9
Adolescents in the Child Welfare System

The child welfare system in general, and foster care in particular, is supposed to provide a ''safety net" for children and adolescents who face developmental risks because of dysfunctional families, high-risk neighborhoods, mental health, or behavioral problems. But there is clear evidence that this net has failed, that the child welfare system is doing an inadequate job of preparing the adolescents in its care to make the transition to productive, independent adulthood. For many adolescents who enter its care, the child welfare system has become a high-risk setting. Demographic trends (e.g., the "baby bust") and the efforts at deinstitutionalization in the 1970s and at community-based service alternatives in the early 1980s temporarily reduced the number of adolescents in the child welfare system, but by the mid-1980s the trend was reversed. It is not clear whether factors outside the service system (e.g., increased poverty and broken families) overwhelmed efforts to develop community service alternatives; it is clear that troubled and troublesome adolescents pose problems that, to date, have not been solved.

EVOLUTION OF THE SYSTEM

Early Reforms

At the beginning of this century, child welfare policy stressed the rights of individual children and enhanced the state's role in acting as parent to the child. This often meant separation from



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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings 9 Adolescents in the Child Welfare System The child welfare system in general, and foster care in particular, is supposed to provide a ''safety net" for children and adolescents who face developmental risks because of dysfunctional families, high-risk neighborhoods, mental health, or behavioral problems. But there is clear evidence that this net has failed, that the child welfare system is doing an inadequate job of preparing the adolescents in its care to make the transition to productive, independent adulthood. For many adolescents who enter its care, the child welfare system has become a high-risk setting. Demographic trends (e.g., the "baby bust") and the efforts at deinstitutionalization in the 1970s and at community-based service alternatives in the early 1980s temporarily reduced the number of adolescents in the child welfare system, but by the mid-1980s the trend was reversed. It is not clear whether factors outside the service system (e.g., increased poverty and broken families) overwhelmed efforts to develop community service alternatives; it is clear that troubled and troublesome adolescents pose problems that, to date, have not been solved. EVOLUTION OF THE SYSTEM Early Reforms At the beginning of this century, child welfare policy stressed the rights of individual children and enhanced the state's role in acting as parent to the child. This often meant separation from

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings biological families and institutionalization in orphanages or similar settings (Katz, 1986). Reforms in the 1910s and 1920s brought with them the idea that children should not be separated from their families simply because of poverty (Meckel, 1985). The Social Security Act of 1935 expanded on existing "mother's pensions" at the state level to create a national Aid to Dependent Children program, which linked the act's provisions on economic maintenance, child protection, and foster care to form the structure on which subsequent reforms have been based. As increasing numbers of children came to be reared in substitute care, concern arose that federal funds were being spent to separate children and parents, rather than in preserving families (Maas and Engler, 1959). Permanency planning—the provision of a stable family living arrangement with nurturing parents or caretakers and the opportunity to establish lifetime relationships—evolved out of this concern about "drift" in foster care (Maluccio and Fein, 1983). Subsequent "reforms" were a mixed blessing. For example, the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s provided a model for those who wanted to ensure that children, women, and people with disabilities also had full rights under the U.S. Constitution. The focus on individual liberties brought uneven results for children, however: handicapped children benefited by full entitlement to public education, and the prosecution of children for "state offenses" (activities that are not crimes if committed by adults) greatly declined. However, children who depended on government child welfare agencies were sometimes assured of their rights at the expense of the services they needed. When truancy or curfew violations were no longer delinquent activities, for instance, young people had to escalate their behavior before they could benefit from any community response. In the 1960s, to "protect" clients from government intrusion—and to save money—many states eliminated one of the main roles of public social workers, that of helping clients acquire services and support. After nearly four decades, the casework relationship between a client and a social worker came to an end: social workers were responsible only for conducting financial assistance investigations; families were told to seek out social services on their own if they needed them. This void in social services to families has been gradually filled by the child welfare system. For example, the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 (P.L. 96-272) responded to the long-standing concern that many children were staying in foster

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings care for unnecessarily long periods and that no one was responsible for managing their exit from the system. To remedy these perceived problems, the law was designed to prevent foster care placement where possible, to facilitate quicker reunion with parents or placement in long-term foster care, and to subsidize hard-to-place children. Adolescents were covered by this legislation, but they were affected differently than younger children because many were in different circumstances than younger children. Since adolescents have less chance of either reunification or adoption than younger children, long-term placement in foster care, while not a preferred outcome, was included as a satisfactory outcome for adolescents. At the present time, the tide of change is running against these adolescents due to fiscal constraints and the growing caseloads of younger children. Many states, citing budget problems, have lowered from 21 to 18 the age at which adolescents are no longer eligible for services. Recent Trends Community-Based Services Since the mid-1970s, the federal government and the states have sought noncorrectional alternatives for youths who engage in antisocial, but not serious criminal activities. These troubled and troublesome youths were typically classified as "minors in need of supervision," but they are neither treated as offenders nor incarcerated. A number of community-based alternatives have arisen to cope with this gentler system of social control. One of them, Community Based Youth Services (CBYS), uses local boards or agencies across a state to generate distinctive service packages for status offenders and other troubled youth. The goal is to reduce adolescents' contact with, and penetration into, the juvenile justice and child welfare systems by keeping them at home with community services. One evaluation of a CBYS system (Spergel and Hartnett, 1990) found that the services did not systematically reduce subsequent contacts with either the juvenile justice or child welfare systems, but the extent to which these results reflect national experiences with CBYS is not known. Community-based services appear to "widen the nets" of these systems by identifying young people whose needs exceed community resources and who ultimately need the protection or control of a correctional or child welfare setting. The only variable that seemed to reduce the likelihood of negative outcomes was the level of training

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings of community service providers: staff members with graduate degrees were more likely than other staff to divert youth from these systems, which suggests that the complexity of problems required a more sophisticated understanding of troubled youth and a better sense of strategic interventions (Spergel and Hartnett, 1990). Foster Care The foster care population has experienced tremendous growth since the mid-1980s. There were an estimated 300,000 children in foster care during the mid-1980s, but the population is currently estimated to be over 500,000. Ten years ago, adolescents constituted a large portion of the child welfare population, but since then the number of adolescents in all types of foster care has remained relatively constant while the number of children in the youngest age groups has skyrocketed. As a result, the 13- to 18-year-old age group dropped from 45 percent of the total in 1982 to 34 percent of the total in 1988 (Tatara, 1992). (The lack of reliable and up-to-date national data may conceal further declines in the share, if not the absolute number, of adolescents in the foster care population.) In Illinois, for example, the rate for 15- to 19-year-olds being placed in foster care dropped from 13.2 per 10,000 in 1980 to 10 per 10,000 in 1990, while the placement rate for newborns to 4-year-olds increased from 26.3 per 10,000 to 49.7 per 10,000. Most of the overall decrease was due to fewer white adolescents being placed in foster care; the placement rates for minority youths remained constant or increased slightly (Goerge and Osuch, 1992). Substantial increases in the number of infants being placed in foster care, and resulting declines in the percentage of adolescents in the system, have also occurred in California, Michigan, and New York (Goerge and Wulczyn, 1990). Several studies examined the duration of child welfare placement and reentry into the system for statewide populations of foster children of all children. The first showed that children who exited care and returned to their parents had stayed in care for an average of 1 year, those who were adopted had stayed in care for 1.2 years, and those who exited in other ways had stayed for 6 years (Maas and Engler, 1959). The second found that, once a child had been in foster care for over 90 days, there was a high probability that the child would remain in care for more than 3 years (Fanshel and Shinn, 1976). A more recent study of foster children in New York and Illinois showed that, for children discharged

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings in 1986, the median duration of care for adolescents between 12 and 17 years old was between 10 and 14 months, the longest duration for any group except for children who were placed as infants (Goerge and Wulczyn, 1990). For young children, placements with relatives greatly increased the duration of foster care, but they also increased the stability of foster care (i.e., prevented multiple placements). However, this was not the case for adolescents. This difference suggests that even relatives find it difficult to care for adolescents separated from their parents (Goerge, 1990). Unfortunately, research also shows that between 20 and 30 percent of children discharged from foster care will eventually reenter foster care (Rzepnicki, 1987). A study of foster children in New York showed that those who were placed between the ages of 10 and 12 had the highest risk of reentry, and that those who spent less time in care (less than 90 days) were also more likely to reenter care (Wulczyn, 1991). Another 1985 study in Illinois showed that 10- to 14-year-olds were most likely to reenter foster care (Wulczyn et al., 1986). THE CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM FOR ADOLESCENTS Structure and Problems Child welfare services are a public-private partnership that includes many players: the federal government, which provides some funding and policy direction; state and local governments, which spend most of the funds and are responsible for administration, case management, and, in many cases, provision of services; private charitable organizations, which provide services; individuals, sometimes relatives, for the provision of foster care; and the families and children themselves, who sometimes play an integral part in service planning and provision. Although state and local agencies are often blamed when the system fails, its success depends on all of these players and, beyond them, on the whole of society. Many professionals have observed that there are actually two child welfare systems—one for young children and another for adolescents. And while the system for young children is viewed as deeply flawed, the system for adolescents faces even more complex

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings and formidable problems. One example is the problem of recruiting and retaining foster parents. It is increasingly difficult to find foster parents for young children because of the tremendous increase in the number of infants entering the system and, at the same time, a decrease in the number of potential full-time foster parents. It is even more difficult to find foster parents for adolescents, for whom family life is often a source of conflict and whose behaviors may be both destructive and difficult to control. Hence, more restrictive living arrangements like group homes and residential treatment centers are often necessary for adolescents. Other problems arise from the need to help adolescents with the developmental transition from childhood to adulthood. This increases the types of services that are required and poses complicated problems of institutional authority and responsibility. The task of preparing adolescents for adulthood is difficult to institutionalize, especially when adolescents are struggling with the wishes and fears that independence implies. In addition, the child welfare system must cope with many medical, social, and psychological problems that were present but not adequately addressed at earlier stages of adolescents' development. Finally, there are issues that relate to the reasons that adolescents come into the foster care system. Places of Service Adolescents reside or receive services in a range of kinds of homes and institutions, and there is variation in how states, cities, and counties take responsibility for certain populations and places. Thus, adolescents who are at risk of unsatisfactory development may receive services at home, in foster care, in institutional or residential homes, in custody of the justice systems, or on the street. At Home A large number of adolescents come into contact with the child welfare system while still living in the homes of their parents. These youths often come into the system because they are abused or neglected or because they are part of a sibling group in which the younger children have been abused or neglected. Services may be provided to the parents, but it is unusual for children to be the recipients of services. Parents receive homemaker services, day care, and parent-training classes to help them learn "alternative forms of discipline" or other caretaking skills. Occasionally,

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings parents and children are referred to counseling, particularly when a child has been sexually abused. But the system rarely provides services directly to the adolescent. It is believed that the youth's problems will be resolved when a parent changes his or her behavior or when some of the stresses in a parent's life are relieved. Foster Care The most widespread and intensive service provided by the child welfare system is foster care. Children in foster care may be placed in foster family homes, with relatives (who may or may not be paid), in foster homes for children with special needs, in group homes, in institutions, and in independent living situations (that are supervised to varying degrees). Stable foster care or foster care with relatives may be acceptable as a long-term arrangement in some cases, but foster care is usually intended as a temporary placement for children. The primary goal for a child in foster care is permanency, achieved through either reunification with parents, adoption, or independence. Independent and Residential Homes Older adolescents often enter independent living programs in order to prepare themselves for adulthood. Since many of these young people return to their former foster families or birth families at the age of majority, one need is to help them learn how to manage these ongoing relationships. Special settings are being developed to enable pregnant adolescents and adolescent mothers to stay with their children and to learn basic parenting skills. In comparison with other pregnant teenagers and young parents, those who are in the child welfare system have fewer financial, social, and personal resources with which to approach the difficult task of learning how to be a parent. Youths with handicaps, including those with developmental disabilities, serious emotional disturbances, or medically complex conditions, are often placed in specialized child welfare settings, such as residential treatment centers, group homes, and specialized foster care. In Custody Delinquent or "problem" youths who were once in the child welfare system often shuttle between systems: detention or correctional

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings centers operated by juvenile courts and correctional departments, on one side, and group homes, residential treatment facilities, and halfway houses operated by the child welfare or mental health system, on the other. Like homeless youths, delinquent youths have often been abused or neglected without coming to the attention of the child welfare system. Many of these youths are beyond the control of their parents or foster parents and beyond the control or interest of the child welfare system, which often acts to exclude them (see below). Local service providers usually are unable or unwilling to provide the variety and intensity of services that these youths need, and the community may not respond to troubled youths until incidents bring them before the courts. The corrections system then becomes the custodial parent. On the Street Homeless adolescent "street kids" are often either former clients of the child welfare system or victims of maltreatment that was not discovered. Some adolescents who are wards of the state are formally runaways, although they are in contact with child welfare workers. An estimated 10 to 33 percent of street kids have been in the child welfare system at some point, and about 10 percent are runaways from foster placements. People who work with street youths say that most of those who were never in foster care could have been reported to the child welfare system for acute or chronic abuse (particularly sexual abuse) and neglect. Although some homeless youths are served by youth shelters and transitional living programs, many become detached from the community institutions, such as the schools, recreation centers, and health care services that they formerly used. Many older youths—especially males—are excluded from shelters that serve women and younger children. Exclusion of Adolescents The proportion of 14- to 17-year-olds reported as abused or neglected in Illinois increased from 7.6 per 1,000 in 1981 to 10.4 per 1,000 in 1984 and then stabilized at around 14.0 per 1,000 between 1988 and 1990. For younger children, however, the incidence of abuse and neglect continued to climb throughout the 1980s: for newborns to 3-year-olds, the rates increased from 23.4 per 1,000 in 1981 to 54.4 per 1,000 in 1990 (Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, 1981-1990). This difference may

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings reflect the increasing abuse and neglect of small children, but it may also reflect a conscious or unconscious bias against adolescents, or even an attempt to exclude adolescents from the child welfare system. A recent study of child welfare decisions in Illinois found that agency investigators were significantly more likely to reject reports of physical abuse involving adolescents than those for younger children. Similarly, the age of the child was significantly correlated with the decision to substantiate physical abuse allegations; workers were less likely to substantiate physical abuse cases involving older children. This statistical finding was corroborated by interviews with investigators, who listed age as an important factor in making this decision (Smith et al., 1992:19): "When children are older, there is a presumption that the child has means of protection other than direct state intervention, therefore, there is a greater tolerance for some injury (as from spanking or punishment)." Some investigators noted that older children are partly at fault and "deserve" punishment (Smith et al., 1992). The bureaucratic rationale for including age as a criterion rests on two principles that are applied to each substantiation decision: (1) the need for parents to provide basic necessities (protection, supervision, food, shelter, clothing, education, and a sanitary environment) lessens with age and maturity; and (2) the risk to the child decreases as the child's own ability to protect himself, comprehend danger, or provide basic necessities increases (Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, 1991). The effect of applying these principles is to limit adolescents' access to the child welfare system, which may in turn be a way for administrators and workers to cope with rising caseloads. In other states, ostensibly in response to fiscal constraints, the cutoff age for eligibility has been lowered from 21 to 18. However, these policies may also reflect a generally hostile attitude toward adolescents. They are often blamed for being victimized, the physical and psychological damage of the abuse they suffer is minimized, and they are held accountable for their own protection. In fact, adolescents who have been abused are less able to protect themselves from harm than adolescents who have not been abused and often precipitate interactions in which they will be victims or through which they will victimize others (Green, 1985). Adolescent Outcomes Available information indicates that adolescents who pass through the child welfare system are at high risk of educational failure,

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings unemployment, emotional disturbance, and other negative outcomes. Although these adolescents were at risk before they entered the system—indeed, many entered the system precisely because they had already been abused or neglected or had become truants or runaways—findings nevertheless suggest that the child welfare system is unable to meet their needs or to prepare them adequately for independent, self-supporting adult life. There is evidence that the system excludes many adolescents in need, fails to protect them from known abuse, and abandons them to their fate. A national survey (Shyne and Schroeder, 1978) of young adults, 2.5 to 4 years after their discharge from foster care at age 16 or older, showed a dismal picture when they were compared with either low-income youths or a cross-section of the general population. The survey also found that 54 percent of youths had returned to live with extended family members when discharged, which suggests that the child welfare system must continue working with biological families even if the child has spent a great deal of time in the system and even if family reunification while the adolescent is in the custody of the state is unlikely. The study also found that high school completion prior to discharge led to better outcomes, regardless of skills training, but that skills training while in foster care (including money management, credit, consumer education, and employment skills) also led to better outcomes (Shyne and Schroeder, 1978). A study of some 1,200 youths 18.5 years old and older who were in substitute care in Cook County, Illinois, during July 1991 found that they had multiple service needs: they were at risk of being unemployed, undereducated, and unable to support themselves. A high percentage of the youths (42 percent) had been in the system for longer than 10 years. Nearly 17 percent of the sample (a considerably higher proportion than in the general population) were identified as having a developmental disability; 55 percent were no longer in a school program; and only 40 percent had completed high school. Of the females, 41 percent were mothers; 8 percent were pregnant at the time of the study; and teenage mothers were more likely to be out of school and unemployed than other adolescent females. Overall, about 50 percent of the youths had some job experience, but only 16.5 percent were working and attending school (Goerge and Osuch, 1992). Many children placed in foster care are at high risk of being emotionally disturbed, in large part because they have been raised in pathological families in which they were abused or neglected

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings (Joint Commission on Mental Health of Children, 1969; Knitzer and Allen, 1978; Fanshel and Shinn, 1976). Victims of abuse and neglect are more likely to exhibit significant cognitive and social deficits; to have moderate or severely impaired neurological competency; to demonstrate highly aggressive and antisocial behavior; to have lowered self-esteem and prosocial behaviors; and also to be at higher risk for mental illness (Hoffman-Plotkin and Twentyman, 1984; Green et al., 1981; Egeland et al., 1983; Main and George, 1985; Patterson et al., 1989; Kaufman and Cicchetti, 1989; Tuma, 1989). Children are also at risk when the parents are substance abusers, mentally ill, or welfare dependent (Institute of Medicine, 1989; Kaufman and Cicchetti, 1989). Of course, the separation of a child from his or her family is traumatic and may itself cause emotional disturbance (Bowlby, 1973); in addition, the child may receive poor-quality care (Bowlby, 1973; Wolkind and Rutter, 1985). Children in foster care are at increased risk of suffering from emotional disturbance, although these findings may be the result of increased attention paid to children who are removed from their homes (Institute of Medicine, 1989). Discontinuous relationships (multiple placements) may affect the psychological health of children and adolescents in a variety of ways (Wolkind and Rutter, 1985). Despite this evidence that foster children are at high risk of being emotionally disturbed, the child welfare system has not developed a comprehensive mental health delivery system for foster children. A child usually receives either restrictive institutional care (if he or she has been disruptive in less restrictive placements) or no mental health services at all. Services other than placement are in short supply for foster children (Goerge and Kranz, 1988; Schuerman et al., 1990). Similarly, adolescents in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems are often underachievers, but little systematic research has been done to document the reasons for their educational problems. One recent study showed that adolescent foster children were twice as likely than were younger children to be in special education classes, primarily because adolescent foster children are more likely than younger foster children to be diagnosed as handicapped or behavior disordered (Goerge et al., 1991). ISSUES IN PROVIDING SERVICES TO ADOLESCENTS The definition of adolescence also remains a problem for the field of child welfare. Without a consistent definition, it is difficult

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings to provide answers to several standard questions: When should certain types of services begin? When is a child nearly an adult and therefore appropriate for independent living programs? When can an adolescent be released from the system? When is it necessary to transfer an adolescent to adult human services? It has been noted that the physical changes of adolescence begin earlier with each passing decade. Also, young adolescents are increasingly likely to be held accountable for their actions by the criminal justice system (see Chapter 8). In contrast to these trends, many young adults must endure long periods of preparation for occupations that will support them and their families, and they therefore continue to require economic and emotional support from families well into their 20s. As a result, the child welfare system faces growing but conflicting demands to both expand and contract its pool of services and clients. Stable Care and Independence The need for a permanent family is one that most Americans embrace without question, and research shows that unstable alternative living arrangements compound the effects of a child's separation from his or her birth family. Public policies now attempt to ensure children a permanent alternative when their birth parents cannot care for them. However, adoption specialists have discovered that a sizable proportion of the children in foster care have other problems that limit their chances for adoption. Consequently, foster families and relatives have been urged to adopt children, some of whom have needs that might require ongoing investment in special services and supports. Optimism concerning the adoptability of most children has been tempered as families have needed more services than they could afford, and in some instances returned children whose needs overwhelmed them. Similarly, many adolescents who were previously consigned to long-term-care institutions (those with mental retardation, physical handicaps, incorrigible behavior, and emotional disturbance) now live in communities that are served by public schools. Yet, in many instances, schools and community institutions have been unable to adapt to the changes in the populations they are expected to accommodate, forcing families and children to cope without much help. The permanency planning and deinstitutionalization movements in child welfare have also placed many children with multiple service needs in community schools, recreation centers, and special service settings where staff resources are insufficient to meet their needs.

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings Taking care of children until their families can provide for them, or until they can function as independent adults, is part of the mission of a child welfare system. Over the last several decades, however, child development research has complicated the debate about what it means to ''take care" of a child. There is consensus that it implies more than shelter, food, clothing, and basic education, but there are competing views about what other needs must be met in childhood if children are to become independent adults. The answers depend in part on what constitutes independence in complex societies in which even the most privileged and well-cared-for children are seldom fully independent at the age of majority. Definitions of "independence" or "needs" cannot be arrived at solely by scientific means. Embedded in both words are social and class concepts that raise questions about whether needs or independence is different for the child welfare population than for children in general. Most children who are served by the child welfare system come from low-income families in which unmet needs and inadequate preparation for independence are common. Should services aim only to ensure that their chances are no worse than those of children in the class and milieu from which they came? How many needs should be met and by whom? Should medical, psychological, and educational problems be pursued vigorously? When a change of foster home is necessary, should emphasis be placed on keeping children close to service providers who are addressing their educational or mental health needs? Should services continue until every possible benefit has been achieved? Does it make sense to provide services to older adolescents if the child's case may soon be closed? These are potentially costly choices, and therefore difficult ones, yet it is clear from the limited existing data that children who are touched by child welfare systems have many more unmet—and possibly chronic—needs than other poor children from stable families. Programs that prepare older youth for independence face challenges that are often overwhelming in light of scarce resources. For example, many youths have come to independent living programs with histories of unmet health needs, impoverished life experiences, inadequate social and academic skills, and poor self-regulatory mechanisms that conspire to defeat the best-organized efforts to prepare them for independent living. If achieving independence takes so long for most contemporary youth who have economic and psychological support from their families, it is not surprising that 18- and 19-year-olds who have personal limitations

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings and lack family supports often fail the test of fully independent functioning. Short-Term Services and Long-Term Needs The vast majority of services currently provided to adolescents in the child welfare system are intended to be short-term services. Some are used longer than intended and even become permanent features in the lives of the affected children and families (e.g., foster care placements). Others are as short term in practice as in intent. Family preservation services, for example, are designed to last between 3 and 6 months. Transitional and independent living programs, while sometimes designed to last up to 2 years, are still short relative to their goals (teaching life skills to older youth) and their timing (at the end of a foster care experience, after the chronic problems of some adolescents have gone unaddressed for years). Most of these services are designed primarily to protect children rather than to solve the problems of children and families. Those problems often require longer, more intensive intervention. Children who enter the child welfare care system are most often the victims of severe abuse or neglect, which places them at risk of negative developmental outcomes. However, many victims of abuse or neglect are not placed in foster care and do not even receive an immediate response by a child welfare agency (Stagner, 1992). Furthermore, with the possible exception of sex abuse, victimized children rarely receive therapeutic services. A recent Illinois study of service provision to both intact families and families whose children had been placed outside their homes revealed that only 50 percent of the families in each group received services while they were in the child welfare system. For most of these families, the services were not delivered until the family had been in the system for more than 6 months (Schuerman et al., 1990). In many cases, the lack of response is due in part to an insufficiency of service resources in the face of increasing numbers of substantiated cases of abuse or neglect. The sheer number of adolescents with problems will result in some failures. Criticism of the foster care system often highlights incidents of abuse or neglect that occur in foster care. Similarly, newspapers often carry spectacular stories about children who have been harmed or killed after being left with abusive parents by child protection workers. At the same time, however, critics also point to the trauma of separation for children removed from their parents. Most children in foster care, while they may wish to

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Losing Generations: Adolescents in High-Risk Settings return to abusive or neglectful parents, see that they benefit from being out of the home and living with foster parents. In a study of 60 young adolescent foster children, more than half of them thought that their removal from their homes might be preventing further abuse and was an overall help to the family. Nearly half of them believed the problems in their families would have gotten worse or stayed the same had their placement not occurred. They described their lives in substitute care positively and commented on the increased safety and consistency of care in their foster homes (Johnson et al., 1990). There is no evidence to support the claim that children in foster care would be better off at home. On the contrary, the limited evidence from methodologically sound studies on the effects of foster care suggests that many children show improvement while in foster care on several developmental measures, and that foster care compares favorably to leaving children at home (Fanshel and Shinn, 1976; Wald et al., 1988). Nevertheless, almost all child welfare professionals believe that it is preferable to leave children with their natural parents whenever possible, although they may disagree about when this is possible. Some argue that if the comparative effects of foster care versus staying at home are not clearly understood, children should remain at home on the basis of value preferences or cost savings. Unfortunately, early studies of intervention models intended to prevent out-of-home placements have been faulted for using weak research designs (Frankel, 1988; Rossi, 1990). Subsequent evaluations with more rigorous designs have failed to find significant effects over time from such strategies (Yuan, 1990; Feldman, 1990; Schuerman et al., 1992). CONCLUSIONS No one in the child welfare field holds any illusions that the system is currently able to provide adequate resources to promote adolescent development or that it has been able to do so for the past decade. The absolute number of adolescents in the system has not changed, but their share of the available resources has dropped, and the increasing numbers of younger children in the system have shifted the focus of public attention and reform away from adolescents. Achieving the goal of adequate development and preparation for adulthood in the child welfare system will require additional interest in and commitment to adolescents. It will also require additional funding, although this seems unlikely at a time when states' budgets are severely constrained.

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