Too few lawmakers address foster youth aging out or the failed foster care system. Let’s fix it.

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A woman sits at the steps of the BC Legislature as hundreds of people, many youth who have aged out of foster care, rallied to ask for better support for youth aging out of care. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)

Someone sent information this morning that said “Youth speak out on ‘aging out’ of foster care; requesting extension on age limit”

Lane Ball out of Huntington Beach, West Virginia is developing a story with Nexstar about how foster care facilities push for the “aging out” limit to be extended. We hope that somewhere in the development that he realizes there is a financial incentive to keep children in state custody, and most importantly, we hope that Lane Ball reports how badly the foster care system is failing our most vulnerable youth. If Lane doesn’t “get it” and report it, you can bet that we will.

Young adults that age out of foster care often do not have familial ties to their own biological families. Sometimes it is because the family was so bad that the child could not be safe around any of them, but for the most part, about 90% of the time, the state severs a child’s ties with biological family members out of “respect” for the foster placement’s wishes.

It is most of the time too difficult for foster “parents” with very little training to integrate the new family with the biological family. The result is that children age out of foster care very often not knowing who they are or where they came from.

What makes it even worse for them is that throughout their lives in foster homes, they are about 80% of the time prescribed psychotropic drugs “to help them cope”. Once they age out, they no longer have access to their medicines.

Many will turn to street drugs and about 75% of the aged-out youth will end up in jail or prison within 2 years of aging out. It is reported that at least 1 in 7 foster children will fall into the hands of human sex traffickers. I think the number is higher because social workers are not required to report missing foster children. There are no amber alerts for them, and city reports show that between 60% to as high as 99% of children rescued in sex trafficking stings were in state custody before they were trafficked. Even the Department of State admits that the U.S. foster care system is a problem.

Less than 3% of foster children ever go to college and less than 2% will ever graduate. Foster placements simply fail to teach the vulnerable youth how to make it in this world and by the time they turn 18 and hit the road, they are ill prepared for what life throws at them.

Lane’s report today shows that lawmakers are taking notice. He says, “When someone ages out of foster care, it can be difficult adjusting to life as an adult. This past year, the federal government offered a safety net for individuals not quite ready to be on their own, but that will soon no longer be the case”.

“Supporting Foster Youth and Families Through the Pandemic Act”  created specifically to aid foster children during the Covid pandemic expires on September 30, 2021. Apparently, the Annie E. Casey Foundation is pushing for legislation that will support foster youth between the ages of 18 to 27-years-old.

Some CASA advocates as well as US Senators Sherrod Brown from Ohio, and  Shelly Moore Capito from West Virginia are taking notice and working on legislation that will provide support for foster youth that are aging out.

West Virginia Senator Shelley Moore Capito stated, “Throughout my time representing West Virginians in Congress, I’ve consistently worked to deliver needed resources and support to our state’s foster children, and help improve West Virginia’s foster care system as a whole. As legislation is introduced, I’ll prioritize the well-being of those in foster care, regardless of their age, who were particularly hard hit by the pandemic”.

Senator Brown from Ohio said, “It’s critical that Congress act now and extend the moratorium on ‘aging out’ of foster care. Now more than ever – as we continue to recover from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We cannot afford to cut young Ohioans off from critical housing and support services. Every young person deserves a safe and stable place to call home”.

Other senators from other states do not seem to be concerned about foster youth until they realize that there is something in it for them, and there is now about $100 Billion ASFA 1997 dollars and the Trillions of dollars put out into communities through the American Rescue Plan, The Family First Act, the American Family Plan, and countless other Acts that have been made to increase access to quality healthcare and services. Hopefully lawmakers will get on the ball and help desperate, vulnerable foster youth that have no ties to family that can support them.

As Lane Ball develops his story, I hope he does he research well and reports the facts about how badly the state has failed our most vulnerable children that are now becoming young adults and being set free in this messed up world. Our prayers go out to them that God will clear the path and work with everyone’s Hearts and Minds to make each foster youth a successful member of society, hopefully by beginning before they age out not knowing what to do. We pray for people that care to make a powerful difference in their lives each and every day so that they can become the people that God created them to be.

I offer two solutions; (1) place children will family or someone that they already know and trusts so that their lives are not disrupted any more than it has to be, and (2) localize foster care so that youth do not end up in strange places with strange people far from where they no their way around. This will prevent children from being trafficked and provide more stability.

If you want to offer any solutions, please do so in the comment section. Thanks for reading. We look forward to hearing from you.  

Defense, denial, and rationalization addicts use that slow the recovery process, and what family and friends can do to help.

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Denial and rationalization are two common defense mechanisms that addicts can use that can slow or prevent recovery. Denial is common among addicts. Denial happens when a person fails to accept or acknowledge a reality. Sometimes the truth hurts, and emotions can be difficult to deal with. Addicts can also be manipulative, and this comes from the addict’s ability to rationalize their behavior to themselves and to convince others that there is not a problem.

Everyone uses defense mechanisms to protect themselves from anxiety and in social settings to cope with what is happening around them. Defense mechanisms are usually healthy ways that people have to deal with whatever is happening but become pathological when maladaptive behaviors emerge from the unconscious mind to manipulate or deny reality. Addicts use defense mechanisms to rationalize their addiction and to protect their own ego.

Addicts deny that they have a problem. They deny that they are addicted or that an addiction is the cause of any negative consequences. Often times an addict will blame others for problems and therefore shift the focus off of themselves and the addiction so that someone else or something else is to blame. This is also the way that an addict compartmentalizes their addiction because morally the addict most likely does not want to be an addict or behave like an addict. Extreme denial can lead to dissociative disorders where the addict becomes detached from reality all together and can no longer cope.

Rationalization is the addict’s way of justifying their behavior both to themselves and to other people around them. Addicts can use logic manipulatively to avoid the issues of their addiction. They can even convince their friends and family that nothing is wrong and sometimes even have their friends and family rationalize their behavior for them. Projection and acting out are other defense mechanisms, but they also stem from the addicts ability to deny that they have a problem and shift the blame on to others therefore creating the rationalization that nothing is wrong with them and that someone or something else is to blame.

Defense mechanisms become an addict’s reality and recovery becomes further out of reach. Denial is a major roadblock to recovery and the main reason that addicts do not seek help. Nobody wants to admit that they are wrong or that they have a problem and lots of people do not like asking for help even when they know that they have a problem. A person will have a hard time accepting the fact that an addiction has taken control of their life and that can prevent treatment all together.

Family and friends may even deny that someone is addicted and say that the person has a reason for acting the way they do, that something bad is to blame. The sad thing about that is that the addict has to admit that they have a problem and take responsibility for their life. And sometimes, family and friends may know that their loved one is addicted but the more they push the addict to get help, the more the addict becomes further withdrawn from the people that could be positive influences in their life.

Common behaviors may include acting out, accusing loved ones of be judgmental and condemning, playing the victim, or manipulating the situation and blaming others, and minimizing harm caused by the addiction.

Depression and other mood disorders may also surface further complicating things for both the addict and the people around them. The addict may seem like they just don’t care. The addict may truly believe that they are the only one affected by the addiction and not realize the negative effects the addiction is having on their family.

Denial is just the start of complications to treatment. As the addict denies that they have a problem and places the blame on other things or other people, family and friends may also question their own beliefs about the addiction. Everyone starts to rationalize the addict’s behavior and make excuses. Reality becomes distorted and an addict may withdraw themselves from anyone that disagrees with them and become isolated, or they could just decide to hang around with other people that share their addiction. Afterall, those people are more understanding and less judgmental. The best thing that family and friends can do is admit that there is an addiction and to be understanding rather than judgmental.

How we approach intervention is important. It is possible to push a person further away and further into a crowd of people that share their addiction. This can result in death and other horrible outcomes. Strategies that are proven to be effective are motivational techniques that involve both the addict and their family and support group. Showing an addict how their addiction is affecting the people they care about can sometimes motivate them to change their life and their behaviors. Nobody wants to hurt the person they care about. It is also important to show the family how their action may be enabling the addiction or pushing the addict further away from accepting help. Counseling centers have experts that can help guide a family to accept that their loved one is addicted and teach family and friends to listen and understand the addict so that they can help them recover.

One of the best resources for family and caregivers is the National Alliance of Mental Health (NAMI) and a motivational tool they published several years ago for family members dealing with schizophrenia, “I am not sick, I don’t need help”. Although the booklet is written for people dealing with a family member that suffers schizophrenia, the techniques used to help them want help are also useful to help an addict accept help and it is a useful tool to teach family members and friends how they can help someone they care about who is suffering from addiction or some other disorder.

If someone you know is looking for free resources.

SAMSHA National Helpline 1-800-662-4357

US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration