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Blueprint For Family Foster Care In The 1990's
In 1991, a National Commission on Family Foster Care, appointed by the Child Welfare League of America and the National Foster Parent Association, published a report entitled, Blueprint for Fostering Infants, Children, and Youths in the 1990's. The Blueprint, the result of more than a year of deliberations by the 49-member Commission, delineated a comprehensive plan to reform the family foster care system to make it stronger and more responsive to the current and future challenges.
The Blueprint details the failure of our present family foster care system and attributes that failure to the fact that the system is, " built on century-old premises that are no longer valid: (1) that children needing care are primarily dependent and neglected and can be helped through love alone; (2) that there are sufficient numbers of families with wage-earning fathers and at-home mothers willing and able to donate their time and money to 'fix' these children by the age of 18; and (3) that caseworkers have the time and skill to supervise foster home placements."40
The Blueprint identifies and discusses 10 fundamental beliefs that collectively define family foster care:
- All children, regardless of age, sex, ethnicity, physical and emotional health, intellectual ability, and/or handicapping condition, are entitled to a family intended to be permanent and, as needed, to assistance under the Federal foster care program regardless of their parents' income or financial status.
- The family must be the primary focus of efforts to protect children and youth and to promote their growth and development.
- Family foster care must fulfill five critical tasks:
- protecting and nurturing infants, children, and youth;
- ameliorating developmental delays and meeting social, emotional, and medical needs resulting from physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, maltreatment, and/or exposure to alcohol and other drugs or HIV infection;
- enhancing positive self-esteem, family relationships, and cultural and ethnic identity;
- developing and implementing a plan for permanence; and
- educating and socializing children and youth toward successful transitions to young adult life, relationships, and responsibilities.
- Parents must have services and support to facilitate family reunification and to maintain safe, healthy relationships, or to make decisions about alternate living arrangements intended to be safe, nurturing, and permanent.
- Foster parents must have a clearly defined role with identifiable competencies and supports.
- Family foster care social workers must have a clearly defined role with identifiable competencies and supports.
- Family foster care must be an integral part of comprehensive, coordinated services and must provide a team approach in which the needs of childrenwithin the context of their familiesare paramount.
- Children and youth in family foster care, their parents, and child welfare agencies must have legal representation to ensure and expedite the development and implementation of case plans and family service agreements that respect the developmental needs of children. Court proceedings concerning children and youth in family foster care must be speedy, skillfully conducted, and meticulous.
- Accurate, complete, and relevant data about the children, youth, and families served must be collected, analyzed, and disseminated on Federal and State levels to help in the design and delivery of effective family foster care services.
- Effective and accountable family foster care services require effective and accountable leadership in city halls, governors' offices, national organizations, the judiciary, the Federal Government, Congress, and the White House.41
Based on these beliefs, the Commission defines family foster care as "... an essential child welfare service option for children and parents who must live apart while maintaining legal and, usually, affectional ties. When children and parents must be separated because of the tragedy of physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, maltreatment, or special circumstances, family foster care provides a planned, goal-directed service in which the care of children and youths takes place in the home of an agency-approved family. The value of family foster care is that it can respond to the unique, individual needs of infants, children, youths, and their families through the strengths of family living, and through family and community supports. The goal of family foster care is to provide opportunities for healing, growth, and development leading to healthier infants, children, youths, and families, with safe and nurturing relationships intended to be permanent."42
The Blueprint presents 79 recommendations listed under 3 broad categories:
- Foster Parent and Social Worker Responsibilities (as a team and as an individual),
- Child Welfare Agency Responsibilities, and
- Public Policies and Legislation.43
The thrust of these recommendations is toward system reform, and many of them are accompanied by suggested action steps. Although none of the recommendations is directed specifically towards meeting the needs of abused and neglected children in substitute care, reforming and strengthening the foster care system will of necessity improve life for these children. The report is available from the Child Welfare League of America and is recommended for anyone concerned about foster children.
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