When we hear the words foster care we can’t help but imagine the gaze of a helpless and defeated child meeting our own, searching wordlessly for someone to help them. These children, often untrusting and reserved, have seen and heard things we can’t imagine. Then, just as the situation couldn’t be any worse, they’re taken from their homes, separated from the support of siblings, and placed in foster care. Of course, when a child is placed in foster care it’s because the state is looking out for them. To give them a chance, to thrive, to learn; to grow.
What often winds up happening instead, is a continued cycle of neglect, because they fall into a system that has too many kids to care for. Kids in foster care often move from home to home so frequently, they never really receive the stability and support they need. So, what do we do? How do we step in to support these kids in a way that builds them?
The Family First Prevention Services Act tackles these issues and gives foster kids a fighting chance by reinventing a few national social work and child welfare policies. The FFPSA most importantly will reconsider the criteria and factors that determine whether an at-risk child is removed from their home, while also reallocating government spending to better meet the needs of the social system.
In the last couple of years, the state of Florida has seen a drastic increase in the number of kids in foster care. Unable to meet the individual needs of so many youth, the state often must place these children in large group homes. Sometimes these kids are placed in supportive foster families, but more frequently they become lost in the sea of social services, bouncing from one temporary home to the next until they eventually age out or return to their families.
Recognizing how this constant interruption can be detrimental to the development of youth, the Family First Prevention Services Act advocates a “diversion” policy that would hopefully keep kids out of foster care and group homes while helping families get on their feet. Instead of social workers removing children in situations where neglect is not certain, social workers and case managers will work closely together with families to identify fiscal and stability stressors endangering their livelihoods. Over a period of time, the state will work with at-risk families to eliminate these stressors, teaching them planning and management skills to aid their success. Most innovative in this policy, is that children are able to remain living in home during this interceptive process and will be participating with state officials, parents, and siblings to improve their own livelihood. This way families are able to collaboratively work together to solve problems without important family, friend, and peer relationships becoming severed.
Through the Family First Prevention Services Act, and diversion programs like it, those same scared children that come to mind with the term foster care are given a chance at something greater. Hopefully in the future, children will be given the chance to stay together, as a family unit, rather than put in a facility full of strangers. The Family First Prevention Services act aims to give us all a chance at a brighter future, where advocates, parents, and kids, can come and work together to be the future effect.