My inquiry question is How does the foster care system affect children placed within it? On my research round 3 post, I said this would be my metamorphosis, but it turns out I get one more research round which is great because previously I looked into physical and mental effects. Which means it's only fitting to research the emotional effect of the foster care system and what happens to children who age out of the system.
Before I can dive into the emotional effects the foster care has on children, I first need to explain the difference between mental and emotional effects.
Mental VS Emotional
Mental health issues are all related to cognitive thinking and being able to processing information and is the overall issue but your emotional health is connected since it is most likely apart of the mental health. Meaning emotional health is based off of feelings such as being overly upset or sad which can lead to depression which is a mental health issue because it's when people can't mentally function. Although, mental disorders are more common, emotional disorders are just as important because if you can prevent or stop them at this early stage hopefully it won't develop into something worse. (1)
For this part of the research, I'm going to take a different approach by summarizing 2 different stories and experiences children went through that caused their emotional issues. As I was researching emotional disorders I noticed they are very similar to mental disorders and very specialized towards each child due to their traumatic events.
Foster children are faced with many different challenges that we don't ever see in our lives like lack of treatment, love and their basic needs. All these essential parts of their lives are missing and replaced with traumatic experiences which results in them developing different disorders.
Adam - Adam who is now a sexual offender, was sexually abused by his stepfather between the ages 8-16; however, the issue was acknowledged too late because Adam was emotionally scared. During his time in the system, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and perhaps PTSD due to his repeated nightmares. Although he did attend treatment for being a sexual offender and received medication for his disorders, Adam wasn't benefiting because after he aged out of foster care, he stopped his treatment. Helpless and in the world alone, Adam who is now older than 18 can not receive the help he needs because anyone who was involved with him before is unable too due to his age. (2)
Tony - Since the age of 6, Tony has been followed up by protective services due to neglect allegations towards his mother and his father's abusiveness. A year later, 7 year old Tony's aggressive and destructive behaviour, lead him to be placed into short term care for an assessment. Throughout the assessment he showed suicidal thoughts, extreme aggression and destruction of property that potentially could have escalated to self harm which lead Tony to hospitalization. After medication and being placed in a safe environment, Tony's behaviour continued and he was entered into the system. (2) Although the system didn't directly cause Tony's behavioural issues, they certainly didn't help him during his time of need.
What happens to children who age out of the system?
When a child "ages out" of foster care it means they have reached the maximum age that the foster care system will still provide for them. Generally the age is 18 when you have graduated from high school, but it also means throughout your time in the system, you sadly were not adopted or able to return to your biological parents. On rare occasions, there are situations where some foster children are allowed to stay in the system for longer, but most children rather have freedom, however it could lead to homelessness. (3)
As I mentioned above, many teens do not want to stay in the system any longer so they find a new home whether that is with a friend or in a homeless shelter. There are many different organization and resources that are available in the lower main land if you are in need such as the Burnaby Youth hub or even the Kids Help phone line could always give much needed advice. (4) However there are many other issues besides shelter when leaving a foster care home. If the child built a strong relationship with the foster parents, the emotional bond will most likely be broken and the child's only support system is cut off which would leave them in an emotional state. (5)
Thank you everyone for reading my final research round of this cycle and any comments below are very appreciated.