America’s foster system got its biggest overhaul in 40 years. Here's what's changed.

The foster care system in the U.S. is complex, and until recently, it was largely still acting under the original law — passed in 1974.

Over 400,000 children are placed in foster care each year in the United States, and the stories they each have to tell can be staggering. Articles online can detail child abuse and neglect, and there are stories after stories of people who have been through the system on both sides.

The issues of child abuse and neglect are complicated problems with no simple solutions. Keeping kids safe is the first priority, and sometimes removing them from families and placing them in foster care is necessary. However, that's not always the ideal method. There are many awesome foster care families, but the system can be traumatic for kids who go through it — and just like any family, some foster families have their own issues.

While there is an ongoing debate over what is best for kids in abusive or neglectful households, much of the available research shows that kids who remain with their families, even dysfunctional ones, tend to have better outcomes than kids placed in foster care.



But what if we could do more to help at-risk families create a safe and healthy home environment and funnel fewer kids through the foster care system?


Congress has passed a law that could change everything for the next generation of potential foster kids.

Tucked quietly into a massive spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the president in February, the Family First Prevention Services Act is the biggest overhaul of the foster system in four decades. It changes the way that states can spend their federal funds in certain areas. The biggest change? Funneling funds toward preventative programs to keep kids from having to enter the foster system in the first place.

Making families safer for at-risk kids isn't a new idea. The 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) required agencies to make reasonable efforts to help parents remedy safety concerns as a first step. However, only a small percent of federal funding went toward prevention programs, so the majority of support occurred after a child had already been removed from the home.

With this new law, priority is given to providing parenting classes, mental health services, substance abuse recovery, and other prevention programs aimed at creating a healthier home environment. It’s the first time that evidence-based prevention services will be funded as an entitlement, like Medicaid.

Upworthy Presents: Superman Foster Dad

He wants to make sure no other child in the foster care system has an experience like the one he did.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The hope is that increasing prevention services will help keep kids from having to enter the foster care system by giving families the resources to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Most child advocates say this law is a big step forward. However, there are a few issues of concern.

While there’s a lot of good stuff in this law, there are also a few things that are raising eyebrows in the child advocate community. Kinship care — grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other extended family caring for a child when parents are unable to — is not covered by foster care payments. Research shows that kinship care leads to better outcomes than foster care, so funneling funds toward those family members seems like it would be a good idea.

Also, there’s a bit of a conflict with the funding for group homes. While group homes are the least desirable option for a child, sometimes they are necessary. This bill severely limits funding for group homes.

Again, there are no simple solutions and no unlimited sources of funding, so clearly something has to give. And since research backs up the importance of keeping families together if possible, it makes sense to push resources in that direction.

The most striking thing about this law is that it humanizes people who might desire to be good parents but who don’t have the tools or resources to do so.

No doubt some people are never going to get themselves together and be able to raise a child, so the foster system remains a necessary way to keep kids safe. But there are many parents who simply need help to overcome their own upbringing, manage mental health issues, recover from addiction, or learn healthy ways to parent in order to create a safe environment for their kids. Giving those parents whatever resources they need to be good parents and keep their kids is essential to success — for everyone.

Another thing this law does is it removes the requirement that states only offer prevention services to extremely poor families. “That’s significant,” said Karen Howard, vice president of early childhood policy at First Focus. “Because abuse happens in rich homes, middle-class homes, poor homes. This is a game-changer.”

So often, abusive or neglectful parents are demonized as monsters. While some undoubtedly truly are incapable of raising children, many simply need assistance, education, and support. This law recognizes that helping those parents and keeping families together is often the best option for everyone in the long run. If we can help a family be healthy and strong enough to be safe for a child, that's where we should be placing our resources.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture