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Fall 2014

Failing in Foster Care

Inconsistent home life leads to lifelong challenges for children in foster care early mornings are difficult for youth in long-

term foster care. As children across the country pack their lunches and backpacks for school, foster youth are keeping track of their few life possessions. At a moment’s notice, with one knock at the door, their possessions could be lost. If they aren’t prepared to move, this can mean leaving behind a family photo or favorite t-shirt. While their peers are focused on sports, school and social activities, foster children are often consumed by the thought of where they will be sleeping that night, if they will be safe, and if they will ever see their parents again.

For this reason, foster care is successful. The threat of further abuse or neglect has been removed for children living in unsafe environments. The risk of a child being left in a hot car, surrounded by drugs and alcohol, or physically beaten, has been prevented. Foster care fails when children enter the system, but never leave.

The last time a knock on the door came, I was told I’d be safe. But what happened next was not safe. My future fell apart. I never had the opportunity to do what everyone else was doing. This is a time I never got back. Now what?

With each day, there is greater potential for having their lives upended. One knock at the door and everything keepMAGGIE, 18 ing them grounded is gone. By that night, they could be sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar home, surrounded by unfamiliar people.

Nationally, more than 250,000 children will spend at least one night in foster care. In Oregon, that number will be more than 9,000 children. The children come from all backgrounds. Their entry into the foster care system was no fault of their own. For most it was brought on by abuse or neglect.

No way out Children stuck in foster care come from homes so bad that returning is impossible. Due to their ages, specific needs and emotional behavior, the system considers them unadoptable. Without permanent homes, they become a statistic. With each foster care placement, their futures slip away.

Of the children entering foster care nationally, more than eight percent will find themselves in this position. More than six percent of Oregon’s foster children will remain in the system long term. For them, the event of entering and reentering foster care will be repeated. With each knock at the door, their lives are thrown once again into a tailspin. Without a family to call their own, they jump from foster home to foster home. It feels impossible to create a place to call their own. continued on page 3

President & CEO Update Core Purpose

To impact the well-being of children in need. Dear Friends, Every child deserves to have access to a successful future, yet not every child is given the tools and support to have this opportunity. Children in our foster care system rarely receive this level of support. In this newsletter, you will read about how children in foster care face an uphill battle to graduate high school. This battle has disastrous outcomes. You will have the chance to read how Boys & Girls Aid is working to address these challenges. We are also excited to introduce our 130th Anniversary Celebration. Everyone at Boys & Girls Aid is looking forward to spending 2015 revisiting some of the stories and people served by our agency. You are part of our 130 year history. If you have a story to tell, we invite you to share it. I would like to thank you for your support of Boys & Girls Aid. It is your gift that will help us be the best possible agency for years to come. Thank you again for your continued commitment to children. Warmest regards, Michael H. Balter President & CEO

2 | Connect Fall 2014

2014-2015 Board of Directors President Kris Gorriaran Executive Committee Jim Harbolt Dawn McMaster Gabe Nachand Tom Szambelan Gaylyn Sher-Jan Ronald Farnsworth Michael H. Balter

Board Members Deana Freres Everett W. Jack, Jr. Michael Kern Jennifer Kinkade Donald Klotter Lisa MacKenzie Mike Nyland Jamie Shulman

Thank You to Our Community Supporters PGE Foundation The Reser Family Foundation Harold & Arlene Schnitzer CARE Foundation Umpqua Bank


I always felt I would be going home at any moment. It had to be an accident that I was placed in foster care. I just needed my dad to get out of jail for them to realize I was not supposed to be in foster care.

Falling behind The toll from such instability wreaks havoc on the social, mental and physical health of those in long term foster care. The threat of another knock brings a new home. A 2013 California study found that 1 in 10 students in foster care will attend three or more schools during the year. This number is 1 in 100 for the general population. Research shows that these changes can set a student back at least six months in school. Due to this environment, it is no surprise that students in foster care have the highest dropout and lowest graduation rates. They are less likely to graduate than students with disabilities, students living below the poverty line and students who are

I never went home. I turned 18, and they kicked me out. I always think about how different my life should have been. Now what? JACK, 20


learning English. A recent Colorado study found that homeless students have a better chance of graduating than students in long term foster care. Overall, foster care students are twice as likely to drop out. Only 58 percent will graduate. More than 84 percent of the general population is expected to graduate. Without a high school diploma, these students become stuck. More than 30 percent will live below the poverty line, where they will make less than $11,000 per year. They will be 63 times more likely to be incarcerated. Without skills to be independent, a foster child who has

dropped out of high school will cost taxpayers $292,000 in his or her lifetime. With unclear job prospects and a history of inconsistent and inadequate relationships, these former foster children are more likely to abandon or abuse their own children. The cycle that created their challenges is passed onto the next generation. Without the proper resources, the number of children being abused, neglected and put into foster care will continue to grow.


1 IN 10

chance of attending three or more schools in one year


are at grade level for math

2x 58% as likely to dropout

will graduate high school

Expectations for foster children who drop out of high school:


will make less than $11,000 per year


more likely to be incarcerated

$292,000 cost to taxpayers over their lifetime

Source: 'The Invisible Achievement Gap': The Center for the Future of Teaching & Learning 2013. | 3

Breaking the Cycle at boys

& girls aid, we understand the risks children in foster care face.

We understand that without the proper support, they are susceptible to a number of negative outcomes. Our Permanency Impact Initiative stops the cycle of moving from placement to placement. We create specific plans to find families who will meet the needs of these children. By having this connection to a family, they will no longer live in fear of being moved. There will no longer be late night knocks at the door by someone telling them they must pack their possessions and go.

lifelong con ne ct •

t en

fulltime emp loy m

Rebuild trust by processing grief & loss

become homeless


will earn less than $11,000 per year

We work with families, adults, and youth, so they more deeply understand their circumstances. This creates trust and lasting relationships.

4 | Connect Fall 2014

Path to Success

e eg


earn a college degree

1 in 5

co ll

graduate high school

Negative Outcomes


more likely to spend time in jail


Due to the cycle of broken attchments and past trauma not addressed, youth are unable to form lasting relationships.

Remain in foster care without the support of a lifelong connection.

a rel

Foster youth eventually express their grief through negative behavior, destroying relationships with adults.



tronger, h • s ea lt h i



Children enter foster care due to abuse or neglect.


Together, we can find lifelong connections for children in foster care. We can work to stop the cycle of knocks at the door and ensure these children find a forever family.

Children exiting our care will have greater ability to form healthy relationships with friends and family.

The Situation

Moving from home to home creates a lack of trust.

These children will not become a negative statistic. They will not pass the cycle of abuse or neglect onto another generation.

Positive Future Healthy, long-term connections to an adult creates support and guidance so the youth have the tools to transition from adolescence to adulthood successfully.


Assist in seeing the creation of future permanent connections.


Work through grief and loss by revisiting life events.


Apply a process of healthy attachments to rebuild relationships.

Permanency means having a lifelong connection. Lifelong connections mean stability, guidance and love.



did not have a carefree childhood. Their adolescence was filled with fear and uncertainty. ronda and jacob

As long as they could remember, their mom had been addicted to drugs. They remember their mom closing the door to her bedroom and never coming out. They remember strange people entering their house at all hours of the day. They remember seeing their dad only once. They remember birthdays going uncelebrated. When Ronda was 10 and Jacob 5, their mom violated probation on a misdemeanor drug possession charge. A case manager from the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) removed the children from their home immediately. “A worker just knocked on the door and that’s when it all started,” said Ronda.

6 | Connect Fall 2014

From that moment, Ronda and Jacob bounced between living at home with their mom and moving between different foster homes. When there was room in a foster home, they would live in foster care together, though this was rare. “Every time our mom got it somewhat together, something would go wrong, and she would abuse drugs again,” Ronda said. “It got to a point where we would just wait for everything to fall apart and for us to move to another home.” When Ronda was 16 and Jacob 11, the state terminated their mother’s custody permanently. While they would not be returning home to their mom, the cycle of moving between foster homes continued.

Ronda and Jacob never found a stable home. Due to their age, amount of time in foster care, and needs, both were labeled as hard to adopt or “unadoptable.” The foster care system decided it would be best if the two of them remained in foster care. The two eventually aged out of foster care. Ronda, now 24, was barely able to graduate from high school, but her brother Jacob, now 19, did not. While they both have difficulty being financially independent what they miss the most is having an adult to offer help, guidance, protection or love. “There are so many moments where we have nowhere to go,” Ronda said. “We have each other, but that’s not always enough. While we’re both older, we’re still kids. We have no idea how we are supposed to live.”

Names and pictures in this newsletter have been changed to protect confidentiality. Photos are for illustrative purposes only.

You are Part of Our History the history of boys

& girls aid is tied to Oregon’s history of caring for children. We

are the state’s oldest child welfare agency and predate any government agency. When we were founded, Portland was dealing with an influx of parentless children. Hundreds were living in slums or on the streets. Without a family, they were written off and forgotten, destined for a life of underachievement. A small group of Portland’s leaders knew there was an answer to this problem. They believed in a place that found families for children in need. They pooled resources and opened Boys & Girls Aid in 1885. As the city grew, so did the agency’s programs. Over the years, Boys & Girls Aid has served more than 100,000 children. Each child that entered our services came from a unique background and experienced a unique outcome. While we have

heard many wonderful stories, we know there are many more. As we enter 2015, Boys & Girls Aid will celebrate its 130th anniversary. In honor of this milestone, we want to hear from you! Tell us about your experiences with the agency. Contact Ryan Imondi at 503.542.2321 or Keep your eyes open for one of the many great events and opportunities we will be hosting next year. See you in 2015!

Tell us your stories! In honor of our 130th anniversary coming up in 2015, we want to hear about your experiences with Boys & Girls Aid. Contact Ryan Imondi at 503.542.2321 or

Boys & Girls Aid 018 SW Boundary Court Portland, OR 97239

boysandgirlsaid @BoysandGirlsAid


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