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SPECIAL CARE CHILDRENAND YOUTH IN FOSTER CARE:ISSUES OF PLACEMENT AND SERVICEINTERVENTIONSPrepared for theCentral California Welfare DirectorsNovember 1, 2002A paper from theChildren’s InstituteCentral California Center forHealth and Human ServicesCalifornia State University, FresnoIn collaboration withCentral California Foster CareAd Hoc CommitteePrepared bySalvador Montana, M.S.W.Director, Children’s InstituteEdited byVirginia Rondero Hernandez, Ph.D.

Central California Children’s InstituteCentral California Center for Health and Human ServicesCollege of Health and Human ServicesCalifornia State University, Fresno1625 East Shaw Ave., Ste. 146Fresno, CA 93710-8106Tel: (559) 228-2150Fax: (559) 228-2168This document may be downloaded OPYRIGHT INFORMATIONCopyright 2003 by California State University Fresno. This book may be printed anddistributed free of charge for academic or planning purposes without the writtenpermission of the copyright holder. Citation as to source, however, is appreciated.Distribution for profit of this material is prohibited without specific permission of thecopyright holder.SUGGESTED CITATIONMontana, S., & Rondero Hernandez, V. (2002). Special care children and youth in fostercare: Issues of placement and service interventions. Fresno, CA: California StateUniversity, Fresno.

IntroductionThe Central California Welfare Directors established the Central California foster care ad hoccommittee during November 2001 to examine and develop recommendations on special carechildren and youth in foster care. The phrase special care children and youth was coined bythe Central California foster care ad hoc committee to describe foster children whoseemotional and developmental needs are not being met in foster care. As a result of theirneeds not being met, these children experience chronic placement instability during their stayin foster care. The Central California foster care ad hoc committee first assembled duringFebruary 2002, and its membership consists of county representatives from Fresno, Kern,Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Stanislaus, andTulare counties, and representatives from the California Department of Social Services (seeappendix). To support the efforts of the ad hoc committee, California State University,Fresno was asked to research practices that are both effective in caring and providing betteroutcomes for foster children. This report highlights some promising approaches, bestpractices, and evidence-based practices that may assist communities in Central Californiawith caring for special care children and youth.Problem StatementThe State of California, like the nation as a whole, faces significant challenges in the designand delivery of Child Welfare Services (CWS). CWS are publicly legislated programsdesigned to provide investigative, supportive, remedial, and foster care services for childrenand families who have experienced child maltreatment. These challenges are evidenced bythe number of reform or redesign efforts occurring nationwide (Child Welfare StakeholdersGroup, 2002). In California, this is characterized by the CWS Stakeholder Group, a massivestatewide effort to address the large and complex issues of CWS. CWS issues areparticularly acute in the Central California region, defined as Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera,Merced, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Stanislaus, and Tulare counties,because of the region’s high poverty and unemployment rates. According to data obtainedfrom the U.S. Census (2000), the eight counties of the San Joaquin Valley of CentralCalifornia (excluding San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara) averaged 20.5 % of people livingbelow the poverty level in the year 1999. Unemployment averaged 12.3 % for calendar year2001 (State of California, 2002). Social science literature correlates high poverty andunemployment with higher incidences of child maltreatment and foster care placement(English, 1998; Little Hoover Commission, 1999).Because of the enormity, complexity, and sometimes chaotic nature of CWS, efforts atreforming and improving the system seem daunting. However, many communities arecommitted to initiating new programs and reforms in an attempt to improve their CWSsystems. One area needing attention for many communities is limited placement resourcesfor foster children with mental, developmental, emotional, and behavioral problems. Thesechildren sometimes wait in county facilities pending foster care placement. Until recentlysome children were housed in unlicensed facilities during these waiting periods. These2

problems result from the lack of stable long-term placements that meet the emotional anddevelopmental needs of these children, who often experience multiple placements duringtheir foster care experience.One of the significant discussions on how to care for this group of foster children occurred ata meeting held in Fresno County during November of 2001. This meeting was called byFresno County Human Services System and was hosted by California State University,Fresno. Regional county human services directors from Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced andTulare Counties, their staffs, and representatives from the California Department of SocialServices gathered to discuss this issue. At this meeting, frustration was expressed over thefollowing issues: Proper state and county rolesConstricting statutory rules and funding streams that inhibit solutions to the issueThe lack of identified best-practice approaches to manage these childrenThe lack of available placement facilities that can clinically treat these childrenUltimately, out of this frustration came a renewed commitment to developing solutions to theproblem. This was the basis for forming the Central California foster care ad hoc committee,which has met monthly to develop recommendations on this issue for the Central CaliforniaWelfare Directors.County Data: Profile of Special Care Children andYouth in Foster CareAt the onset of discussions, the ad hoc committee faced an immediate problem of adequatelydescribing these foster children beyond the collective experience of not being able to findadequate placements and services. Many experiential and anecdotal descriptions wereprovided. Although useful in defining the scope of the problem, it soon became apparent thatthe committee was discussing a wide variety of foster children. These children ranged fromdevelopmentally delayed children, children with severe mental diagnosis, to children with ahost of severe behavioral and emotional problems. Because the committee could have easilybeen overwhelmed by the enormity of need, it was decided to focus on foster childrenexperiencing behavioral and emotional difficulties resulting from stress, trauma, separation,and loss. While other foster children have very legitimate needs, taking on such a broadspectrum of placement issues would have diluted the ability of the group to make anysignificant impact on the issue. Members of the committee were aware of several severelydistributed children who were experiencing difficulties with placement and who were wellknown to treatment and service providers in their communities. The foster care ad hoccommittee identified these foster children as special care children and youth, because of theirhigher service and treatment needs.3

In January 2002, counties provided data on their special care children and youth in fostercare. The data were problematic because of different definitions used by counties, datacollection resources, local placement resources, and other county nuances and differences.However, a descriptive summary of the data is useful, despite the limitations of the data: Of the seven counties reporting, the average age of children being special carechildren and youth was 13 years of age. Males outnumbered females at a ratio of about 3:1. The average age at entering the system was 8 and the average length of stay was 5-6years. Thi

Introduction The Central California Welfare Directors established the Central California foster care ad hoc committee during November 2001 to examine and develop recommendations on special care children and youth in foster care.The phrase special care children and youth was coined by the Central California foster care ad hoc committee to describe foster children whose

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