Kid's Quill: Imagining a New Foster Care System

July 1, 2000

You know it best, how should we fix it? Teens in foster care share their experiences and recommend changes to improve foster care. Their work was part of a scholarship contest sponsored by the Child Welfare Fund in New York City.

We Need Mentors Who Believe In Us

BY Jasime Crumpton

Edwin Gould Children and Family Services

If I could create an entirely new foster care system, one thing, more than anything else, that I’d want in it would be mentors — positive teens, aged-out youth, and former foster care workers. These people would spend time sharing and listening to youth in the system.

This would give foster children the incentive to open up and take the chance of trusting their mentors. It would be all about hope and faith, the total opposite of what a lot of youth think the system is. Kids want help and they need people besides themselves to believe in them.

We Need Stability

Latoya Ellis

Pius XII Youth and Family Services

If I could create an entirely new foster care system, I would eliminate the frequent turnover of caseworkers. In my nine years in care, I have been assigned to nine different caseworkers.

When I first came into the system it was hard for me to accept that I would never return home. I was nine and I didn’t really understand the concept of being in the system. All I knew was that my father was in jail, my family and friends were gone, and I was being removed from the only place I knew as my home. My two sisters and I only had each other. It was a harsh dose of reality for a child my age. I felt scared, shocked, confused and sad.

Our first caseworker was a very nice person who really cared about us. We grew very fond of her. We could talk to her about anything and she was always there when we needed her. I think that all kids in care should have a caseworker just like her.

But then she told me that she couldn’t be my caseworker because she would be leaving the agency for a better opportunity elsewhere. This was another loss for me and I became less trusting of the caseworkers who were assigned to my case after that. In fact, there was a time when I was thinking about being adopted but I didn’t feel comfortable enough to talk with my caseworker about it. Why? She was my fifth caseworker and I had already lost interest in building a relationship with her. I will be in care until the age of 21, and I often think that I might have been adopted if I had a more supportive and consistent advocate.

Foster Kids Need a Handbook

Clara Baez

Lakeside Family and Children’s Services

A good example of how confusing the system is for a foster kid is what happened to me the night I was taken away from my family. Before I even knew what was happening, my youngest sister and I were placed in a shelter and my other sister didn’t know what was going on or where we were. None of the important people in my life knew what was going on, including my mentor and some people in the after-school center I go to. Even I didn’t know what was going on.

The first thing I would do in my own system would be to create a handbook for foster kids to give to them as soon as they go into the system. The handbook would contain important phone numbers, things you can and cannot do, what to expect, and other important information. The second thing I would do would be to set up a schedule for every caseworker and lawyer to call the foster kid once a week. My new foster care system would focus on getting information to kids. This way foster kids wouldn’t feel so confused.

Satisfy the Hunger for Family

Reasmey Thach

St. Vincent’s Services

I came to the U.S. as a refugee from Cambodia when I was 10 years old. The rest of my family was resettled in Denmark. Coming to America was the greatest opportunity for me, without a question. But I have also lost so much. I can remember eating a small bowl of rice with only salt and pepper when my family and I were hiding in the jungles of Thailand. I felt fuller than eating a roast beef sandwich, french fries, a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a cup of coffee at Friendly’s. Eating that small bowl of rice on the mountain filled me up more because I was eating with my family. There is no greater hunger than the hunger for a family. There is no greater pain than the pain of loneliness.

For the past 11 years I have been in four different foster homes. Not one of those four homes provided me with a stable haven. Not one of my four foster parents even tried to make me feel at home. School was my home. I fell in love with school because I didn’t have a home. Now that I am in college at SUNY Binghamton, I still don’t have a home.

Every break, I have no place to go. I used to go home with friends, but their parents don’t want to see me yet again. It’s very embarrassing and uncomfortable. I wish there was a place that I could go to during vacations, especially summer vacations.

The system could create group homes located in safe communities accessible by public transportation strictly for college students. Each home would have a resident director and one or two resident assistants to keep order, just like the dorms do. The students would pay affordable rent. Personally, I am more than willing to pay rent just as long as I have a place to go. Or the system could find caring people who would be willing to have college students live with them a few times a year, paid. The money could come out of our own pockets. If we couldn’t afford it, we could get a job. Just as long as we had a place to go, a place that we could call home.

Give Us Staff Who Care, Too

Emerly Laurent

Inwood House

If I was to create an entirely new foster care system, I would change the quality of care given by many of the child care workers. Many staff workers come to work and do not even say good morning to the residents. They talk about their own lives in front of us as if we don’t exist. They never take the time to ask about us. Often, children enter the foster care system because of parental neglect. It’s a horror that the child care staff would also neglect the kids.

Crumpton, Jasmine. "We Need Mentors Who Believe In Us." Kid's Quill. Youth Today, July/August 2000, p. 10.

Ellis, Latoya. "We Need Stability." Kid's Quill. Youth Today, July/August 2000, p. 10 - 11.

Baez, Clara. "Foster Kids Need a Handbook." Kid's Quill. Youth Today, July/August 2000, p. 11.

Thach, Reasmey. "Satisfy the Hunger for Family." Kid's Quill. Youth Today, July/August 2000, p. 11.

Laurent, Emerly. "Give Us Staff Who Care, Too." Kid's Quill. Youth Today, July/August 2000, p. 11.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.