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Shattered Lives: Exploring the Effects of Class, Race and Educational Attainmnent on Family Structure

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Shattered Lives: Exploring the Effects of Class, Race and Educational Attainmnent on Family Structure

Shattered Lives: Exploring the Effects of Class, Race and

Educational Attainmnent on Family Structure

The Foster Care System is a familiar phrase that is often shrouded in ambiguity. This family structure can be understood as a safe haven where children can lead normal lives despite their misfortunes. To others it is a residence that only magnifies their familial misfortunes. The Foster Care System is defined as 24-Hour substitute care for children outside their own homes. The framework of the Foster Care System includes family foster homes, relative foster homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, group homes, child-care institutions, and pre-adoptive homes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that as of September 30, 2001, there were an estimated 542,000 children in foster care in the United States. Of the 542,000, 48 percent were in foster family homes (non-relative), 24 percent were in relative foster homes, 18 percent were in group homes or institutions, 4 percent were in pre-adoptive homes, and 6 percent were in other placement types. The ethnic configuration of these children mentioned above are as follows: 38 percent were Black/Non-Hispanic; 37 percent were White/Non-Hispanic; 17 percent were Hispanic; and 8 percent were other races/ethnic origins. Of these, 52% were male, while 48% were female. There has been little research done on the transition from childhood to adulthood on these individuals, however three key variables play a principle role in just how cumbersome this phase can be.

Class and race are major contributors to not only the disbursement of children in the foster care system, but also how well they are able to become productive members of society after they have aged out of this system. Educational Attainment is furthermore a measure of how well these displaced children are able to maneuver once they have been expunged from the Child Welfare System. The above statistics show a severe disparity in the racial structure of the foster care system. According to the U.S. Census, Blacks are exactly 12.3% of the American population, while Whites represent 75.1%. However, there is only a 1% difference in their percentages in reference to the Foster Care System. The conclusion is that Blacks have an overwhelming chance of becoming a part of the Child Welfare System even if both Black and White children are harboring the same forms of maltreatment. According to the Child Welfare Watch who specifically explored the Foster Care System in New York City, African-American children are more than twice as likely as white children to be taken away from their parents following a confirmed report of abuse or neglect. Furthermore, one out of every four African-American children citywide [New York City] is in foster care, compared with one out of every 59 Latino children and one out of every 385 white children.

“Being taken away from my parents didn’t bother me…But

Being taken away from my brothers and sisters…they were my whole

Life…It was probably the most painful thing in the world. They told me

I would be able to see them a lot, but I was lucky to be able to see

them at all.”

- Luis, Former Foster Child

The mantra “Babies having Babies” is appropriate in the case of Luis. His mother had him at the tender age of thirteen. Though only a toddler, Luis already knew something was abnormal about his surroundings. Both his mother and father were drug addicts and the home was never kept clean. Food was scarce; due to this Luis was forced to scour through dumpsters to find food to feed his sisters and brother. He was forced to steal baby formula to feed his sister. As a child, Luis had to take on the role of mother and father. He taught his younger sisters to walk, toilet-trained them and changed diapers all before the age six. The turmoil worsened when his mothers’ abusive drug dealer and drug addict boyfriend moved in. Authorities were finally called in by Luis’s teacher upon recognition of peculiar behaviors that he was exhibiting along with bruises on his body and other signs of neglect. At six years old, Luis was placed in foster care. No one told him anything he remembers. All he

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