A Critical Look At The Foster Care System THE GROUP HOMES OVERVIEW Children entering the shadowy world of foster care are often assigned labels arbitrarily and on a bed-available basis. They may end up spending some time in conventional foster homes, only to find themselves shuffled through group homes, residential treatment facilities, mental hospitals and prisons. Scant attention is given to the needs of these children, and the conditions they are forced to endure are often far worse than those endured by prisoners in some third world nations.
THE LABELING OF CHILDREN Kenneth Wooden, Executive Director of the National Coalition for Children's Justice, explained to a Congressional Subcommittee that there is little difference in the background and characteristics of children in care regardless of whether they have been labeled "dependent," "neglected," "status offender," "CHINS" (Children in Need of Supervision), or "emotionally disturbed." It was Wooden's impression that a "shell game" was being played with the labeling process, with dependent children, relabeled as "disturbed" or "hard to place" being shuttled off to private, often profit-making institutions in ever greater numbers.
As a result: Instead of orphanages, we now have so-called "treatment centers"--a "growth industry" which feeds on unwanted children just as the nursing home business depends for its existence on large numbers of the unwanted elderly. And, as is the case with the elderly, the systematic neglect and maltreatment of children in these facilities is being subsidized by the federal government.
In Virginia, former Governor Douglas Wilder discovered the same labeling process to be in use, finding that "children often bounce from agency to agency, from foster to group home to institution, and from funding stream to funding stream." Wilder explained: "They are often defined by the system whose door they happen to enter: a welfare child if he comes through...