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Jitzely Rodriguez

Analysis of Problem

Perceptions Of Foster Care Among College Students


According to KIDS COUNT Data center there are over four hundred thousand
children in foster care in the United States. Considering this statistic, it is evident that
this is a critical issue at hand. A primary concern of my own is if whether or not college
students are aware of such issues and if they are educated about such a matter that is so
important, so critical in their community. Using Qualtrics.com, I conducted a survey
amongst college students, to collect important data regarding perceptions and
understandings that they possess regarding the foster care system and the children in the
system, as well. The survey consisted of five short answer questions, five short answer
questions containing an interesting range of results.
The first question asked the students to define foster care in their own words.
Overall the responses showed that the surveyors understood what the purpose of foster
care is but failed to define foster care as a government system. Only 3 out of the 31
responses mentioned that foster care is placed under the government, state, or children
department of children and families. According to the federal definition, Foster care
means 24-hour substitute care for children placed away from their parents or guardians
and for whom the State agency has placement and care responsibility. This is an
important detail to address when educating about foster care to acknowledge that funding
is provided to this system by the government and is therefore limited.
The next question of the survey was asked to assess their conceptions of
why children are put into foster care. The results could be arranged into three different

groups. The first group observed were those who stated children went to foster care
because both parents passed away or parent gave up the child for private reasons or the
child became an orphan at a young age. Although these responses can be correct they
do not capture the whole scope of children who are put into foster care. The next group
stated that children went to foster care because of bad situations, parents unable to
provide proper care and family unstable. Although these responses are accurate they
are also very vague. What were the bad situations? Why were the parents unable to give
proper care? What more was going on in the home of this child? These are questions that
need to be answered in order to see the seriousness of the issues foster kids are battling.
The third group of responses for this question in the survey was a more accurate and
descriptive one. Slightly more then half of the surveyors responded with something
along these lines, I believe children may be placed in foster care if they have no family
to take care of them or if their family was deemed unfit to take care of them because of
abuse, unsafe conditions, or anything that might have harmed the child. All the answers
in this response group made note of the abuse, neglect, and parents drug/alcohol issues
that may be present. To summarize the results of this survey question, more than half had
an idea of the issues that could be present in a childs home previous to them being put in
foster care. A little less then half was on the right track but was lacking detail and the
remaining number did not understand the full scope of the issues.
According to the Childrens Active Network, the ultimate goal of foster care is to
provide a safe supportive home for the foster child while their parents engage in
necessary counseling and therapy. Although the foster care systems purpose is not a

harmful one, children who live this reality find themselves encountering one to many
challenges and are left alone to think about their uncertain futures.
On Princeton Universitys site, The Future Of Children that provides research to
create policies and programs for children, it states that 30% to 80% of children have
emotional or behavioral problems from issues before foster care or from the actual foster
care experience. The issues that lead children into foster care are the first of many that
will plague the minds of these children. Life events and family issues such as those listed
previously can cause a lot of stress for the child and can roll over to other detrimental
issues as well. These factors can lead to slower personal and educational development.
These children may not easily get along with others whether that is with students their
age or other adults. The childs skill making and learning abilities will be impaired.
These drawbacks will add on to the delays in their development.
How many children are put into foster care each year in the state of Florida?
This question was put into the survey to assess if college students understood how large
scale the number of foster children in Florida really is. Sporadic answers ranging from
only eighty all the way to one million were given. These results clearly showed some
discrepancy. The most popular answer was from 1,000-3,000, which is about 7,000
lower than the accurate answer. When researching the number of children that go into
foster care in Florida I accessed Fostering Floridas Future, a part of Floridas
Department of Children and Families website and found that there are 9,000 to 10,000
children entering the foster care system in Florida every year.
According to the KIDS COUNT data center, a project of the Annie E. Casey
Foundation, in the year 2012, the state of Florida had about 19,500 children between the

ages of 0-17 in foster care. In comparison with other states, Florida is in the top four
behind California with 50,813, Texas with 29,433 and New York with about 20,893.
Although the trend over the past five years shows a slight decrease in the number of
foster children there is not a significant difference thus far and is still a concern that
should be noted.

To determine what resources influenced the surveyors responses throughout the


survey this was asked of them in the last question. Those who answered the full survey
in more detail and more accurately had some level of personal experience as an influence
on their answers. 14 out of 31 responses reported resources such as this. They stated they
had foster siblings, family members who fostered, parents who worked with the

Department of Children and Families, or had friends who had been through the foster
care system. Having this personal experience they were more educated on these topics
then the others who have taken the survey. Due to the high number of students familiar
with foster care systems who participated in this survey I felt the need to assess why this
may be. Upon distributing this survey, a link and short description of the survey was sent
out through email by my professor to all his students. Having a description of the survey
may have attracted more of those who identified or had some background knowledge in
the subject to participate in the survey. Identification refers to the physical and/or
behavioral attributes that make a person recognizable as a member of a group.(158)
Possible surveyors may have notice the topic and decided to take the surveys based on
their interests.
My scope of concern consists of those with vague responses and those that stated
they simply did not know. Twelve out of the thirty-one people gained their knowledge
from books, movies, news and Internet media. This category of surveyors had responses
such as no parents around, not able to take care of children and parents didnt want
them or parents have been deceased. A trend I observed in these responses is that the
they completely ignored why the parents are unable to care for their children and only
focused on the fact that the parents were not present. Are movies, books, and media to
blame for this?
I, myself, not being familiar with any movies or books that deal with foster care
researched more on this topic in hopes of discovering the sources my surveyors were
referring to. Using google.com to research about foster care I found that not much
informational sources are available to a searching audience in need of more information

on the life a foster child. One of the fist links that came up is Imbd.com, which stands for
international movie database. The results provided a foster care/adoption section where
most of the movies leaned towards the theme of orphans rather then fosters. In the top 10
movies there was only one named Short Term 12, which involves a foster care facility.
The other movies had themes of orphans or abandoned children searching to find their
parents or their parents searching to find them, none of which explain life in foster care
and the hardships that may accompany it. Despicable me, a childrens animated movie,
and The odd life of Timothy Green, a film about a boy grown from a garden, are both
fiction and are present in this category which definitely do not explain the life of a foster
child in any means. When searching for documentaries on this topic many insightful
videos were accessible but none of the surveyors mentioned anything of this, which
supports the claim that the media has society more interested in fictional movies with
happy endings then real life documentaries and events.
One specific response to the survey that caught my attention was one that stated
their information on foster care comes from the movie Annie. In this movie, an orphan
loses her parents in a car crash and is forced to stay in an orphanage. This response urges
the question if my audience is able to differentiate between foster care and an orphanage.
Those in foster care are placed with foster families. These children are not all placed in
one area or home facility to be taken care of such as the orphanage in the movie Annie.
There is a need to spread awareness about the issue of foster care in regards to
what the foster care children have dealt at home as well as those presently battling issues
in foster care. I dont think the movies or media will ever be a good source of
information for these issues due to their tendency to exaggerate or focus on the child

being alone rather then their journey before they found themselves alone as a foster
child. Those who are exposed to this information should know that there are ways to
help foster children and should feel inclined to do so!
To attain a professionals opinions on this subject I reached out to Dr. George
Jacinto, an associate professor in the College of Social Work at UCF. Dr. Jacinto has his
PhD in social work and has been working at UCF since 1997. He has also served as the
Social Work PAF PhD program Coordinator during the fall of 2013. Upon meeting
Dr.Jacinto, I informed him that I would be asking him his thoughts on college students
misconceptions of the foster care system and the lives of foster care children without
disclosing any additional information on my own ideas and questions so not to affect his
initial responses. After that was discussed, I asked him his opinions on my ideas of
promoting volunteerism, mentoring, and donating to help foster children.
We started our discussion on the topic of misconceptions. He spoke about how
many do not know the history of social work in foster care. The mission, a number of
years ago, had been to do all that they could to keep a family together no matter the
circumstances in the home but now the goal has changed to removing the child from the
family to ensure they are not put into harms way and are placed into a safer environment.
The child has become the priority in order to assure their safety but there is still a lot of
work that must be done.
When asked if he believed that college students understood the overview of the
process and experience in the foster care system he responded saying that he didnt
believe so. Through his experiences as a teacher at UCF, when reading essay
assignments relating to foster care he found those with different disciplines (majors)

focused on different perspectives of foster care. Criminal Justice majors tend to focus on
the issue from a political aspect, the laws of the foster care system and punishments for
unfit parents. Psychology majors tend to focus on the childs path, and sociology majors
have a point of view that is very distant and solely observing the situation from a far.
Although students are discussing valid points in their assignments he feels that many do
not have a full grasp on what is occurring throughout the process and what the children in
foster care fully experience.
People dont realize the extent of what these children go through. Who is their
family? the word family here referring to not their biological family but their support
system. He went on to say that its very hard for a foster child to find someone concrete
in their lives when theyre are moving from home to home. Dr. Jacinto is also concerned
with young adults ageing out of foster care and how society doesnt tend to think about
what happens to these young adults. They often become lost, homeless and get into
problems with the government. Agreeing with Dr.Jacinto, I believe we have to go to root
of this problem and create a support system for these kids and young adults getting ready
to battle the real world even more alone then they were in foster care. Before I was able
to ask the question of why Dr.Jacinto thinks these misconceptions are present, he spoke
strongly about how he believes the media is to blame for these misconceptions.
Although not familiar with any movies or fictional books, he believes that social
sites and the news media have caused a form of misconception among the public. When
addressing foster care the media is a problem because the media is driven by negativity
in everything it broadcasts. For example if a young adult who has just aged out of foster
care is found doing something illegal our society and the news media will overemphasize

what he or she did wrong but will not address that there might be a deeper issue or
something our society can be apart of to fix this. We fail to understand a situation a
client is coming from but are so fast to punish them, Dr.Jacinto stated. This is why Dr.
Jacinto believes that college students are lacking information on ways they can help
foster children such as through volunteering, mentoring, and donating. There is too
much negative PR revolving around this issue and not much is promoted about ways to
help. To change these misconceptions, he believes that more awareness and ethical
rhetoric addressing this issue would be helpful. He also believes that more people must
be immersed in the environments and lives of these children to fully understand what
they are going through and where they are coming from. A quote I found interesting said
by Dr.Jacinto was We [as a society] make people we dont want to deal with invisible
and we must stop. I think that this is absolutely true. All children are the future of this
country including foster children and we must address this issue from the root of it all and
try our best to solve it.
To conclude our discussion, I asked Dr.Jacinto how much of an impact he
believes those willing to volunteer, mentor, and donate will actually make in the lives of
foster kids. His response: Having at least one person in their life can make a big
difference in their lives. As stated before, these kids are trying to find their families
which are their support systems that will be there for them. They need someone stable in
their lives. He believes that mentoring is a great idea especially a mentoring program
between young adults about to age out of the foster care system and college students.
College students have something more relatable to offer to these young adults rather than

an older adult mentoring them and Dr. Jacinto believes our generation of college students
has a lot to offer.
In order to resolve issues related to children in foster care or those dealing with
abusive parents, nonprofit organizations are dedicating their time to make sure foster
children are receiving the support, love, and education that will continue to empower all
their future hopes and dreams. In the state of Florida a non-profit organization that aims
to reach out to these children and struggling families is The Childrens Home Society of
Florida. This organization has 15 main locations and 90 offices throughout the state of
Florida and impacts more than 100,000 kids and families depending on them every day.
One of the main offices is located here in Central Florida on Semoran Blvd. in Winter
Park.
The CHSOFs mission is to stop the abusive cycle that is present in familial
generations, to heal children who are hurt, to create strong stable families, and to help
children grow up happy and prepared for life. This organization provides shelter for hurt
children, counseling for families, and finds nurturing adoptive homes for each childs
specific needs. A program is provided to help kids 18 years and older to find their
independence and prepare them for the real world through education, career
development, and life skills training. According to their website, they have touched the
lives of over 7,000 young adults last year alone through this service. Tutoring and
mentoring is provided for the foster children and donations drives are held all year long.
Some examples of the large donations drives they hold are back to school drives and
drives around the holidays. By doing donation drives such as these the organization is
utilizing the rhetorical theory Kairos (timing) and it works well.

As a nonprofit that provides so much to aid these children and families, much of
their success could not have been accomplished without the aid of volunteers. Donation
opportunities are also present through a CHSOF program named Become A Champion.
There are different levels of being a champion based on the amount of money donated.
These champions are also committed to learning the issues that revolve around child
abuse and children in foster care and spread awareness to their community. According to
the Champions website, other volunteering opportunities consist of tutoring the children,
mentoring the children, and simply playing with the children. There are also opportunities
such as helping at their front desk and book keeping at the main locations. Without the
help of volunteers, much of what they aim to do would not be able to be accomplished.
This organization appeals to their public audience to gain supporters and
volunteers by the use of pathos, logos and ethos. On their website they have many videos
of foster children telling their stories and testimonials on how CHSOF has helped them
get through their difficult time. They have numerous statistics on their website about the
numbers of foster families they help yearly and hope to continue to help. They have a
page dedicated to the history of the organization and state they have been helping
children and finding them homes since the year 1902. With the continued use of these
rhetorical strategies in addition to more visual forms of rhetoric in smaller Orlando
communities, such as UCF, the Childrens Home Society of Floridas efforts could be
maximized. This continued spread of awareness can inform many others of the present
issues and thus show the University of Central Florida and greater Orlando community
what they can do to help.

Works Cited
"Champions for Children - Home." Champions for Children - Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 14
Oct. 2014.
Chipungu, Sandra, and Tricia Goodley. "Foster Care Experience." The Future of
Children. Princeton-Brookings, 11 Feb. 2013. Web. 13 Oct. 2014.
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"Children 0 to 17 in Foster Care | KIDS COUNT Data Center." Children 0 to 17 in
Foster Care | KIDS COUNT Data Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.
"Children's Action Network : A Project of the Tides Center." Children's Action Network
: A Project of the Tides Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2014.ds
"Foster Care Facts - Treehouse." Treehouse. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2014.
"New Extension of Care Program - For Foster Parents." Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct.
2014.
"Fostering Florida's Future." Fostering Florida's Future. Florida Department of Children
and Families, n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2014.
<http://www.fosteringflorida.com/aboutDCF.shtml>.
"Movies about Foster Care/adoption." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 27 Oct. 2014.
<http://www.imdb.com/list/ls002818521/>.
Palczewski, Catherine Helen., Richard Ice, and John Fritch. "Rhetors." Rhetoric in Civic
Life. State College, PA: Strata Pub., 2012. 158. Print.
Social Services Information System. "Federal Definition of Foster Care and
Related Terms." Mn.gov. U.S Government, 1 Oct. 2001. Web.
<http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dhs.state.mn.us%2Fmain%2Fidcplg%3FIdcService%3DGET_
FILE%26RevisionSelectionMethod%3DLatestReleased%26Rendition%3DPrimary%26a
llowInterrupt%3D1%26noSaveAs%3D1%26dDocName%3Ddhs_id_027331>.

"We Change Lives. Join Us." Children's Home Society of Florida. N.p., n.d. Web. 14
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