A Conversation About Foster Care
Chloe Cranmer, an 8th grade student at Kent Place School in Summit, New Jersey, reached out to us for her history class. Chloe and her classmates were asked to do research and take civic action around a major issue of their choice.Chloe chose the subject of foster care and found Spaulding for Children online. She called the assignment her “Social Initiative Project.” May is National Foster Care Awareness Month, she discovered. Wanting to learn more, Chloe contacted and conducted an interview with Spaulding’s Kristina Vaseau, LMSW, Vice President Child & Family Services. Here Kristina outlines some of her perspectives to Chloe, followed by Chloe’s observations: What has changed in your 16 years working with Spaulding in Foster Care? Kristina Vaseau: The needs and behaviors of the children have changed in the last 16 years. When I first came to Spaulding we had “specialized foster care”. These were children in foster care who had more intensive needs than other children. We completed more home visits with the children to help support the foster parent with the intention that the behaviors would decrease. Looking back on those behaviors they no longer seem that intense. The children now have so many more traumatic responses to the abuse and neglect that they have endured. These children continue to face more in their short lives than many of us have experienced as adults. We are seeing more children with an Autism diagnosis amongst other mental health diagnoses. It is increasingly difficult to recruit and retain families who are able to meet the needs of the children and youth, especially because it is not just the child or youth who may need support. When you become a foster or adopt parent you are supporting the parent and their child/youth. Another change that we have seen specifically in the metro Detroit area is the increase in substance abuse and overdoses. We attended a training program on April 26 to help us understand the opioid epidemic and how to administer Narcan in an effort to be prepared. These parents are using more drugs and we are seeing an increase with Fentanyl which is causing devastation within our communities. What continues to remain the same is the need for services and supports for our parents, caregivers and children. The state does not have enough programs and facilities to provide mental health services to support everyone and it is challenging to quickly locate services for families in crisis. What do people misunderstand about fostering? I believe the biggest misconception of foster care is that we need people to “save” these children. There is a perception that we need people to foster in order to keep children from being with people who have abused or neglected them. However, we need people to join the team and help nurture and support families, children and the community. We need to educate parents on how to meet the needs of the children while also meeting their own needs. The majority of parents who have children enter foster care are not bad people. They have encountered difficulties and struggles within their lives and don’t know how to resolve those issues which lead to abuse or neglect of their children. We need people who are not afraid to interact with others from different life experiences. Observations from Chloe Cranmer When I was doing the research it was really powerful information to take in. I started to understand more and more what these children are going through. It was definitely a difficult subject to learn about. My opinions on foster care did change. I started to understand the goals of the system and what they are doing to and for the children. In the future I would like to join a team supporting child care! I was very interested during the interview and I did mention that I would like to do something in the future revolving around this topic.