Beyond The Foster Care System
The Future for Teens
Publication Year: 2006
Each year tens of thousands of teenagers are released from the foster care system in the United States without high school degrees or strong family relationships. Two to four years after discharge, half of these young people still do not have either a high school diploma or equivalency degree, and fewer than ten percent enter college. Nearly a third end up on public assistance within fifteen months, and eventually more than a third will be arrested or convicted of a crime.
In this richly detailed and often surprising exploration of the foster care system, Betsy Krebs and Paul Pitcoff argue that the existing structure sets kids up to fail by inadequately preparing them for adult life. Foster care programs traditionally emphasize goals of reuniting children with family or placing children into adoptive homes. But neither of these outcomes is likely for adolescents. Krebs and Pitcoff contend that the primary goal of foster care for teenagers should be rigorous preparation for a fully productive adult life and that the standard life skills curriculum is woefully inadequate for this purpose.
The authors, who together cofounded the Youth Advocacy Center in New York City, draw on their fifteen years of experience working with teens and the foster care system to introduce new ways to teach teens to be responsible for themselves and to identify and develop their potential. They also explore what sorts of resources-legal, financial, and human-will need to come from inside and outside the system to more fully humanize the practice of foster care. Ultimately, Krebs and Pitcoff argue that change must involve the participation of caring communities of volunteers who want to see disadvantaged youth succeed as well as developing methods to empower teens to take control of their lives.
Bringing together a series of inspiring, real-life accounts, Beyond the Foster Care System introduces readers to a number of dynamic young people who have participated in the Youth Advocacy Center's programs and who have gone on to apply these lessons to other areas of life. Their stories demonstrate that more successful alternatives to the standard way of providing foster care are not only imaginable, but possible. With the practical improvements Krebs and Pitcoff outline, teens can learn the skills of effective self-advocacy, become better prepared for the transition to full independence, and avoid becoming the statistics that foster care has so often produced in the past.
Published by: Rutgers University Press
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Many of the ideas, analysis, and recommendations in this book derive fromour work and relationships with youth in foster care. Their passion to becomesuccessful contributing citizens and to improve the foster care system wasour motivation for writing Beyond the Foster Care System. If we have made anycontribution to helping youth in foster care, it has been eclipsed by what they...
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Selina rushed from her last college class of the day to arrive on time. Hurry-ing down the block, she noticed Gloria, a young woman standing on the side-walk outside the imposing law school building. Gloria looked uncertainly atGloria didn’t look surprised, but her answer seemed a bit cautious.“Come on, I’ll go in with you,” Selina said with a smile. She knew how...
Chapter 1: First Impressions of the Foster Care System
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...the courtroom. Some evade the metal detectors, like the family member whoWe too first entered the foster care system through family court, when weworked there as lawyers for children in foster care. Betsy was an attorney,recently out of law school, working for a small legal services office that repre-sented children in foster care review cases. Paul was a law student, on sab-...
Chapter 2: Education for Foster Care Teens
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...is, finding a place for them to live. But often we met teenagerscation or lack thereof. This surprised us at first. Our prejudice wasthat teenagers didn’t care that much about high school and that, becausethese teens were in foster care, they should be exclusively focused on thethings we were supposed to be concerned with—whether they would be...
Chapter 3: Teaching Teens Rights
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...effort to protect children, control behavior, and assure compli-ance by staff and clients, the government’s child welfare bureau-cracies proscribe by law and scrutinize for conformity most activities. Thegovernment has rules for every decision about raising these teens to preventthem from being treated too arbitrarily by foster parents or group home staff....
Chapter 4: Policy Advocacy with Teens
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...growing interest in preparing teens for their future, we felt com-pelled to make life more manageable for teens while in care. Butthe system wasn’t going to change because we were teaching fos-ter teens about their rights and the rudiments of advocacy. We often feltunsatisfied working at solving individual and small group problems. We...
Chapter 5: Preparing for Independent Living
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...failed to prepare teens for either college or employment. The sys-tem consistently failed to provide teens with meaningful skills tosucceed as adults. Throughout our work representing teens in the legal sys-tem, educating child welfare professionals, teaching teens about their rights,or organizing youth to advocate for policy changes, we kept coming back to...
Chapter 6: Creating the Getting Beyond the System® Self-Advocacy Seminars
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We had traveled many paths in the foster care system, engaged ingram efforts fail. We believed that the combination of our work, ineffective curriculum that would actually work for the teen, be suitable formeaningful replication, and eventually promote a positive change within thefoster care system. We focused in on one overarching problem: the system...
Chapter 7: Informational Interviews: A Bridge from Foster Care to the Community
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...were committed to integrating into the curriculum a way for teensto practice their skills in an authentic setting, not just throughrole plays in the classroom. Early on, we arranged for the teens to advocatefor something they wanted in their foster care agency. Now we had raisedtheir (and our own) vision to a farther horizon, the future, and we wanted to...
Chapter 8: System Resistance to Empowering Teens
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New York City to form a class. Usually the students were encour-aged to attend our seminar by independent living specialists whowere committed to seeing teens prepare for their transition out of foster care.These classes helped us learn how to run the seminar and demonstrated theeffectiveness of the curriculum and informational interview program....
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Consensus is growing that the foster care system needs to be rethought forOur journey with youth in foster care led us to conclude that foster carefor teens should have different goals, strategies, and structures than fostercare for younger children. Adolescents in foster care have needs and priori-ties different from small children. In addition to safety and efforts at family...
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About the Authors
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Betsy Krebs and Paul Pitcoff cofounded Youth Advocacy Center in New York City toteach teenagers to be advocates for themselves and take control of their lives. Usingtheir backgrounds in law and higher education, together they created a nationallyacclaimed model of using the Socratic case method to teach teens self-advocacyand prepare them for informational interviews in the community. They have co-...
Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2006