this excellent resource...

Friday, December 02, 2011

What If Every State Had Foster Care Medical Review Panel?

What if every state had a Foster Care Medical Review Panel, serving in a role similar to a Medical Ombudsman, that foster care youth, alumni, foster parents, CASA/GAL, etc. could contact with  concerns about over-medication?   

Forgotten Children A Special Report on the Texas Foster Care System Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn (April 2004)


  • DPRS exercised little meaningful oversight over the treatment of foster children with psychotropic medications.
  • No formal investigation related to psychotropic medications had ever been conducted.
  • YFT did not attempt to assess the appropriateness of medications.
  • Many foster children were being prescribed psychotropic medications by physicians who were not trained in child psychiatry.
  • Even though federal law requires a foster child’s medical records to be reviewed, updated and given to foster care providers, foster care providers of 46% children in a study conducted by the OIG never received medical histories of the children in care, including children with serious medical conditions.   Without access to a child’s medical records, it was difficult for foster parents to effectively care for foster children.

Challenges Noted:
The Advisory Committee recognized that “[c]oncerns exist regarding the inappropriate use of psychotropic medication and inadequate monitoring of prescribed medications.  

There was also a lack of data available regarding physician prescribing practices and child outcomes.  Children in foster care may be subject to widely varied standards of care.  There is currently no way to monitor the quality of care and no system for resolving concerns associated with the use of psychotropic medication for children. 

Also there is no method for “second” opinions to be easily obtained by DFPS staff when they have concerns or questions.”

In response, their plan was to:
  • Develop review panels of medical professionals including (trauma-informed) child psychiatrists to provide recommendations regarding care for foster children where there is a question on whether their care is clinically appropriate.
  • Establish clinical guidelines and protocols for psychotropic medications and a review process for identifying children’s medical records that fall outside the guidelines and reviewing them for inquiry or possible corrective action.
  • Develop a medical and educational passport for each child that follows the child through placement changes and is readily available to healthcare providers and schools electronically.

The Financial and Societal Costs of Medicating America's Foster Children

A Senate hearing was held yesterday, "The Financial and Societal Costs of Medicating America’s Foster Children."

Mr. Bryan Samuels, Commissioner, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, gave the following testimony: "During my tenure as Director, DCFS developed a comprehensive system of protocols and safeties to ensure that psychotropic medications are prescribed responsibly and monitored consistently."

This included:
  • Requiring that all prescriptions be reviewed and approved at the State Deputy Director level; 
  • Establishing time-limits for reviews to ensure that necessary treatment was not delayed;   
  • Developing an electronic database for tracking all prescriptions for children in foster care;
  • Creating “red flags” in the database that elevated certain cases, such as those in which three or more medications were prescribed, for more thorough review; and
  • Establishing best practice guidelines and distributing them to prescribers. The electronic database was also designed to identify providers whose patterns of prescribing differed from the guidelines.

Drugging Foster Youth - Influence of Pharmaceutical Companies

Quotes from Time Magazine article: Szalavitz, Maia. Why Are So Many Foster Care Children Taking Antipsychotics?Time Magazine, November 29, 2011 .
  • "The influence of pharmaceutical company marketing cannot be overlooked. Ninety-nine percent of youth receiving anti-psychotic medications in the study were given atypical anti-psychotics — the newer generation of these drugs, which are expensive and mostly unavailable in generic form and have been heavily advertised .
  • "All of the major manufacturers of these drugs have been fined by the Food and Drug Administration for illegal marketing practices — in part, for marketing the drugs for unapproved use in children — with some convicted of criminal charges.
  • " The main condition that antipsychotics are approved to treat —schizophrenia — is extremely rare in children . The rate of schizophrenia in children under 12 is an estimated 2 cases per 1 million children; it affects fewer than 1% of older teens. Anti-psychotics are also approved to treat bipolar disorder, a diagnosis that is highly controversial in children . Some studies suggest that it affects 0.2% to 0.4 % of children, and up to 1% of adolescents.
  • And yet, between 1994 and 2003, rates of bipolar diagnoses in youth under 19 rose by a factor of more than 40, according to the National Institute on Mental Health. It seems unlikely to be a coincidence that this rise occurred during the period when atypical anti-psychotics were being illegally marketed for children ."
  • "Indeed, most of the anti-psychotics used in foster-care youth were for conditions that the drugs were not approved to treat . Fifty-three percent of prescriptions were written for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a condition that is ordinarily managed with drugs that have the opposite pharmacological effects as anti-psychotics. The stimulant medications like Adderall and Ritalin, widely used for ADHD, tend to increase levels of dopamine, while anti-psychotics tend to decrease it."      

Unnecessarily Drugging Foster Care Youth

A concern that comes up again and again with foster care youth and young adults is the issue of overmedication in foster care.
A new study, Antipsychotic Treatment Among Youth in Foster Care , examined concomitant antipsychotic use among Medicaid-enrolled youth in foster care, compared with disabled or low-income Medicaid-enrolled youth.

They found that:
  • More than a third of youth in foster care without disabilities had multiple anit-psychotic prescriptions lasting longer than 90 days
  • Children who were not adopted had the highest rates of prescriptions, representing 38 out of every 100 children in foster care.
In comparison, 26 out of every 100 children who were on public assistance but not in foster care had more than one antipsychotic prescription.

In recent years, doctors and policy makers have grown concerned about high rates of overall psychiatric drug use in the foster care system. Previous studies have found that children in foster care receive psychiatric medications at about twice the rate among children outside the system. 

In 2008, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support held a hearing on the u tilization of psychotropic medication for children in foster car e.

In 2010, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the prevalence of prescribed psychotropic medications for children in foster care.    

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ghosts of Holidays Past

One of my favorite movies in college was “A Muppet Christmas Carol.

As a former foster child, I could relate to Scrooge’s need to come to terms with Christmases of the Past, to find a place to belong in Christmas Present, and to summon up the courage to face Christmases of the Future.

I believe that this is a journey that continues for all of us…

I can still remember the 14-year-old girl I once was, living in an all-girls group home, and facing Christmas without family. My father was abusive and often absent. My mother’s death had left a void in my life that had yet to be filled.

To quote from my journal at the time: “Peering out from frost-covered glass, I feel a chill on my face as gusts of fresh wind bursts through the open window. It’s tough to face the fact that my own father chose not to visit me – that sharp sting of abandonment. My heart feels the bitter taste of winter’s emptiness. I squint my eyes to stare at the falling snow, noticing how each individual snowflake falls from the sky in its solitary travel; separate, isolated and alone.”

However as Albert Camus once pointed out:

Warmth insisted on making its way into my winter holidays -- particularly the Christmas when I was 16 years old…

The snow outside was white and pure, as I walked through the door of the main gathering area of the co-ed group home. The room was filled with a multitude of gifts, donated by members of a church somewhere in our county. Some of the packages had my name on them.

I opened up each of my presents, one by one, and stared at my brand-new blue jeans, white sneakers and assortment of colorful shirts. Whoever bought these clothes somehow knew my favorite colors: red, pink, turquoise and indigo-blue. Over the years, I’d grown accustomed to hand-me-down clothing; I typically borrowed clothes from my roommates or raided the charity boxes.

“Do they do this for us every year?” I asked my roommate incredulously.

“Yeah. They start saving up in January and put away money all year until the beginning of December. The group home sends them a list of things we need.”

I stared at the huddle of figures in the periphery of the room. The men wore work-worn overalls, embellished with holes. The women were equally without embellishment – no make-up, plain clothes.

“I hope they have enough money left for their own kids. It doesn’t look like they could afford to pay for all this stuff.” I commented.

A woman standing across the room caught my eye and smiled gently.

My roommate hissed in my ear. “Shut up, Lisa. They might hear you.”

“Okay, okay.” I stole another glance over at the strangers in the corner. Their selflessness astounded me. What did they do this? Why sacrifice for us? My own father didn’t send any Christmas presents to me.

As I exited the gathering that day, my arms filled with gifts I had received, the air outside was crisp and clean. My breath rose in a smoky haze. My new coat enveloped me, surrounding me with a feeling of warmth. For one brief moment, I felt cherished and secure.

That day, for me, was an integral experience in my life –one of many such seeds for the future that make me who I am today. Long after I had fought to build a future for myself and successfully established a marriage and family of my own, this snapshot from the past remained.

This particular experience helped me survive in that moment, and I am determined that its legacy will carry on…

This vision is at the heart of why Ohio foster care alumni take #ACTION to partner with our allies to host multiple Thanksgiving Events for foster care teens and young adults every year...

There are moments in our life when we have the opportunity to step outside of our comfort zone to make a difference. As we look back upon our lives, we can each remember those special people who went the extra mile in our lives – and how their actions continue to make each and every one of us who we are. As Scrooge discovered in the Muppet Christmas Carol: “It’s true, wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas.”

We cannot save the entire world – but we can save some. We can and should continue to invest in our young people in and from foster care. We can offer them the gift of our love, encouragement, and empowerment. We can provide them with hope in this moment, and education regarding available resources that can help to pave the way for their future. Inasmuch as it depends on us, we can provide them with a “summer of the soul in December.”

We should expect nothing less from ourselves and one another.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Celebrating each of the three FCAA Ohio Thanksgivings... one by one...

The second annual FCAA NE OH Thanksgiving Dinner for Foster Care Teens and Emancipated Youth once again captured the heart of what this event is all about… 

Reminding those who have experienced foster care personally that they always have a seat at our table. 

That it is an honor for us to stay in touch with them, as they enter into young adulthood, find their places in this world, and move beyond the shadows of their past to build bright futures and families of their own.

We want our young people to know that their voices, talents, insights and mutual encouragement are what lies at the heart of this celebration…

Many thanks to each of event sponsor and volunteer for your role in hosting a Thanksgiving celebration that fulfills its purpose, and has our young people eager to return each year.

Words are simply not enough to express my gratitude.


Lisa Dickson,

2011 FCAA Ohio Thanksgiving Reunions

A place where foster care teens, emancipated youth and adult alumni are always welcome.
Having experienced foster care ourselves, we know that holidays can be difficult.
Let's come together - share our strength and insights, rejoice in how far we have come.
Let's encourage one another for the next step in the journey....

Every year since 2007, Thanksgiving has been a time for Ohio foster care youth (ages 16+), alumni and allies/adult supporters to gather together.

This year, the Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni held three Thanksgiving events, with help from our valued supporters:


The Southwest Ohio Thanksgiving took place in Dayton:
  • Saturday, November 19, 2011, from 1:00 - 3:30 pm
  • Salem Church of God, 6500 Southway Road, Clayton, OH 45318
Lead Facilitator: Michelle Conklin
Primary Sponsor: New Family Tree
Catering Sponsor: Jerri's Catering and Family Restaurant 
Additional Sponsors: Majestic Nursery, Salem Student Ministry, Wendy's Wonderful Kids, and the Meet Me Halfway Fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee
Pumpkin Decorations: Val Bairnsfather


The Northeast Ohio Thanksgiving took place in Cleveland:
Lead Facilitator: Zelma Brown
Sponsors include: Cuyahoga County Children Services, National Council of Jewish Woman: Cleveland SectionAntioch Baptist Church, Adoption Network Cleveland, and Village Network


The Central/Southeast Ohio Thanksgiving took place in Columbus:
  • Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011, from 1-3:00 pm
  • Capital University - Harry C. Moores Campus Center, 745 Pleasant Ridge Ave., Bexley OH 43209
Lead Facilitator: Bethany Koshinsky
Sponsors include: Capital University President Bowman's Office, Village Network and Capital University student organizations and Campus Ministries, and the Koshinsky family


The Ohio chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America wants to express our appreciation, once more to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, for their generous donation towards the cost of all three FCAA Ohio Thanksgiving Events.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Youth Feedback from 2011 Career and Entrepreneurship Event for Foster Care Youth and Alumni

My entire fall has been consumed by preparations for the 2011 Career and Entrepreneurship Conference - because today's foster care youth and alumni are WORTH it.

  • Worth preparing for their future career.
  • Worth providing insider tips on how to successfully connect with the workforce.
  • Worth waking up at 3 am or 4 am in the morning and obsessing over details for...

I have a day job (as a Children's Librarian). I have daytime-responsibilities. For every day I take off for foster-care-related stuff, I work an an extra day over the weekend to compensate my paying employer. But every 15-minute break, every lunch break, evenings and weekends, my heart and mind naturally drift towards my younger brothers and sisters in and from foster care.

Rhonda Sciortino's Keynote ~ Quotes from Youth Evaluations:

  • “It was wonderful. I am SO glad she was able to come. It gave me a lot of insight, not only into my situation, but how to live my life.”
  • “I liked that Rhonda encouraged us – we need more of that”
  • “It was nice to be able to meet someone that was a foster child in the past, and that has a wonderful life.”
  • “This session was really helpful and inspirational to me cause it gave a lot more hope for my future and it showed me that you can do whatever you want, if you have the passion for it and put your mind into it.”
  • “Mrs. Sciortino taught me that no matter what anyone says to try and put me down and say that I can’t do it, that I’m the ONLY ONE who can change my life and succeed in my life.”
  • "Was really interested in what Rhonda was saying – it gave me hope that I could become something in life. LOVED IT”

One young person just wrote, on the evaluation form regarding Rhonda's presentation: "Thank you."

Overall Event ~ Quotes from Youth Evaluations:

  • “Worth the trip, thoroughly enjoyed it”
  • “It was wonderful. I really enjoyed it. I hope we can do it again, soon.”
  • “I loved it. This conference ROCKS! I hope we have another”
  • “I thought that it was all very helpful! And I think that all the information I got today will help me down the line.”
  • “Anything they said was helpful, if you just apply it to your life. A quote that always went through my head: ‘How to you live when you’re ruled by your past? But how do you forget a past that made you?”
  • “I enjoyed it, and it will help me in the future.”
  • “The event was a success in terms of the people I connected with.”
  • “The whole event was very professional, and organized by the way that everything was set up and put together, and I believe everyone who decided to have this event for us are really caring people who really cares about the youth and where they end up, and who they become. Thank you very much for inviting me.”
  • “I have really enjoyed the whole entire time I’ve been here. I appreciate every single person who taught me things that I didn’t know were possible”
  • “I’m glad I came today, because I learned a lot of stuff that will help me with a successful future.”
  • “I am really glad that I got to come up to Columbus; I am leaving with lots of new facts than when I came. I really think that all students need to do what I did today.”
  • “I really enjoyed it, even though I had to get up really early. I liked it.”
  • “I really enjoyed myself and really changed my perspective on jobs, life and success. Loved it!!!”

Saturday, September 17, 2011

How Has Welfare "Reform" Worked Out for Families in Poverty?

In 1996,the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant replaced the former Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program... 
  • Over the last 15 years, the national TANF caseload has declined by 60 percent, even as poverty and deep poverty have worsened:

These opposing trends — TANF caseloads going down while poverty is going up — mean that a much smaller share of poor families receive cash assistance from TANF than they did prior to welfare reform:

TANF cash benefits have not kept pace with inflation and are below half the poverty line in all states:

TANF benefits are a fraction of the estimated costs of housing for a family, and housing is only one of the basic needs that a family has...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Aging Out of New York Foster Care Into Homelessness

A recent report from the Center for an Urban Future found that:

  • One in 10 youth in New York City who emancipated from foster care in the mid-2000s entered a homeless shelter within the first year 
  • Within three years, that number doubled to one in five.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

African American Unemployment: Highest in 27 years

Quotes from CNN:
  • "The August jobs report was dismal for plenty of reasons, but perhaps most striking was the picture it painted of racial inequality in the job market."
  • "Black unemployment surged to 16.7% in August, its highest level since 1984, while the unemployment rate for whites fell slightly to 8%, the Labor Department reported."
  • "This month's numbers continue to bear out that longstanding pattern that minorities have a much more challenging time getting jobs," said Bill Rodgers, chief economist with the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.
  • "Even when you compare black and white workers, same age range, same education, you still see pretty significant gaps in unemployment rates," said Algernon Austin, director of the Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy program at the Economic Policy Institute. "So I do think the fact of racial discrimination in the labor market continues to play a role."

Friday, August 26, 2011

Picture Books About Abuse and Complex Living Situations


The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Be Sad by Rob Goldblatt, 2004. A boy who doesn’t want to be sad anymore decides that the best way to protect himself is to get rid of anything that could make him sad – but discovers that he is closing off his heart to many of life’s joys as well.

Edwardo: The Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World by John Burningham, 2007. When a perfectly normal boy experiences verbal abuse from his caregivers, his behavior goes downhill – until the adults in his life remember to look for and recognize his positive qualities.

A Family That Fights by Sharon Chesler Bernstein, 1991. Henry's parents fight often and his father sometimes hits his mother, causing Henry to feel frightened and ashamed. This book includes a list of things children can do in situations of family violence.

Hands Are Not for Hitting by Martine Agassi, 2002. Children who have been abused or witnessed abuse can mimic what they have seen. This book offers alternative solutions for dealing with anger and frustration.

Hope Is An Open Heart by Lauren Thompson, 2010. A gentle reminder that, although hope can sometimes feel far away, it is always there, and that there are people that a child can go to when he/she needs help. 

Is A Worry Worrying You? by Ferida Wolff, 2005. This book acknowledges and addresses the worries of children and helps the child deal with them through problem-solving and/or telling a trusted adult.

The Magic Beads by Nancy Neilsen-Fernlund, 2007. When Lily thinks about what to bring in for Show and Tell at school, the butterflies in her stomach turn to grasshoppers, bunny rabbits, donkeys and buffaloes. She and her mother are currently staying in a homeless shelter, and she doesn't know what to share.

One of the Problems of Everett Anderson by Lucille Clifton, 2001. Everett suspects that his friend at school might be abused, and doesn’t know what to do, so he asks a trusted adult for advice.

Please Tell! A Child's Story About Sexual Abuse by Jessie Ottenweller, 1991. Nine-year-old Jennie's words and illustrations help other sexually abused children know that they're not alone, that it's okay to talk about their feelings, and that the abuse wasn't their fault.

Sometimes Bad Things Happen by Ellen Jackson, 2002. Mentions some of the bad things that happen in the world and presents some positive ways to respond to them.  

Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry by Bebe Moore Campbell, 2003. Annie reaches out to her grandmother for help when her mother acts out due to mental illness.

A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret M. Holmes, 2000. After Sherman sees something terrible happen, he becomes anxious and angry, but talking through those emotions with an adult proves to be helpful.

Picture Books About Foster Care


A Child is A Child by Brigette Weninger, 2004. After two young frogs are abandoned by their parents, Mama Mouse mobilizes the entire animal community to help care for them.

Aunt Minnie McGranahan by Mary Skillings Prigger, 1999. Based on a true story; when nine orphans came to live with her, Aunt Minnie came up with a solution: "The oldest looked after the youngest, the ones in the middle looked after each other, and Aunt Minnie looked after them all.”

A Father Like That by Charlotte Zolotow, 2007. A boy growing up without a father lists the activities that he wishes they could share, and decides to grow up and become the type of father that he never had.

Foster Parents by Rebecca Rissman, 2011. Describes what foster families are and how they care for children who need help until they return to their original families or move on to a permanent family.

Goodbyes by Shelley Rotner, 2002. Simple text, accompanied by photos, explains that sometimes people live in more than one home, and that goodbyes might not be forever, but might be just “bye for now.”

Kids Need to be Safe by Julie Nelson, 2005. This book is designed to help foster children understand why they aren’t currently with their biological parents, and offer them hope and reassurance.

Let’s Talk About When Your Parent is in Jail by Maureen K. Wittbold, 1997. Having a parent in jail can be one of the reasons that children enter foster care. This book answers many questions that children can be harboring.

Maybe Days: A Book for Children in Foster Care by Jennifer Wilgocki and Marcia K. Wright, 2002. Provides a simple explanation for children in foster care about the processes impacting their lives, and acknowledges the questions for which there is no easy answer, such as: “When am I going home?”

A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza, 1992. A motherless bird searches for the right place to belong – and finally finds it with Mrs. Bear, who takes Choco into her loving home and introduces him to his new siblings.

Murphy’s Three Homes by Jan Levinson Gilman, 2008. A puppy who moves from home to home learns that it is not his fault, and finds a family who will love him even if he struggles to obey their rules.

My Dog Is As Smelly As Dirty Socks by Hanoch Piven, 2007. During their time in foster care, children often create Life Books with pictures and stories about their biological families. This book, while not specifically geared towards foster care, suggests creative collage techniques that might work well in Life Books. 

Our Gracie Aunt by Jacqueline Woodson, 2002. Initially reluctant to open the door to a social worker asking how long their mother has been gone, two children find comfort and safety at their Aunt Gracie’s house.

When I Miss You by Cornelia Maude Spelman, 2004. Various situations can cause a child to be separated from parents – for a short or long time. This book is a tool for caregivers to assist children of all backgrounds to share what it feels like to miss someone and problem-solve what to do while waiting to be reunited.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Wise Words from Karen Pittman

  • "Investments in early childhood are essential to preparing the next generation to succeed—but so too are investments in older youth and young adults...

  • "In general, we as a nation invest less in older youth, and the investments we make are more reactive and fragmented. What’s more, the data we have about older youth is fragmented; it’s harder to get a coherent picture of who this group is because they straddle multiple systems.

  • "We need to do a better job of highlighting the statistics and stories of older youth, and ensuring that our policy recommendations include strategies that address their needs for job training, educational stipends, extended health and social benefits, employer incentives and paid service opportunities.

  • "We need, in short, to pull out the stops to be sure that we’re not only investing early but also maintaining those investments to give all young people a chance to be ready for college, work and life by age 21—and successful by 26."

~ Karen Pittman, founder and CEO of the Forum for Youth Investment, dedicating to ensuring that all young people are "Ready by 21" for college, work and life.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Federal Spending On Children Continues to Decline

According to Children's Budget 2011, spending on children in the 2011 federal budget dropped by nearly 10 percent from 2010, falling to 8.4 percent.

Kids' Share 2011 reveals that, if current law remains unchanged, by as early as 2014, the federal government is projected to spend more on interest payments on the federal debt than on programs that benefit children.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lisa's 11th Wedding Anniversary

I safeguard this blog for foster care-related news, including upcoming trends that can positively or negatively impact foster care youth who are "aging out" of foster care and entering adulthood without family support.

However, I did want to mention -- as a former foster child myself -- that current statistics do not reflect the many survivors such as myself who, with support, were able to successfully navigate the murky waters of adulthood, stay afloat and build families of our own.

Everything I do, as a volunteer for Foster Care Alumni of America's Ohio chapter is to forge new pathways in order to change the odds, and promote available resources, so that more former foster youth can "make it," survive, thrive and establish healthy "chosen families" of their own.

Here's to the future 10th - 11th - 20th - 50th wedding anniversaries for today's young people in/from foster care. It wasn't easy for me to get to where I am today - and I don't wanna be here alone :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Watching the Teen Job Market Disappear

Trends in the Summer Employment / Population Ratios of the Nation’s Teens 1989 – 2010

According to the Center for Labor Market Studies:
  • Teens are at a unique disadvantage: No other age group of American working-age adults has been beset by such a dramatic decline in their overall employment rates over the past four years, or over the last decade as a whole.
  • "During the summer of 2000, near the height of the early 1990s-2000 national economic boom, nearly 52 percent of the nation’s teens held some type of job."
  •  "As a result of the national economic recession of 2001 and the largely jobless recovery of 2002-2003, the teen summer employment rate dropped considerably, falling to 41 percent by 2004."
  • "The next four summers, from 2007-2010, saw the teen employment rate fall steadily and sharply from 42.6 percent in 2006 to 29.6 percent in 2010. Over that span, the summers of 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 each set post-WWII summer lows for teens."
  • "There are no signs that teen employment rates will improve this summer."
Employment Rates of Teens (16-19) in
Selected Household Income/Race-Ethnic Groups in
the U.S. during the Summer of 2010

Additional observations from the Center for Labor Market Studies:

  • "Accounting for race shows even greater disparities in summer teen employment rates. The breakdown by race and ethnicity of teens at work in the summer of 2010 shows about one in ten low-income, black youth and between one in seven and one in five black and Hispanic teens from low- and middle-income families."
  • "Yet employment rates over the same span were 40 to 41 percent for white youth in families with incomes in the middle and upper middle income range. This means more affluent white youth were four times as likely to be employed as low-income black youth."

Why the United States Needs College Graduates

According to The Undereducated American, a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce:
  • The United States has been under-producing college-educated workers for decades. From 1915 to 1980, supply grew in tandem with demand. But, starting in 1990, the share of college-educated young people in the workforce rose very slowly.
  • The under-supply of post-secondary-educated workers has led to both inefficiency and inequity

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Continued Concerns Regarding Psychotropic Drugging of Foster Care Youth

According to the Multi-State Study on Psychotropic Medication Oversight in Foster Care conducted by the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute:
  • The use of psychotropic medications for foster children between the ages of 2 and 21 has risen significantly over the past decade.
  • Out of the forty-seven of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia participated in this study, nine states had no written policy/guidelines regarding psychotropic medication use for foster youth.
Read the report to learn more about challenges faced by states, and innovative initiatives that some states have implemented in order to address this issue.

47% of College Students are Independent Students

According to the CLASP fact sheet Yesterday's Nontraditional Student is Today's Traditional Student:
  • 47% of undergraduates are independent students
  • Nearly a quarter of students are parents, and more than one in eight students are single parents
  • 63% of community college students would be unable to attend college if they did not work
Meanwhile according to a brief by CLASP and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, Not Just Kid Stuff Anymore: The Economic Imperative for More Adults to Complete College:
  • Between 2008 and 2018 demand for college-educated workers will rise by 16 percent while demand for other workers will stay flat.
  • Demand for college-educated workers in nearly half of the states will grow 2 to 3 times faster than demand for high school graduates or dropouts. In six states (IN, MA, ME, MI, MN and OH), jobs that require a college education will grow 5-7 times faster.
  • By 2018, nearly two-thirds of the nation’s jobs will require some postsecondary education or training.
According to this report, just as our economy is demanding more workers that have some postsecondary education or training, our traditional source of such workers – high school graduates – is leveling off:
  • Over the next decade there will be no national growth in the number of high school graduates.
  • Thirteen states (AK, HI, IL, MA, ME, MD, MS, MO, MT, NH, OH, PA, and WV) will have 5 to 10 percent fewer high school graduates in 2020.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Savings Account and College Retention

According to the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis, students with savings accounts in their name — regardless of the amount saved — are six times more likely to attend and remain in college compared to their peers without savings.

I recently created a series of scenarios for foster care youth (independent living activities) in which unexpected events catapoulted them into "crisis mode" -- and, in each scenario, if they had budgeted ahead of time in order to maintain a savings account, this would have saved them money and stress in the long run.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Barriers to Access for Children on Medicaid

According to the New England Journal of Medicine:

"Expansions of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are designed to extend access to high-quality medical care to all U.S. children. However, evidence suggests that the 37 million children covered by Medicaid–CHIP are less likely to receive specialty care than children covered by commercial insurance."

Access Disparities for Medicaid Children
Researchers have found that medical specialists are more likely to deny appointments to children with Medicaid. Assistants posed as mothers and made phone calls to 273 clinics in Cook County, IL. Only 11% of privately insured individuals were denied appointments, while 66% of the children on Medicaid were denied. 

Disparities were also present in waiting times. At the 89 clinics that accepted both insurances, there was a 42 day wait for a child on Medicaid as opposed to a 20 day wait for those with private insurance. 

Possible reasons for the differences include lower reimbursement rates for Medicaid and more problems with the payment process.

Researchers say that the results are not likely to be unique to Cook County. The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Priced Out: How the Wrong Financial-Aid Policies Hurt Low-Income Students

According to Priced Out: How the Wrong Financial-Aid Policies Hurt Low-Income Students:

  • Since the early 1980s, college tuition and fees have increased at four times the rate of inflation—even faster than skyrocketing healthcare expenses.
  • The average low-income family must contribute an amount nearly three quarters of its annual household income each year just to send one child to a four-year college. That’s after all sources of grant aid are taken into account. 
  • After exhausting all sources of grant aid, the typical low-income student must come up with over $11,000 a year to attend a public or private nonprofit college.
  •  Meanwhile, middle-class and high-income families contribute amounts equivalent to just 27 percent and 14 percent of their yearly earnings, respectively.
College Results Online
The U.S. Department of Education's Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) enables you to create your own group of colleges to compare their graduation rates and related information.