Beyond the Foster Care System: The Future for Teens

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Rutgers University Press, 2006 - Family & Relationships - 238 pages
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Each year tens of thousands of teenagers are released from the foster care system in the United States without high school degrees or strong family relationships. Two to four years after discharge, half of these young people still do not have either a high school diploma or equivalency degree, and fewer than ten percent enter college. Nearly a third end up on public assistance within fifteen months, and eventually more than a third will be arrested or convicted of a crime.

In this richly detailed and often surprising exploration of the foster care system, Betsy Krebs and Paul Pitcoff argue that the existing structure sets kids up to fail by inadequately preparing them for adult life. Foster care programs traditionally emphasize goals of reuniting children with family or placing children into adoptive homes. But neither of these outcomes is likely for adolescents. Krebs and Pitcoff contend that the primary goal of foster care for teenagers should be rigorous preparation for a fully productive adult life and that the standard life skills curriculum is woefully inadequate for this purpose.

The authors, who together cofounded the Youth Advocacy Center in New York City, draw on their fifteen years of experience working with teens and the foster care system to introduce new ways to teach teens to be responsible for themselves and to identify and develop their potential. They also explore what sorts of resources-legal, financial, and human-will need to come from inside and outside the system to more fully humanize the practice of foster care. Ultimately, Krebs and Pitcoff argue that change must involve the participation of caring communities of volunteers who want to see disadvantaged youth succeed as well as developing methods to empower teens to take control of their lives.

Bringing together a series of inspiring, real-life accounts, Beyond the Foster Care System introduces readers to a number of dynamic young people who have participated in the Youth Advocacy Center's programs and who have gone on to apply these lessons to other areas of life. Their stories demonstrate that more successful alternatives to the standard way of providing foster care are not only imaginable, but possible. With the practical improvements Krebs and Pitcoff outline, teens can learn the skills of effective self-advocacy, become better prepared for the transition to full independence, and avoid becoming the statistics that foster care has so often produced in the past.

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Beyond the foster care system: the future for teens

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Critics suggest that "graduates" of the foster care system are woefully unprepared for adult life. As a result, many drift into welfare, prison life, low-wage employment, and other forms of social ... Read full review

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About the author (2006)

Betsy Krebs and Paul Pitcoff co-founded Youth Advocacy Center in New York City to teach teenagers to be advocates for themselves and take control of their lives. Using their backgrounds in law and higher education, they created a model of using the Socratic case method to teach teens self-advocacy and prepare them for informational interviews in the community. Their Getting Beyond the System(r) model and books, On Your Own as a Young Adult, are used nationally to help teens in and at risk of foster care. For her work at Youth Advocacy Center, Betsy was awarded a fellowship from George Soros' Open Society Institute, and was elected to the Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, a global organization which identifies and invests in leading social entrepreneurs. Betsy is a graduate of Harvard Law School and was an attorney representing foster care children for four years. Paul is an attorney who previously was a filmmaker and founding chair of the Communications Department at Adelphi University, where he was a tenured professor for 20 years, and where he is now is Professor Emeritus.

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