Any concerned citizen who suspects that a child is being harmed can (and should) report their suspicions to their local child protective services agency or police department. Childhelp® National Child Abuse Hotline (1.800.4.A.CHILD oor 1.800.422.4453) is another resource.
Please remember that these are warning signs (from Administration for Children and Families) and discovering one sign in a child or family does not mean that abuse is happening. Visit Child Information Gateway for more information.
May is National Foster Care Awareness and The Teen Toolbox will dedicate our blog as a platform for teen males in the foster care system to share their stories of triumph and success.
Ronald Hennig is focused, motivated, and wise beyond his years. He is a soon to-be 18 year old male in the United States foster care system in the state of New Jersey. Ronald is a strong advocate for older youth in the system. He is especially passionate about raising awareness about the challenges that teen males in the foster care system face. In fact, Ronald agreed to be featured on The Teen Toolbox blog because he believes that teen males in foster care are an especially neglected population. I agree.
I have always been told that there is safety in numbers. Whether taking a late night bus ride, going to a night club or simply taking a tour of a new city the mantra is still the same – it’s safer to be a part of a group. Does this still ring true when we consider the youth in the foster care system in our country? The numbers of children and youth in foster care in the United States has been steadily on the incline. Let’s take a look.
The Foster Care Numbers
According to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) FY 10 data October 1, 2009 through September 30, 2010, there were 408,425 children in foster care on September 30, 2010. Four hundred eight thousand, four hundred and twenty five children and youth ages 0 to 20 years were in foster care last September. The largest percentage (8%) was age 17.
Where were these children living?
When you visit a kindergarten classroom what do you see? You see student’s work all over the walls. When you enter a dentist’s office you generally find a variety of magazines and pictures of healthy mouths. When you walk into a teen health clinic you expect to see pamphlets and brochures related to health issues like STD prevention. The first time I entered a particular suburban high school, I was struck by the pictures of past students in caps and gowns on their graduation day. The photo gallery began at the entrance of the main office and continued down the main hallway and the hallway leading to the guidance office. The ultimate goal of each of these four locations is evident as soon as you enter.
What greets your youth when they enter your work area? Whether your title is Child Welfare Worker, Foster Care Case Worker, or Investigator, you are working with youth who have been abused and/or neglected. They may come to you harnessing anger, fear, or disappointment. I ask that you go beyond cleanliness and order and make your space as inviting, encouraging, motivating, and inspiring as possible. Don’t just display rules and consequences. Sometimes it is the things that aren’t said that helps build trust and opens the door for honest communication later on.
Many people are compelled to donate gifts to children and youth in foster care during the Christmas holiday season (myself included). After the Christmas gifts are barely opened we shift our focus to how we will usher in a new year. A new year exemplifies a new chance to start fresh, another opportunity to change our lives for the better. People around the world make their lists of New Year’s resolutions. New Year’s resolutions are goals, projects, or kicking of habits that a person commits to in anticipation of a new year. Most people plan to stay committed to their New Year’s resolutions for at least the entire year but roughly 4 out of 5 people break their New Year’s resolutions, however.
January is National Mentoring Month. For many young people great role models and mentors are a part of their everyday lives. Relatives, teachers, and neighbors often serve in that role. Finding positive role models for youth in the foster care system is often more difficult. Luckily, role models and mentors don’t always have to be people that we know personally. There is something we can learn from everyone that we meet and every situation we encounter…positive or negative.
I posted a status on my social media accounts a few days ago that read, “A degree can’t produce passion, compassion, and integrity.” I received quite a few “Likes”, retweets, and interesting comments. The responses I received made me really think about what that statement means to me and led me to write this blog post.
Let me begin by saying that I am one hundred percent pro education. Education encourages research and critical thinking and opens doors of opportunity. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Social Work to support my theories. At the end of 2011 I came to the firm conclusion that The Teen Toolbox work will focus on improving the quality of life for youth involved in the foster care and child welfare system. Actually, foster care is not really a new path or target population for me. In fact, participation in a holiday drive for a residential facility for teen mothers in foster care during my senior year in high school is what helped solidify my career choice. The other option on the table was education. Yep, I was considering becoming a teacher. (Didn’t I tell you that I am pro education?) My passion for helping others, compassionate personality, and personal integrity led me to pursue higher education and more specifically the field of social work.