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November 28, 2008 in Campaign 2008, Capitalism, Economy, Family values, Politics, socialism, Uncategorized | Tags: "aged out", Catholic Charities of Boston, Chanakuh, Children's Home Society, Childrens and Family Services, Christmas, Dave Thomas Foundation, New York Life Foundation, social services, Thanksgiving, transitional assistance | 2 comments
Regardless of the state in which you live, your state is the legal guardian of those children whose family lives have been turned “upside down” by as many different sets of circumstances as their are children in the state’s care. As we celebrate this season of Thanksgiving, of Chanakuh, of Christmas, several stories have recently hit the news that sheds new light on this growing concern.
The two issues that have come to the forefront of children’s concerns are the result of the economic problems that face all of us at the moment, as well as from a system that is overburdened as a result of the breakdown of family values in our society.
First, a headline this week read “$XX millions ordered cut from area school budgets”. This headline has been echoed in every school district across the country. A man standing next to me in line commented “how do they expect to pay the teachers? How do they expect to get teachers to teach?”. In Hillary Swank’s “Freedom Writers”, a movie based on a true story, Hillary Swank’s character takes two other jobs in order to give her students the supplies, books, and field trips that they needed to make their educational experience a success. This is NOT how the greatest nation on earth should be handling its educational system. Physical Education has been scaled back so much that most students are not getting the minimum exercise they need (do we remember the Presidential Physical Fitness program?). Music and art programs are almost non-existent in many areas, and they are usually the first programs targetted in cutbacks. Yet it is proven that students who are exposed to musical learning skills actually perform better in the three “R’s” as well.
The other problem that has been highlighted recently pertains to the children in the care of the State. Each state is the legal guardian of hundreds of children, for as many reasons as there are children in their care. The state’s have programs that are designed to ease some of the financial burden on those who make the selfless decision to adopt one of the State’s legal wards. For example, some states include a prepaid state college program for the adoptee; some offer continued health insurance coverage in the State’s medical program (or assistance if the child is put on the parent’s health plan).
Where a major problem has developed is in what becomes of those children who remain in the State’s care through the age of 18, and subsequently “age out”. Very few states have actual programs in place that deal with the issues these “adults” face. In fact, many quickly become homeless, without the guidance and direction of a family. If they were in foster care, all funding ceases on their eighteenth birthday. Some agencies have begun to tackle this problem, establishing “transitional” programs that provide assistance with housing, career planning, as well as other programs. The question this raises is where is the state’s role in this problem?
We all agree that we want minimal state involvement in our lives. But if the state has been charged with the care of these children, and the state had allotted funds for college and healthcare for these children had they been found by there “forever family”, why are there no programs already in place to assist those who have “aged out”? Should these children not receive the college education that they would have received if they had been adopted before their emergence into adulthood?
All too often, those who remain in the care of the state through adulthood have remained there for varying reasons, primarily because they are a part of a group of siblings, who, naturally and rightfully so, desire to remain together and become a part of a family together. The older that the eldest may be, the less likely the group may be to be adopted. Couple that with the lengthy and cumbersome process, and its no wonder the children age out. (Most state’s applications are so long and invasive of one’s privacy, in order to protect the children, that its actually shows the absurdity of our process to qualify our Presidential candidates, like Obama who will not show his birth certificate).
Like everything else, money seems to be the key to the problem-solving in these issues. As an example, New York Life Foundation has actively contributed to programs that address children’s issues, and recently earmarked $450,000 for the New York City area programs. But in addition to money, both of these problems could be assisted through the troubling times by the giving of another personal commodity- Time. The school’s and most counties have numerous volunteer programs for tutors, mentors, fundraisers, etc. So do we watch the problem or do we each find our way to contribute to easing the problem?