Ensuring the Healthy Development of Youth While in Foster Care Free Essay

Features of the Development of Children of Different Ages in Foster Families


The role of the foster care system in America could not be underestimated, as it is significant for securing well-being and protection of a great number of children and young individuals, who are to become parts of the system of the governmental custody and remain in foster families until they reach the age of 18. Statistically around 250 000 children enter the foster care system in America annually, which is a meaningful figure to consider their challenges and problems with great attention and looking for the best solutions. The children are put into the system in order to secure care and protection for them. They are expected to live in such families, where they will be loved and cared for, where they will have the conditions, which are much better, than in their previous families and environments. In case these conditions are not provided to these children, then the children face severe emotional and physical problems. The idea that a child is to leave his family in order to stop violence and neglecting attitude is absolutely logical. The problem is that the similar situation might repeat in foster families. This is the reason, why it is so important to follow the sphere of foster care with the greatest attention and focus upon well-being and physical and emotional states of the children.

Foster care is a system, which foresees placing of a child to a ward or a residential child care community, a kind of treatment center or just a private home of a caregiver with state certificate and titled as foster parents or a family member, who was approved by the state. The procedure of the placement is organized under the control of the government representatives and social service agency. Foster parents or foster institutions get the compensation of the expenses from the government, unless a child is placed to the family of the family member. Foster parents are considered to be responsible for the every day things and care of the child and for healthy development of children. Healthy development is related to the interventions, which are planned and made in order to facilitate adaptive qualities in children and young people and excluding of interventions, which could lead to risk factors and negative behavioral outcomes. Young people and children face a lot of risks, including their exposure to poverty and physical and sexual abuse, a variety of behaviors, which could contribute to mortality, for example substance abuse and so on. This is the reason, why it is necessary to work out such health development strategy, which would generate protective factors for hindering of all these risks and lead to positive child and youth healthy development in foster care. “Resilience is often the emphasis of healthy development programs for young people, with the assumption that the more resources a young person has, the more prepared they are to make adaptive decisions and avoid negative outcomes.” (Saewyc & Duncan 2008). Certainly there is little chance to remove absolutely all risks and moreover this is not the aim, as this could itself cause problems with health circumstances. The aim is to let the young people learn how to manage the risks and obtain the needed skills for finding the supporting resources.

School–age children and young people have different developmental tasks during the taken periods of their lives. Logically positive child development interventions are beneficial for their development during the years of adolescence and so on. All individuals, participating actively in children care should be aware of the important developmental tasks for them. First of all healthy physical growth and pubertal development are the priorities. The period of puberty starts usually at the age of 8 to 9 and continues until children reach the stage of adolescence. These years are characterized by development of secondary sex characteristics, by deposition of fat in different parts of their bodies and calcium in their bones. The task of the care givers is to control their health growth, development of correct nutrition habits and regular physical activities.  Healthy emotional and cognitive development is also the priority, which could not be ignored in child healthy development. At the beginning of the school, most of the children are concrete thinkers and when they reach the period of adolescence, they form their ability of operational thinking and start to develop their perceptions of themselves. Adolescents continue to think of themselves as unique and thus have problems with correct perception of their own actions. The task of care givers in foster care is to let them develop the self-regulating skills and look for emotional stability and adequate making choices. Healthy sexual development is related to sexual development of children during their early school years as well as in the period of adolescence. They start to be aware of the sexual attractions and could evaluate their own sexual orientation during the period of puberty. Often young people develop their first romantic feelings and become engaged into sexual relationships. Only under the condition of organization of positive and safe environment for these children during this period, it is possible to expect normal formation of their mature approach to sexuality and intimate life. One more important aspect, which needs to be properly focused upon by foster care givers, is healthy social development and engagement into the community. “In order to develop into caring and contributing members of society, children and young people need opportunities to learn how to help others, and to become aware of the social issues that affect their communities. Programs that promote social development through school connectedness and community involvement may be effective in promoting long-term health and well-being.” (Saewyc & Duncan, 2008). Finally healthy moral development is considered one of the decisive factors for general healthy development of children in foster care. Already being at the early school stages, children start to perceive the morals and the internal motivations to make morally correct choices are made by children. They start to think over the basic concepts of good and evil and relate them to the moral reasons for correct and incorrect actions and choices. They are under the strong pressure from the side of their peers, who might tend to impose their behaviors and values.

It is common for public health practice to concentrate upon such interventions, which would help to prevent negative health issues, via reduction of the risk factors, related to smoking, violence and alcohol abuse. Certainly such preventive behaviors are of great importance, but healthy development should not be limited to them. Health is not simply absence of illness or disability by children. “Furthermore, interventions designed to reduce risk factors are often restricted to at-risk youths, whereas positive child and youth development programs can be implemented to benefit entire populations (McCreary Centre Society, 2002). Foster care givers should pay more attention to the factors, which really promote healthy development by children at foster care. “There have been few interventions and programs focused on positive youth development, but this is a growing area of interest, in part because the emerging evidence shows such factors have the opportunity to influence health and risk across a variety of domains.” (Saewyc & Duncan, 2008).

There are a lot of challenges, which are related to securing healthy development of children in foster care. Young people, when they pass the transition stage and turn into adults have to obtain adequately developed self-esteem and self-efficacy skills, they should be ready to manage relationships in various context and environments, such as educational and employment settings, in their personal communication with friends and family members. Children in the foster care often have to go through a lot of traumas and uncomfortable and disruptive events, when the moment of this transition comes. Some of them know enough about abuse, neglect, lack of education and serious losses. Such life experiences during childhood years could lead to mental illnesses, lack of confidence and problems with substance abuse. “Research on the developing brains of adolescents and young adults points to the importance of understanding the “vulnerability of teens, and the significance of this stage”2  and highlights the importance of positive, supportive relationships in the context of the continuing development of the adolescent brain.” (Administration on Children, Youth and Families, 2013). Research on the developing brains of adolescents and young adults points to the importance of understanding the “vulnerability of teens, and the significance of this stage  and highlights the importance of positive, supportive relationships in the context of the continuing development of the adolescent brain.” (Administration on Children, Youth and Families, 2013).

Usually children are sent to foster care due to the maltreatment, which they experience in their families on a regular basis. Although their foster settings are expected to be beneficial for them, but sometimes it turns out that the situations of maltreatment repeat in foster families. In case there is no enough investigation and appropriate services, children in foster care suffer from poor consequences of maltreatment there, such as physical and mental health problems. Due to a variety of reasons, foster care facilities turn out to be not always efficient in providing positive and healthy environment for children. Children need to be motivated to reveal their potential and turn into happy and healthy adults. Foster care has the aim to support those children, who have suffered from maltreatment in their families and make them better prepared for adult life. “Connections to non-parental adults through informal mentoring is reported to enhance the outcomes of foster care youth in education/employment, psychological well-being, and physical health. Youth who had the support of a mentor also demonstrated a decreased participation in unhealthy behaviors, such as unprotected sexual activity, alcohol and substance abuse, and delinquent activities.” (Ahrens & DuBois, et. al., 2011).

Taking into consideration all the mentioned challenges and problems, faced by children in foster care, it is possible to conclude that it is not enough just to secure their safety and well being. Diving deep into the three sources – Promoting the Well-Being of Children, Youth and Families in Child Welfare and articles by Kessler, Pecora et. al., and Ahrens, DuBois et al., it is possible to investigate the opportunities of healthy development of children and youth in foster care from various sides, including the connection between mental and physical development, emotional and cognitive processes meaning and the role of the adult care givers in the process. One of the basic factors, which define well being and healthy development of these children, is related to overcoming the impacts of neglect and trauma. “In recent years there has been an upsurge of research into early brain development, including into the effects of maltreatment on the developing brain during infancy and early childhood. This research is starting to give clear indications that the brain’s development can be physiologically altered by prolonged, severe or unpredictable stress – including maltreatment – during a child’s early years.” (Promoting the Well-Being of Children, Youth and Families in Child Welfare, 2013, p. 3). This kind of alteration of brain’s development could have a variety of negative impacts upon physical, cognitive, social and emotional development of a child. Along with time the brain of a child reaches almost 90% of its adult size by the moment, when a child reaches the age of three. In case there is no needed nurture and stimulation, in other words, in case caregivers reveal hostile treatment and lack of interest towards the child, then these facts hinder normal development of children brain. Brain develops under the condition of the corresponding stimulation of the different parts of it, as they are responsible for certain activities. In addition children brain adapts to the existing environment and it will definitely adapt to a negative environment as well as to the positive. The difference is that negative environments becomes the source of the constant stress, which in its turn sensitizes neural pathways and overloads the parts of the brain, which are important for response towards fear and anxiety. Other regions of the brain remain undeveloped in this case. If a child experiences any form of physical or sexual abuse, then his brains are able to focus only upon finding the resources for survival and reaction to threats, coming from the environment. If certain parts of the brain are overloaded on a regular basis because of stress and pressure, then they become over stimulated at the expense of the other regions and children become unable to conduct sophisticated thinking processes. Brain developing during early childhood years is influential for further formation of emotions and personality. If most of the experiences are negative, then children tend towards development of behavioral, emotional and learning problems during the rest of their lives. “For instance, children who have experienced chronic abuse and neglect during their first few years may live in a persistent state of hyper-arousal or dissociation, anticipating a threat from every direction. Their ability to benefit from social, emotional and cognitive experiences may be impaired.” (Promoting the Well-Being of Children, Youth and Families in Child Welfare, 2013, p. 4). Although there is no concrete treatment intervention, which could be applied in cases for all children, who had traumatic experiences, still there are various practices in the frames of the trauma-informed therapy, which could be applied by their caregivers, they include engagement with the child and the family, consideration of the cultural aspects, finding the sources of strength and resiliency, considering of various emotional expressions and so on.

Child abuse and neglect are known to have long-term negative effects upon the state of health not only children, but also adult people. They have serious impact upon development of various physical disorders, ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, liver disease and so on. Taking into consideration such variety of adverse effects of children maltreatment and neglect, there is definitely the need to plan the corresponding preventive interventions. “In cases where the maltreatment is deemed by the child welfare system to be so severe that in-home intervention is considered infeasible, the child is removed from the home and placed in foster care. Therapeutic or group treatment placements are used when behavior problems are a main reason for placement or when the child is thought to be so disruptive or emotionally impaired that a family foster placement is infeasible.” (Kessler, Pecora et. al., 2008). Statistically there are around 3 million reports about children abuse received annually in the United States. Around 600 000 cases are managed at home with the help of in-home treatment programs, and 300 000 children are taken away from their homes and are sent to foster care. Due to a variety of problems in government managed foster care facilities, there were some private agencies, which started to develop the programs for foster care. At the moment there is no information about superiority of these programs on the basis of the youth outcomes yet.

The study by Ahrens, DuBois etl al. (2011) contributed to exploration of the impacts of mentoring relationships for specific young people populations, especially those, placed to foster care.  This research helped to point out such cognitive, social and affective processes, which allow mentoring relationships improve the adult outcomes for young people, who were sent as children to foster care. The findings of the research prove that relationship with non-parental adults in foster care was of great meaning for ensuring physical and psychological health of children. Examples of these positive impacts were related to improved self-esteem, improved functioning relationships and stabilization of emotional well-being. “The personal characteristics of prospective adult sources of support, including limitations in their interpersonal skills and understanding of the youth’s background or culture, were also commonly cited as barriers to these relationships forming. Other factors cited as barriers to forming an initial connection pertain to the youth’s ability to trust another person.” (Ahrens, DuBois et al. 2011).

Overall, the situations of maltreatment and neglect of children have utterly negative consequences for their formation as healthy and adequate personalities in the future, having poor consequences not only for each individual child, but for the whole communities, which they belong to. Thus in order to secure their normal development and functioning during their childhood and adolescence years, the system of foster care was organized. Foster care is a perfect option for the children in need to obtain their chance for better future; however, foster care brings a lot of significant challenges to both sides of the system. One of the major tasks of the adult, managing children and youth at foster care, is to secure their healthy physical and mental development, as the basis for their further life and self-realization as adult members of the society. There are various systems and programs worked out in order to support the participants of foster care in their daily activities and selection of these programs and separate methods should be done on the basis of the individual needs of a child.


Administration on Children, Youth and Families. (2013). Recent demographic trends in foster care. Office of Data, Analysis, Research and Evaluation: Data Brief 2013-1.

Ahrens, Kym R.,  DuBois, David Lane. (2011).Qualitative exploration of relationships with important non-parental adults in the lives of youth in foster care

Child Youth Serv Rev. 33(6): 1012–1023.

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.).

Barber, James; Delfabbro, Paul. (2005). Children’s adjustment to long-term foster care.; Children & Youth Services Review, Vol. 27(3). pp. 329-340.

Brokenleg, M., & Van Bockern, S. (2003). The science of raising courageous kids. Reclaiming Children and Youth, 12(1), 22–27.

Conn, A., Calais, C., Szilagyi, M., Baldwin, C., & Jee, S. H. (2014). Youth in out-of-home care: Relation of engagement in structured group activities with social and mental health measures. Children and Youth Services Review, 36(0), 201-205.

Ferrer-Wreder, L., Lorente, C. C., Kurtines, W., Briones, E., Bussell, J., Berman, S., et al. (2002). Promoting identity development in marginalized youth. Journal of Adolescent Research, 17(2), 168–187.

Kessler, Ronald C.,  Pecora, Peter J., Williams, Jason. (2008). MS Effects of Enhanced Foster Care on the Long-term Physical and Mental Health of Foster Care Alumni. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 65(6):625-633

Promising practices in child welfare: strategic approaches to improving the well-being of children in foster care. (2005). Voices for America’s Children (Organization)

Promoting the Well-Being of Children, Youth and Families in Child Welfare. (2013). New York State Office of Children and Family Services

Saewyc, Elizabeth M.,  Stewart, Duncan (2008). Healthy Child and Youth Development. University of British Columbia School of Nursing



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"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: June 30, 2022]
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