By: Shannon Deinhart
I saw an article in the Plain Dealer not long ago about Antwone Fisher’s testimony before the US Senate regarding changes that need to be made to the foster care system.
Some of you may have seen the movie based on his life. He was born in Cleveland and spent most of his life in foster care where he was severely abused. Although most foster families provide excellent care for children who eventually return home to their parents, this was not the case for him.
His testimony did not talk about better screening of foster parents, or about not placing youth in foster care when needed, but instead about programs that allow social workers to more quickly obtain permanency for youth through reunification, adoption or legal custody to a relative.
The Problem with Emancipation
When Antwone turned 18, which is the age of emancipation, his social worker drove him to a homeless shelter in Cleveland and gave him $60 and informed him he had “emancipated”. He did not know what that word meant, but he guessed it meant no more help from his social worker.
He later searched the phone book, found his biological relatives and reconnected with them. After he met his relatives he learned he attended the same grade school as his cousins, although he never knew they were his cousins. How different his life would have been had decisions regarding his placement in foster care been different.
Things have definitely changed in the field of child welfare over the last 2 decades, but some things have not. There are still youth who emancipate from foster care at 18 to homeless shelters (with $200 now instead of $60) and some whose relatives were lost to them because no one called them to see if they wanted to remain connected to their family member.
Where the Waiting Child Fund Steps In
We continue to work very hard here at the Waiting Child Fund with our public and private partners to ensure that no youth is dropped off at a homeless shelter when they turn 18.
We are also working very hard to ensure that when kids come into foster care that all appropriate relatives are notified to ensure they can support the child and family in their reunification efforts, or take the child into their family so that youth is not lost to them.
We were fortunate to participate as members of Ohio Attorney General’s Foster Care Advisory Group to make recommendations to the State for changes to foster care. One of the recommended changes is that youth in foster care be given the opportunity to have more of a voice in their cases (as appropriate). The Waiting Child Fund believes strongly in families and youth having a voice in their case and in their placements.
The Waiting Child Fund is also excited to be a part of the effort to bring Permanency Round Tables to Ohio counties. The Permanency Round Tables are one of the many initiatives created by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to ensure higher quality permanency services are provided to youth and their families.
What a year it has been. We are excited to be involved in so many new, fresh and exciting initiatives in the field of permanency. Without your support and commitment to our mission we would not be able to do this innovative work. Thank you so much!!
For more information on the Waiting Child Fund, please visit: http://www.waitingchildfund.com .
If you have any story ideas, questions, or comments you can contact: Katie@akroneur.com.