Hi, I am a student in my final year of Child and Youth Care Diploma. I am
doing a project on issues in the professional practice, and have a question
that I would like to get some opinions on.
My question is, is it OK for Child and Youth Care workers to foster a youth once they are ready to leave the facility you work at? If you have any experience fostering a youth in your home from where you work, can you please share your opinion with me?
I recently had a youth exit care right on her 18th birthday. Now none of the workers fostered her after care because she had adult services in place, but there are 5 workers who now see her on a regular basis so that she has supports there when she needs then. Most of the time these youth leave care who never had supports in care. I think it really depends on the situation and who the youth and the worker are and how they are together. I had thought about fostering her because she had gone so far from where she came from when first entering care and the last thing i wanted was for her to be another stat of a yourh not making it after transitioning and ends up at the salvation army.
I think the problem here is with the age of transition, none of these youth to this day that i have worked with were able and ready to take that step of independence. Especially when they have been catered to the whole time in care. The youth that left our care said it is very hard for her. No incentives or money every week.
I would caution you to examine your intentions very closely before making a decision to foster a child whom you have been working with as a CYC. I am sure that you mean well, and I have no doubt that you care about the youth in question, however, working with a child in a professional capacity and fostering a child are two very different relationships, and sadly, children or youth in the care system often have very complex psychological and emotional needs.
In addition, although it might not be true at all of this youth, many children and youth in the care system are often very skilled at manipulating others feelings and the youth in question might have recognised the advantages of possibly being fostered by you. Again, we should never assume or label a child or youth as manipulative, and the youth in question may not at all be manipulative, but I would question whether as student, you have enough experience yet to be making this decision.
Youth in the care system often have to learn how to manipulate situations and people to their advantage in order to survive, and the youth you are considering fostering might not be the same person you worked with once he/she is being fostered by you. If you are willing to accept this, and willing to work with the challenges that sometimes arise when fostering children or youth, then this youth is a lucky person, and I would commend you for making this decision.
Think long and hard; and I know that so many of these children and youth's stories are heartbreaking, and sometimes I wish that I could adopt or foster all of them, but as a professional, you need to examine your own personal emotional boundaries before making such a big decision.
All the best, and keep up the good work.
My agency, as many others do, has very clear policies
about interacting with youth outside the residence. In this case,
fostering the youth would be a clear violation of these policies. I
personally wouldn't be comfortable fostering youth I work with as this can
result in blurred roles and boundaries. I do feel though, if one was
open to this they would need to be mindful of their agency's policies.
Best of luck in your project and studies!
I don't think this works very well without the support
of the employing organization. There are multiple layers of
agency/worker/young person boundaries to navigate. However, there are times
when it may be the best and right thing to do.
Every child deserves to have at least one adult who is crazy for them. This adult could be you who perhaps should foster a child after they have left a child care center. There are many factors to consider here. The relationship that would have built between you and the young person plays a major role here. I do not see anything wrong as long as there is an assessment by Social Work practitioners to ascertain the suitability of this long term union. This is merely my opinion and not at all based on my personal experience.
Have you looked into the ethics policy with the OACYC regarding this?
Additionally, there may be different policies inherent
in each of the agenices with respect to this issue.
Yes, I have fostered youth at one point in my career. I am not certain what it is that you are wanting to know, what my experience was like?
I can honestly say that this was one of the most challenging experiences in my career as a Child and Youth Care and now realize why it is so important to share this responsibilty with another parent or partner. I did this on my own with my then 8-year-old son, whatever was I thinking I am not sure. The agency I worked for was new and did not provide a lot of supports. Their understanding of trauma and attachment was limited so they often misread the youth's behaviours as defiance and disrespect. I would have expected the owners and partners of this agency to have a thorough understanding of the needs and issues of youth in care before embarking on such a venture. If you are interested, I wrote an article at the completion of that "challenging" experience for the OACYC, titled " A girl name Kelly". This article was two-fold: a cathartic release for me and to bring to light the issue of multiple placements and the lack of viable supports for youth in care.
I know that it has been done before. Successfully as well.
My personal opinion is that although this is a very noble idea, it is NOT such a good idea.
The question remains; where are you going to draw the line, how are you going to choose between the young people, what criteria are you going to use, if you have chosen say Betty, what about Andrea and so on and so on....
Best of luck with this very important and life changing decision!
An interesting question. The responses stimulated my thoughts from when I managed residential programs for children. I don't know you, the child, or the program. These are just some thoughts that come to mind. This is a quite lengthy response--it is a complex matter with great risks for the child.
There are many reasons it is a bad idea, few that it miight be good. The first has to do with relationships, the second with expectations, another with issues associated with muliple placement syndrome.
When I began working with children and CYC's in residential programs, my wife and I were already raising our own children. I soon recognized differences. When children would curse, threaten, or attck me or our staff, or smash something in the facility, it was not hard for me to handle things professionally. I didn't get emotional. But I did not have a professional relationship with my own children; similar behaviours from them in my own home would have produced much different emotional reactions, for sure, quite possibly affecting my overt responses.
As an employed CYC, you have responsiblities for all the children with whom you work. Fostering one of them will affect your relationships with the other children, as well as the relationships of other CYC's with the children. Some children will fantacize about being 'rescued.' "Why doesn't she (or another CYC) want to take me home? What's wrong with me?" Or, "What's wrong with them that they don't want me? They don't care. They're only in it for the money."
And expectations are important. When I hired staff, I quickly leanred that those who came expecting only to help kids had difficulties making adjustments when they found out the my boss was obsessed with the tidiness, cleanliness, and repair of the facility and vehicles. Or that a significant amount of their time would be spent recording and writing reports and supervising chores. It's the same with the kids. When we would have preplacement interviews and then admit a child right after the interview, they often had trouble making adjustments. They had come with vague expectations about the basketball court and the pool table and the TV and video games and hanging out with other kids. Then they found out that there were other expectations. No matter how careful we were in setting realistic expectations in the interviews, it didn't take unless we gave them a day or more to process the new information.
Children who are going into a new foster placement have expectations. So do foster carers. Children may expect more freedom and fewer rules and 'consequences.' Foster carers may expect some gratitude and cooperation. If people are significantly disappointed in having their expectations fulfilled, things may break down. Relationships change from professional to personal. For example, "You're not my momma" to a staff is quite different from "You're not my mamma," to a foster carer in her own home. And if the placement breaks down and the child has to leave, then the child has two relationships destroyed--the relationship the child had with a caring and significant professional, and the foster relationship. Termination of a professional relationship can be difficult, but it is a normal thing when a child is ready to move on. Memories of it can serve children well into their future. Termination of a personal relationship is devastating. The risks for the child here are tremendous.
And children who have endured multiple placements have learned to approach each new placement with fear on some level that it, too, might fail.
Knowing they can pose problems, children have to test the new relationship to be sure the people will be there for them if they have problems. They can't feel secure until they know for sure. So they test. What behaviour is it that they cannot tolerate? Where is that line that I dare not cross.
It's not a conscious process but preconscious. And in their obessessive search, they find the line by crossing it. "You can't stay here anymore. I can't tolerate that behaviour in my home."
Catherine – Your thoughts really highlight that the
transition to independence is a process, rather than event, that has
elements at even the earliest stages of development.
I believe they are trying to change the age to 21 here in BC as too many of these youth – according to the stats – ended up homeless... Advocacy is essential in those cases. The government and the politics alike need to hear us on this...