Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 11

Running head: BIG FAMILY ACT

Big Family Act


Mary Glass
Wayne State University

BIG FAMILY ACT

2
Big Family Act

Countries throughout the world have various policies which dictate what services, if any,
they will offer children who will age out of their type of foster care system. As our world
changes and the needs of foster care children continue to be recognized, our policies can be
structured to provide for those needs. The United States legislators have created many policies to
improve the lives of youth who will age out of the foster care system. After comparing
Scotlands policy, Children and Young People Act of 2014, with the US policy, Fostering
Connections, a policy alternative for youth in foster care will be introduced and analyzed.
Scotlands Policy
The United States and Scotlands foster care system policies are similar in many ways;
however, there are some differences. Fostering Connections to Success Increasing Adoption Act
of 2008 (Fostering Connections) has improved upon previous acts, like the Foster Care
Independence Act of 1999 and Adoption Safe and Families Act (AFSA); the Children and
Young People Act of 2014 improved upon previous Scotland acts. The similarities are Fostering
Connections mandates a transition plan which includes options on health insurance, housing,
education, employment, local mentoring opportunities and other support services must be written
with the input of a foster care youth a minimum of 90 days before their 18th birthday (Fostering
Connections to Success Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008). The Children and Young People
Act of 2014 states an aftercare youth, which is the Scottish term to describe a foster care youth,
needs to be provided with advice, guidance and assistance by a local authority to meet the
needs of that particular youth (Children and Young People Act 2014). A local authority is similar
to a state government official in the US. Scotlands policy is not as specific as the US policy but
the need for a plan is recognized by both countries. Scotlands Housing Protocol for Care

BIG FAMILY ACT

Leavers: Guidance for Community Planning Partnerships is the program which provides various
planning options are utilized by local authority to assist their aftercare youth (The Scottish
Government, 2013).
Fostering Connections will provide reimbursement to states for providing care to foster
care youth ages 19-21 who are in the process of completing a high school education or
equivalent, attending a post-secondary or vocational school, participating in a work force
program to improve employment options, or employed at least 80 hours a month (FernandesAlcantara, 2014). Children and Young People Act of 2014 will extend the ability to stay in their
care placement until the youth reaches 21 years old (The Scottish Government, 2013). The
youth may also continue to receive aftercare assistance until he/she reaches 26th years old (The
Scotland Government, 2014). Both acts extend the age a foster care youth can receive benefits;
however, Scotland does not specific the youth has to participate in a specific program or task to
receive assistance.
Policy Alternative
Big Family Act
To ensure foster care youth are being provided with the best care possible, I propose the
Big Family Act to recognize the inclusion of community to address the needs of those aging out
of the foster care system. Parents raising their biological children utilize help from family,
schools and the community (Atkinson, 2008). A foster care child has likely experienced some
type of trauma before and/or during care, so it is even more important for a community of people
to surround the child to assist him/her to a successful life (Gardner, 2008). Big Family Act will
be a federal policy providing every child in the United States with an opportunity to receive
services and advice from local residents through a review board, along with state mandated

BIG FAMILY ACT

professionals. Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 provides funding for education, housing,
budgeting, preventative health, and independent living skills for states if they come up with a
plan to provide these services to foster care youth up to 21 years old (Margolin, 2008) Fostering
Connections mandates a transition plan and more funding for the states to provide services to
youth in transition for childhood to adulthood (Fostering Connections to Success Increasing
Adoptions Act of 2008). The review board would provide support for the foster care youth and
their state mandated system. The review board could prevent some children from being lost in
the system because of child welfare issues, like frequent placements and large caseworker
turnover (Atkinson, 2008).
Big Family Act would provide funding for up to $750,000 to a state which creates a
foster care review board system. Local review boards should be formed in each county/parish
according to their population. A heavy populated metropolitan county should have several
boards to accommodate its higher population of foster care children. Each state would employ a
licensed master social worker to supervise a group of 6-8 review boards. The amount of social
workers would be dependent upon the amount of review boards needed in each state. The social
workers would be required to understand the federal and state laws to ensure the foster care
youth and their representatives (i.e. biological parents, caseworker, lawyer, foster parents) were
complying with regulations. Each review board would need to consist of at least four volunteer
members. These volunteers would have to be interviewed or appointed. The volunteer would
also have to need to pass a background check and sign a confidentiality agreement. Training
would be provided for the social workers and volunteers to inform them of upcoming changes in
the law and relevant foster care system topics. By asking local residents to participate in

BIG FAMILY ACT

assisting in the lives of the foster care children, it could create awareness of the needs in the
community and fulfill a personal satisfaction of everyone involved.
To improve the lives of foster care youth, the review boards would begin to review a case
once the child has been in the foster care system for six months and then every six months
thereafter until the child exits the system. The social worker and the review board members will
receive all appropriate documentation for the case to review and prepare questions for the foster
care child and their representatives (i.e. caseworker, foster parent, parent (if rights are not
terminated), lawyer, etc.) The social worker will invite review board members, the foster care
youth and their representatives to discuss the progression of the case. The volunteers will be
encouraged to positively support the foster care youth and their representatives by ensuring the
representatives are aware of all the options for the child and the childs best interests are always
being considered. After the review is conducted a report of recommendations will be sent to the
youths caseworker, foster parent, lawyer, and local judge/referee. Each state review board
system will also be required to create an annual report to present the amount of reviews the board
has conducted, share success stories, and common barriers the state is enduring.
The goals of the Big Family Act are to increase social equality for youth who are in the
foster care system and to provide foster care youth with the resources requested to maximize
their right of self-determination. Even though Big Family Act would require new funding, it
should allow funding to be redistributed from reactive programs to a proactive program.
Feasibility of the Big Family Act
The Big Family Act will be a useful addition to the national foster care system; however,
there could be barriers politically, economically, and administratively when attempting to enact
the policy. Politically, federal, state, and local laws which will improve the foster care system

BIG FAMILY ACT

have been given bipartisan support, though funding has been difficult to receive (Kalpeneach,
2014). Mandating review boards in each state with the federal specifications above could be
difficult because some states already have review boards set up in a way their state legislation
has dictated. Those states may be reluctant to change their established program. South
Carolinas foster care review board members are appointed by the governor and boards are
assigned to judicial courts, not counties/parishes (Foster Care Review Board, 2014). However,
the states of Alaska, Hawaii, and many others do not have foster care review boards at all. Those
states without a foster care review board may be interested in organizing one if it was federally
funded. Economically, the Big Family Act could be a challenge because I would like to avoid
pay-go financing. Acts which requires new funding are historically more difficult to pass (Karger
& Stoesz, 2014). Realizing the need for a review board may be difficult for some US legislators
because the results of the review board would be more qualitative which are harder to study and
prove significant differences unless you actually talk to the communities members.
Administratively, it could be difficult to implement federal policy at a state and local level.
Social workers would have to be hired to manage the review boards. Social workers would need
to inform the general public that a volunteer opportunity is available. Since foster care children
information is confidential, the volunteers have to complete a confidentiality form and the
release of the documents would also need to be given by the biological parents, unless their
rights have been terminated. The review board could be effective if the people who understand
the needs of the foster care system were hired to oversee the review boards. Since some states
already have review boards, the possibility is there. Lack of federal funding may prevent all
states from having a program. The Big Family Act is broad enough to allow the states to conform
it to their state and local legislation. It also provides another way for our countrys children to

BIG FAMILY ACT

learn more about the resources available to them. If states administration keeps accurate updated
records, the policy could reach the targeted group efficiently. The Big Family Act will not cause
any new or other social problem. The downfall to the Big Family Act is taxes would likely need
to be raise to fund the review board. However, if the foster care children do not utilize the
various resources available to them and just age out of the system, statistically the aged out
group battled a host of problems like homelessness, criminal activity, and poverty which the tax
payer would eventually be have to pay for (Fernandes-Alcantara, 2014). Utilizing volunteers
would be much more cost effective than having a complete paid staff. Volunteers can also bring
a dynamic to the board in which paid staff could not replicate. The volunteer wants to be there
with or without any compensation because they want to help a child in the foster care system.
Enacting the Big Family Act policy could reduce the amount of money the federal, state, and
local governments are spending on attempting to reduce criminal activity, homelessness, teen
pregnancy, and alleviate poverty for the thousands of children that age out of the foster care
system who did not utilize the services offered from the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999
or Fostering Connections because they were not made aware of the resources.
If residents agree with a statement made by Scotland Minister than their foster care youth
could greatly benefit from the Big Family Act. Scotlands Minister for Children and Young
People, Aileen Campbell stated, This Governments vision for children and young people is
clear: We want Scotland to be the best place in the world for them to grow up. A place where
rights are respected and where children can access all the opportunities and support they need,
when they need it (The Scotland Government, 2014). Scotland is divided into states so the Big
Family Act could be implemented into those sections. Politically, economically, and

BIG FAMILY ACT

administratively, Scotland would face many of the same challenges as the US. However, they
are also part of the United Kingdom, so it could be even more complicated.
Policy Goals
The Big Family Act will provide more resources to a foster care youth which will allow
them to have a higher chance of success in life, thereby helping them achieve social equality
with youth who have never been in the foster care system. By providing funding for a state
foster care review board system, it creates an opportunity for citizens to be involved in the foster
care system and personally assist foster care youth. The board members will review a youths
case before they become an adult in hopes of preventing potential negative outcomes. The
members can share their own personal knowledge and resources plus inquire whether the youth
knows about the arrays of services the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 and Fostering
Connections Act offers them. All those resources may enable a foster care youth to achieve their
own personal goals. If the youth utilizes the federal, state, and local government to improve their
life to avoid homelessness, substance abuse, criminal activity, unemployment, and poverty, it
could potentially decreased the amount of funding needed for reactive programs, like prison.
Big Family Act Implementation
To implement the Big Family Act, I would gather information from state who already
have foster care review boards and share the information of how successful they can be with
state which do not review boards. The driving force for this type of policy would be legislators
who strongly support foster care system improvements, like Michigans Senator Debbie
Stabenow in addition to public and private organization which provide resources to foster care
youth. Although foster care programs often receive bipartisan support, people who do not
recognize the benefit of proactive programs may not support the policy because it requires new

BIG FAMILY ACT

funding. By contacting the local organizations in the states who help foster care youth, a panel
could be formed of those youth to speak to the people who would oppose the policy.
Personal Feelings
As an intern at Michigans Foster Care Review Board, I have personally been part of
asking pertinent questions to the caseworkers, supervisors, lawyers, and foster parents and
biological parents to ensure the childs safety, well-being and permanency are the being upheld. .
If the volunteers are similar to many I have meet being on the review board in Michigan, I
believe the children will be greatly benefitted by the multi-disciplinary advice and support given
by the volunteers. A Wayne County Foster Care Review Board member, Jennifer Smith, has
been able to provide caseworkers and foster children with numerous youth and young adult
resource services. I have read about how a mother had her children removed from her home due
to neglect. Then I was able to meet her at a review board meeting to hear about how she utilized
the services provided to her and will be reunited with her children within a few months. I have
also been part of a review where the review board members were able to supply the caseworker
with local organizations that could possibly provide assistance to the foster care child. If every
foster care child that is in the system for more than six months is reviewed and given individual
attention, maybe more children will be reunited with their parents or become aware of all the
services that are available to them before they age out of the system with a high likelihood of
becoming a negative statistics. Many US citizens have a passion for the youth in our nation and
would gladly help if they were given the opportunity.
As a social worker, advocacy for community awareness of the foster care system is
essential. By visiting private and public organizations, to request they inquire how they can
support their local foster care child through providing a different place for parent/ child

BIG FAMILY ACT

10

visitation, job training, and/or mentoring, it would help residents realize that the state and federal
governments do not have all the services a foster care child needs. A foster care child need a
caring community to assist him/her in a leading a successful fulfilling life.

BIG FAMILY ACT

11
References

Atkinson, M. (2008). Aging out of Foster Care:Towards a Universal Safety Net for Former
Foster Care Youth. Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review, 183-212.
Children and Young People Act 2014. Part 10. Scotland.
Fernandes-Alcantara, A. L. (2014). Youth Transitioning from Foster Care: Background and
Federal Programs. Washington DC: Congressional Research Service.
Foster Care Review Board. (2014, November 8). Retrieved from South Carolina Governor's
Office of Executive Policy and Programs: http://www.oepp.sc.gov/fcrb/about.html
Fostering Connections to Success Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. Title 2. USCA: S.202.
Gardner, D. (2008). Youth Aging Out of Foster Care: Identifying Strageties and Best Practices.
National Association of Counties-The Voice of America's Counties, 3-8.
Kalpeneach, M. (2014, October 15). Representative from Senator Debbie Stabenow's office. (M.
Glass, Interviewer)
Karger, H. J., & Stoesz, D. (2014). American Social Welfare Policy: A Pluralist Approach (7th
ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Margolin, D. (2008). Seeking Shelter in Tough Times: Securing Housing for Youth who Age
Out of Foster Care. Child Law Practice Vol. 27 No. 5, 69-75.
The Scotland Government. (2014, November 8). Retrieved from The Scotland Government:
Children's Legislation: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/topics/people/youngpeople/legislation
The Scottish Government. (2013). Staying Put Scotland . Edinburgh: Scottish Government.