Thursday, November 20, 2008

Making a Success of Foster Care

Britain's model of child protection and foster care (which sounds a lot like ours) is compared to Germany's:
Almost three quarters of [children in foster care] will leave care with no formal qualifications. Only one per cent will go on to enter any kind of university education. One fifth of looked-after children are homeless two years after leaving care; 25 per cent of our prison population has been through the care system. Things have to be really bad at home before care looks like a better option.

Yet in other countries the picture is very different. In Germany looked-after children do extremely well, with 95 per cent of children in the German care system going on to vocational education. Crime committed by looked-after children in Germany runs at 5 per cent of the rate of crime committed by those in our care.
This comes at a price:
Money is important. In Germany most looked-after children live in small community homes, with fewer than 16 residents. By contrast, more than two-thirds of our looked-after children are placed in foster families which cost less than a quarter of a residential placement in Germany.
But as compared to the up-front cost of effective foster care, are diminished productivity among foster care graduates and increased cost of incarceration the proverbial "pound of cure"?


  1. Smallness makes all the difference, as we see from this example. Same thing for small classrooms--I have a small room because I'm special ed (hee hee, I mean I am a special ed teacher). I know these kids backwards and forwards (although they do surprise me still) and they know me. This allows us to get down to business quickly and get more work done. Conversely, in a class of 30+, there is more chances for kids to screw around, waste time, etc.
    I really hope that our state gets it "small schools" plan put into action soon.

  2. As compared to foster families or many U.S. group homes for foster kids, sixteen would be pretty big. The difference is going to be in the facility (Germany's homes won't be an ad hoc conversion of a residential home into a crowded de facto group home), staffing and support. Most foster parents have only one or two foster kids, so that setting is again much smaller than what they do in Germany. Also, group homes over here tend to be facilities of last resort, used when standard foster homes are unavailable, and tend to be associated with high levels of turnover (staff and residents), high teen pregnancy rates, etc.

    The comparison to your classroom is a good one, I suspect, but for reasons of resources and relationships moreso than class size. Also, I expect that Germany focuses on keeping groups of kids together, so that they can form stable relationships with each other even if they don't have family support.


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