Aging-out of Foster Care

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    • 00:00

      [MUSIC PLAYING][Aging out of Foster Care]

    • 00:10

      DONNA HOLLAND: Hi.My name's Donna Holland.I'm associate professor of sociologyat Indiana University, Purdue University in Fort Wayne.I'm also the director for the Center for Social Research.Today, I would like to present to you informationon a case study on aging out of foster care.Studying the transitions and outcomes associatedwith foster care is important because on any given day

    • 00:33

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: there are about a half million childrenand youth in foster care.Annually, roughly 20,000 to 25,000turn 18 while in foster care, and age out of the system.It is important to study the transitionbecause this phase may significantlyinfluence a number of aspects of the adult life course.As a number of scholars have noted,

    • 00:55

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: one's early social history connectsto later perceived well-being, happiness,and more objective adult outcomes,according to Hogan and Astone, 1986.[The Social Context of Foster Care]

    • 01:11

      DONNA HOLLAND: Now let's discuss the social contextof foster care.The foster care system was developed in responseto growing numbers of children havingunmet basic needs such as adequate housing, food,clothing, and treatment.Because families are paramount to the success and failureof children, the foster care systemwas created to serve children in the capacity

    • 01:34

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: as a caring family.Thus the foster care system is theoreticallydesigned to keep children safe, while also providinga caring, supportive environment thatprovides a safe haven for children in need.[The Study]

    • 01:52

      DONNA HOLLAND: Beyond meeting the basic needs of children,the foster care system theoreticallyshould prepare children for success in societyonce they leave the foster care system.Leaving the foster care system at age 18is referred to as aging out of foster care.This study aimed to understand the outcomes of peoplewho aged out of foster care.

    • 02:14

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: The study used qualitative focus groups and personal faceto face interviews, and aimed to understandthe outcomes of people who were aging out of foster care.Hearing the words of those who age out of foster carecreates an opportunity to use the sociological imagination,and to see the world through another person's perspective.I asked specific questions about the foster care experience,

    • 02:37

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: the role of foster parents, foster care drift,disidentification, and basic outcomes.The results were revealing.[The Foster Care Experience]

    • 02:50

      DONNA HOLLAND: I'll first discuss with youthe foster care experience.People who aged out of foster care have various experiences.The basic experience of being a foster kidis an issue for many children in foster care.Tammy summed it up, "When you're 15 years old and in high schooland trying so hard to fit in with everybody,

    • 03:12

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: being a foster kid, having your mom die of AIDSand everything else, it's like, can't I just be normal?"When people who age out of foster careget ready to leave the foster care system,they have very different attitudesabout leaving the nest than people leavingfrom the home of their parents.Lisa, a foster care experienced adult,

    • 03:32

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: said, "Because they assume I'm so abnormal,I'm so not like other people so how am I gonna make it?"And Christine, a foster care experienced adultalso said, "They kinda set themselves up for like uhh ohhmore scared than what a normal person would be."Tammy, a foster care experienced adult,

    • 03:54

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: said, "That is what I think too.I think maybe they need to be reminded that it (moving outon your own) is a normal thing to go through;the anxiety and the fears and also the excitement of becoming18 or becoming 21 or whatever because normal kids whoare in foster care with good skills,they are excited about becoming an adult

    • 04:15

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: but then they are hit with all these responsibilities."People who age out of foster careview their circumstances as unique,but can also find similarities to people moving outof their parents' homes.[The Role of Foster Parents]

    • 04:32

      DONNA HOLLAND: Now let's considerthe role of foster parents in the lives of peoplewho aged out of foster care.Looking back, some said that foster parents were good rolemodels in their lives.Greg, a foster care experienced adult,said about his foster parents, "My foster parents,Abby especially, taught me a lot within the last couple

    • 04:52

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: of years.Even though I hadn't lived with her,she taught me the most out of life.She taught me how to deal and howto manage rent money and bill money because whenyou put money in the bank you still always wantto have the habit of, I need to take it out,and then you screw yourself."Most people in the study had generally positive comments

    • 05:12

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: about the role of foster parents.The general conclusion is that most, but not all,foster parents provide emotional support and guidance,in money and basic daily care, to people in foster care.Lessons by foster parents linger onto assist the person into adulthood.[Foster Care Drift]

    • 05:37

      DONNA HOLLAND: Now let's talk about foster care drift.Some of those who age out of foster carehave been in multiple placements,and some have even lost count of how many homes they were in,and even what the names of the people were.Lisa, a foster care experienced adult,said, "I have no idea how many foster homes or group homesI've been in."

    • 05:57

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: Tammy said, "I think I was in 10 or 11 foster homesand I was in foster care I think since I was 10 or 11."Then Greg chimed in and said, "I moved all over the placeand ended up in all different foster homes."It's important to note that some youth contributeto foster care drift by creating reasons to be moved

    • 06:18

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: from one home to the next.Several respondents indicated that theyknew youth who would act out against the rulesin order to be moved.It seemed that the foster care experiencedadults who had the fewest placements alsohad the most favorable adult outcomes.All of them had graduated from high school,and some had attended college.

    • 06:39

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: These respondents also talked lessabout problems with romantic partners,and seemed less deeply influencedby their prior abuse.In fact, those with only one homedid not mention prior abuse, but they centered their desireto avoid being like their biological parents.The negative association of foster care driftis consistently reported in foster care research.

    • 07:02

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: [Disidentification]Now let's talk about disidentification.Narratives from people aging out of foster careshow evidence of disidentification.Disidentification is a process through whichpeople make assessments of others, such as family members,

    • 07:24

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: and then make concrete decisions to haveattitudes or behaviors different from those other people.Some people who aged out of foster caresevered all ties in order to change who they were.The following quotation is an exampleof how people learn from bad parenting experiences,and take concrete steps to act in a different manner.

    • 07:46

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: In short, some decide to reject parents as role models.Ruby, a foster care experienced adult,says, "And I've just come not to depend on my mom for anything.I don't expect anything from my mom.I've just accepted my mom for who she is and I just...Regardless of what she's going to do, I don't...

    • 08:06

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: It doesn't bug me because I don't expect anything fromher...But I think me looking at my mom the wayI look at my mom has made me a stronger person."Still, another foster care experienced adult stated this,in very concrete terms.Tammy, foster care experienced adult, said, "Yeah.And knowing that it is not your fault for what you went through

    • 08:28

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: but knowing that you need to deal with itand that you can be successful.You don't have to be like your family.You don't have to be like the people who hurt you."These examples demonstrate that foster care experiencedadults may make agentic move because they do notwant to become like their biological family members.That is, they have decided to disidentify

    • 08:50

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: with the family of origin because of the abusethey experienced.Using disidentification likely reflectsa deeper self-reflection and understandingof the family dynamics that results in better outcomes.Simply saying, I don't want to be like them,or I don't want to be like that, is probablyonly the first step to disidentification.

    • 09:12

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: It is defined as a process, a pattern thattakes time to fully develop.Making intentional agentic moves to find a new identityis associated with better adult outcomes among peoplewho aged out of foster care.[Education Outcomes]

    • 09:30

      DONNA HOLLAND: So now let's talk about the educational outcomes.Bloom, 1997 found that children in foster caredid not fare as well educationally as thosenot in the system, even after controlling for other factors.The needs of the foster children are alsoapparent in that they are more likely to be placedon individualized educational plansdue to emotional disabilities, cognitive,

    • 09:53

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: and/or learning disabilities, and behavioral difficulties,than non foster youths.Foster children were more likely to drop out of school,according to research by Cook, 1990, and Cook, 1992.They're also less likely to graduate from high schoolor receive a GED, and are less likely to go to college.Courtney Pilliavin, Grogan-Taylor, and Nesmith,

    • 10:16

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: 1998, found that over 30% of foster youth samplesstill had not graduated from high school,nor received a GED.This compares with the National Centerfor Educational Statistics in 1994 report,that 12% of a senior class dropped out.These studies and statistical differencesunderscore that foster youth generally evidence

    • 10:37

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: less favorable outcomes when dropout rates are the focus.In the current study, not all peoplewho aged out of foster care had eithergraduated from high school or obtained a GED, a findingreflecting national patterns.Here, Holly highlights the role that her foster parentsmade in her completing school.So Holly said, "But, um, my senior year I

    • 11:00

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: home schooled and I was able to catch up on all that workthat I'd missed moving back and forth between foster homesbecause I was still behind.And my foster mom had to go back and teach me most of my mathand most of my social studies and everything."Some said that they had trouble at schoolbecause they were so far behind, and because they did notthink that they would stay at that school either.

    • 11:22

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: Tammy sad, "Because you're in care.I mean that's the big thing.You're in school and like who's your parents...well I live with this family this week but next week I live.You know?"With this statement, it is not toohard to imagine why foster youth might not immediatelyengage in a school setting if they have experienced

    • 11:43

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: foster care drift.Most children in foster care do experience foster care drift,especially older youth who are most likely to ageout of foster care.Education outcomes for foster youth are low.[Recommendations]Now let's talk about what recommendations

    • 12:04

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: people who aged out of foster care made.People who aged out of foster carehad several suggestions to improve their outcomesand to better equip them with making it out on their own.Some respondents emphasized that itwill require a concerted effort to communicatethat foster parents and caseworkers reallydo care about these youth.

    • 12:25

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: Tammy, a foster care experienced adult,said, "I think that in order to give children a chanceto become successful adults, it needsto become a combination of all the thingsthat we've talked about.It needs to be knowing that people care,knowing that people love them, feelinglike you are part of a family, feeling like you're normal,that you're not weird."Social service workers need to ask the foster children what

    • 12:47

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: they need, and to remember they workwith people who need affection.One young man said he was not asked whathe needed when he was younger.I asked him what he thought he would have told someone,had he been asked what he needed when he was younger.So Greg said, "If honestly, someonewould have asked me when I was nine or 10 years old what

    • 13:09

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: I needed in my life to make myself complete,I would have told them it was TLC.That's all I need.TLC."So I asked him, what about now?What do you need now?And Greg said, "TLC, still."Most respondents indicated that they would use some servicesnow if they were offered.Respondents acknowledged that most of these services

    • 13:31

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: were offered while they were in foster care.But most also indicated that the services officiallyterminated when they were cut from the system,leaving them to fend for themselves without support.Respondents mentioned the need for case management services,counseling services for prior abuse, marriage counseling,

    • 13:52

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: parenting classes, support groups for foster careexperienced adults, and support groups for abused and neglectedadults.Also, babysitting services and different kinds of supportlike that, as well as occasional financial support.[Conclusion]

    • 14:11

      DONNA HOLLAND: There are several conclusionsthat we can draw from this case study.The foster care experience has lingering negative and positiveeffects on people who aged out of foster care.Foster parents play a pivotal rolein preparing kids for adulthood.Thus, while respondents usually conceptualized driftas a negative process, sometimes foster care

    • 14:34

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: experienced adults indicated they thought some moves wereactually good for them.Some preferred to move away from those they believeddid not care for them.Or in a more proactive way, soughtto connect with a home that was a better fit.The characterization of drift was negative,and most respondents see a relationship between drift

    • 14:54

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: and their own adult well-being.Overall, drift should be minimized.Fewer moves were associated with better adult outcomesamong people aging out of foster care.Disidentification was associated with better outcomes for peopleaging out of foster care.Future research should examine how disidentificationis developed, under what circumstances does it occur,

    • 15:16

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: and how it operates in the general population.More research is also needed on disidentification.With certainty, foster care is a unique experience.It serves to help youth in need in our communities.Results reveal that much work is neededto improve the foster care system,and listening to the messages of peoplewho aged out of foster care should

    • 15:36

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: guide foster care reform.Education outcomes are low.Social services could consider using distance educationor some form of blended education approachesto better serve foster children.It is evident that moving young people from physical brickand mortar building to another is leavinggaps in their education, and is not

    • 15:56

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: motivating the youth to engage in the school setting.It is possible that if foster care drift were resolved,then education outcomes might normalize.I'd like to leave you with a few questions to reflect upon.What changes to the foster care systemwill improve outcomes for people who age out of foster care?How do so many people aging out of foster care

    • 16:17

      DONNA HOLLAND [continued]: affect the country as a whole?And finally, how would your life be similar or different if youhad aged out of foster care?[MUSIC PLAYING]

Aging-out of Foster Care

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Professor Donna Holland discusses aging out of foster care and provides examples from adults that went through the foster care program. She explains the roles of foster parents, the foster care drift, education outcomes for foster children and what former foster children recommend to people helping children in the foster care system.

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Aging-out of Foster Care

Professor Donna Holland discusses aging out of foster care and provides examples from adults that went through the foster care program. She explains the roles of foster parents, the foster care drift, education outcomes for foster children and what former foster children recommend to people helping children in the foster care system.

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