Archive for September 10th, 2009
Today, I had the opportunity to attend a meeting addressing housing and homelessness issues for foster children and youth. Hosted by the National Foster Care Coalition (NFCC), this meeting brought together advocates, policymakers, government officials, and other interested parties in addressing the issue of foster children.
According to the NFCC, there are nearly half a million children and youth in foster care – and of those, over 26,000 age out of the foster care program without ever having joined a permanent family. Studies have demonstrated that these youth – who never experience the benefits of permanent housing and support – often are more likely to experience negative outcomes, including poverty, homelessness, incarceration, as well as mental and physical illness. They often never learn the life and educational skills necessary to live successful, independent lives.
Luckily, there are actions that we can take to help these foster care children, and increase the odds that they will become productive, active members of society. The NFCC presented a housing policy platform for foster care children, which include the following (these are just a selection among a longer list):
- Increase the legal and financial incentive to providing foster placement prevention services, including housing.
- Require federally-mandated child welfare planning/plans to integrate housing goals.
- Provide federal incentives for states to extend foster care [services] until 21, if needed.
- Change TANF to support minor parents in their efforts to find housing for themselves and their children.
As an outsider on the issue, it was interesting to hear the perspectives of seasoned veterans who have long been protecting the interest of the most vulnerable. I learned today that it’s tough to find willing foster parents nowadays, and even tougher to find foster parents for older children. It had never occurred to me that in these rough times, that sector would be affected as well.
Experts also discussed the challenges in serving youth who were already parents, and the added services and responsibility that are required in such a delicate situation, and in finding solutions for homeless students pursuing secondary education. What can we – as a interdependent community – do to support those students who are actively trying to better their lives but struggling without the skills and/or resources to acquire housing?
And then, there was the entire issue of foster care itself. I was – as it turns out – uninformed about the specifics of the concept. Foster care is intended to be a temporary solution, but on average, children remain in foster care for more than two years. During that time, children average three different placements – moves that are often disruptive to the child’s development.
Find out more about youth homelessness on our website, and please visit the National Foster Care Coalition’s website for more information about their national housing policy platform and the coalition.
President Barack Obama just finished his address to a joint session of Congress about health care reform. The raging debate over this monstrous social issue has been the cause of many an editorial, many a pundit’s diatribe, and much distress and concern among the American public.
Tonight, the President reminded us about “the things that truly matter” and the importance of approaching our biggest challenges. He reminded us that we not only have a personal responsibility to take care of ourselves, but a moral and civic responsibility to look after those least among us. He reminded us that we can and must take on the hard challenges that confront us as a nation to make us, collectively, a healthier, more whole community. The President urged us to put aside our difference and focus on the common values and priorities that bring us together.
We know that the President could not be more right – and we support and applaud the President in his efforts to provide necessary services to the American people, and to make sure that those who are most in need also have access to critical care.
As I listened to the President discuss his priorities and agenda tonight, I could only be reminded (though perhaps because I’m surrounded by it day-after-day!) of those who really are the least among us. Not the middle class families or the post-college graduates – though their needs are equally important – but of the people who in desperate and dire need for medical attention. Those people who’s very livelihoods depend on access to care.
I know the President is right in his belief in the American people. And I certainly believe we have the courage and the fortitude to do the right thing!