In 2014, over 650,000 children spent time in the U.S. foster care system.
In 2014, over 650,000 children spent time in the U.S. foster care system. The number of Florida children in the state's foster-care system has reached its highest level since 2008.
Trauma-exposed children and youth are at higher risk for experiencing a constellation of difficulties across the life span, including externalizing or acting-out behavior problems, emotional and behavior regulation challenges,
attachment disorders, and a range of mental health issues which both encompass and transcend our current underst anding of posttraumatic stress reactions. Often caregivers and foster parents are inadequately prepared to provid e the stability and therapeutic expertise needed to treat and repair the impact of early trauma. Even when famili es receive services, those services might not address the parental issues that led to child welfare intervention well enough to improve the environment in which children are being raised and nurtured.
Approximately 7% of Florida's foster youth will also age out of foster care. Research has shown that those who le ave care without being linked to forever families have a higher likelihood than youth in the general population to experience homelessness, unemployment and incarceration as adults. Youth who age out of foster care are less li kely than youth in the general population to graduate from high school and are less likely to attend or graduate college. By age 26, 4 percent of youth who aged out of foster care had earned a 4-year college degree, while 36 percent of youth in the general population had done so. Nearly one-third of the young women and almost two-thirds of the young men reported spending at least one night in jail since they were 17 or 18 years old. At 25 or 26 years of age, 72% of the young women and 53% of the young men in the Midwest Study reported to be the birth parent of at least one living child.
More than 90% of youth in the child welfare system report having experienced one category of trauma within the past year, with 54% indicating traumatic exposure consistent with cumulative victimization. Many birth parents involved with the child welfare system also have their own histories of trauma that can affect their ability to care for their children. To enhance parents' ability to care for their children, agencies need to provide them with ac cess to quality psychotherapy and other therapeutic interventions.
In 2013, 18,003 children under the age of 18 were in Florida's foster care system. It is estimated that about 1,8 00 youth age out of Florida's child welfare system every year. Youth aging out face many challenges in young adulthood as they transition from foster care to life on their own with limited or no assistance. These young adults often encounter more hardships, as they likely have limited positive life experiences, and received insufficient support in comparison to their counterparts. In fact, when compared to their peers, youth aging out demonstrate poorer outcomes across multiple domains including education, employment, housing, mental and physical health, substance abuse, justice system involvement, and early parenting.
These are the strategies our team is currently undertaking:
Working as a collaborative team underdogDREAMS is tackling the wicked problem of poor outcomes for Florida's foster youth by 1) innovating, implementing, validating and disseminating an evidence based practice; 2) Leading community engagement and advocacy to create change with emphasis on directly engaging foster youth; 3) Providing a platform for foster youth and family's voices to be heard as we move the Child Welfare system into the digital age.
Working together with First Star Academy of Central Florida, our agencies engaged youth ages 15-17 participating in an intensive residential summer academic program held at the University of Central Florida. Interventions included psychosocial education, life skill training, and experiential learning. Youth engagement ranged from class es focused on understanding signs and symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to a trip to North Carolina to explore the roots of structural inequality. Students also participated in the development of a video to pitch concepts on how the Microsoft HoloLens can innovate the Child Welfare system and improve long-term outcomes.
Over the next two years, Underdog Dreams intends to continue building on lessons learned over the past year while working with youth and families. We will continue to make strides in incorporating therapeutic mentoring, innovat ing evidence based practices and leveraging technology to enhance continuity of care and outcomes for the youth a nd families we serve. However, drawing from the voices of the youth we recognize the importance of incorporating emerging trends that have presented themselves as pressing priorities such as; enhanced life skill training, tra nsitioning to adulthood, and access to cell phones and laptops.
What We've Done So Far...
Credentialed as an CEU provider
Microsoft Hackathon Pitch - Underdog Dreams won best pitch for Trauma Informed Care.
Facilitated Psychosocial education to youth and camp counselors.
Established Partnership with First Star Academy of Central Florida
Increase social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram)
Invited to participate on Florida Baker Act Task Force for Adolescents
Invited to participate on Florida Task force as an advocate for foster youth.