Edwin M. Lemert a social Theorist, has challenged the beliefs of others and has shined a light on the relationship between societal reactions and deviance. A person may come to use excessive alcohol not only for a wide variety of subjective reasons but also because of diversified situational influences, such as a death of a loved one, business failure, or participating in some sort of organized group activity calling for heavy drinking of liquor (E. Lemert 1951). Lemert’s theory is proportionally based on the outcomes of individuals lives and the experiences in which they are shaped. Over the years, many have questioned whether the care that is given throughout the government funded foster care system is proficient enough to raise healthy individuals. Many of these children are often extremely young with little to no family. Due to these circumstances, when faced in unhealthy living conditions, or deaths within birth parent or guardian care, they are placed into the “care” of a stranger. It is a known fact that these alleged caretakers are offered a generous amount of money in exchange for food, shelter, and love. However, more often than never, these children are placed in unwelcoming, cluttered, homes where money is the only reason behind the care. Children age out of the foster care system yearly between the ages of 17-21. For them, the road to independent is encountered with various challenges. First, support services are no longer available to them such as health and mental services, housing, finances and education. With the lack of these things, youth experience economic and social calamity (Mary Wrotten 2013). One of those calamities relates to the criminal justice system in which many become a part of for the lack of education that leads to unemployment. It is made clear that as a result of these unfair conditions, children and their future adulthood show many signs of deviance and misbehavior Potentially caused by their experience within the foster care system.
Now, in a time where children within the foster care system currently make up a great deal of the juvenile delinquent ratio, this problem is becoming more severe than ever. On any given day, there are nearly 438,000 children in foster care in the United States(Children’s Rights 2016). These children continue to lack morals, goals, and academic success. The Societal Reaction Theory allows outsiders to understand where these problems are centered and why they continue to emerge within this specified and misplaced group of youth.
Edwin Lemert is exponentially known for his willingness to confront social problems. Many of these problems have been analyzed and associated with his many theories all pertaining to experiences in life that tend to reflect on the individual in which they have changed. Lemert’s Societal Reaction Theory has been discussed and challenged by many simply claiming, that people can change the fate of their future by fighting against it. However, Social Pathology is not to be challenged but rather true. The contradictory and paradoxical effects that arise from this social and economic constellation can no longer be grasped adequately within the frame work of lifeworld and system (Hartmann and Honneth 2006) Meaning, that there is no longer a casual justification for the reasoning of why individuals tend to shape themselves into the problems that they have faced.
Lemert was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to a loving father, mother, and older brothers. Lemert studied and graduated from three colleges Including Miami University, Ohio State, and UCLA. Lemert was never one to limit himself to any opportunity or possibility. He later graduated with three degrees, the highest of which being a PH. D in Sociology. With the many mastered experiences throughout his educational era, he later received an offer to hold a chair position within the department of sociology and agriculture at the University of California Davis in which he gladly accepted. Lemert taught and continued to do what he loved until the year 1980 where his career was put on hold as he reached a happy retirement. Unfortunately, due to illness he later passed in 1996 in Reno.
Lemert has a greater understanding of the ways in which life experiences better or worsen the chances of a person’s success. In an additional theory, Lemert explains the ways in which a person can become attached to items and others, also as a result to trauma or abuse. When speaking about the harmful life events of individuals, it is often forgotten that many are unable to open up about the issues in which they face. For young children in this system, all relating to the societal reaction theory, many have little to no one to speak to. Unfortunately, one of the damaging effects of this theory is the probability of not being able to reverse the problem. Just how far and for how long a person can go dissociating his sociopathic tendencies so that they are merely troublesome adjuncts of normal conceived roles is unknowns (Lemert 1951). An individual may be able to put their experiences aside; however, they will always continue to struggle to live the life that is rightfully theirs.
Institution/Unit of Analysis
I would like to first emphasize that every experience is not the same for children within this system. In some cases, foster care allows a child a loving home with nurturing and loving adoptive parents. Now, the rates in which children have experience mental, sexual, and emotional abuse is shocking. Many within this system are voiceless and learn to live their lives silently in hopes of staying relatively under the radar well within the homes of these strangers.
Although foster care has not been dated back to one specific time, The placement of children in foster care homes is a concept that goes as far back as the Torah and Bible, which refers to caring for dependent children as a duty under law(FindLaw Foster Care: Background and History). This act of taking care of children only related by responsibly was a way to help unhealthy children in needy home grow healthy up until the era of adulthood. The ideals of foster homes carried into the 1800’s which expanded into orphanages. Orphanages were allegedly considered to be government homes specifically for children. Many claimed to offer schooling and activities to allow a healthy, welcoming, and safe environment for young children. Unfortunately, according to an article written by FindLaw, this began the “Orphan train movement”. The articles states, “Once sent to the farms, some children were treated with love and respect, while others were treated as slaves, were abused, and were often required to work long hours. Nevertheless, as the emphasis was on giving abandoned and abused children a family life, Brace’s system became the foundation for today’s foster care system.” As mentioned in the quotation above, orphanages gave structure and weak morals to what is now the foster care system. Orphanages began to be disgraced against causing the closure of many resulting in the rejuvenation of the so called “help centers”.
Recently after the closure of the many orphanages that harmed youth were shut down, the government began to fund facilities known as group homes which were the basis of ridicule after a short time of existence. Group homes were allowed to house more than 12 children at a times and seemed to be doing fairly well until cases of sexual assault and abuse took over. Although group homes still exist today, there are multiple care takers responsible for the children that live within the homes as well as random visits as precaution against any further harm.
Over the past five years to 2018, the foster care and Group Homes industry has risen slightly as demand for industry services increased after a long period of decline (Ibisworld 2018). Although it is unclear as to why there has been an increase within the foster care system, the sad fact is that there are many children being ripped away from a family that was once theirs. Often, the “temporary parents” in which these children are given will harm them endlessly. The parents will continue to harm, beat, and abuse the kids while still receiving their check from the government. What if you acknowledged that many of the foster homes these children are being placed into are worse than the one from which they are removed? What if you learned about some of the stories of children who were abused in foster care, children who suffered emotional trauma from being “kidnapped” from their home, forced to take psychotropic drugs for the resulting emotional traumas they endured, physically, emotionally and sexually abused, or even used in sex-trafficking rings? (Health Impact News 2018). The staff of this website gathered together to dissect the truth behind the foster care system, an experience in which some of them face. The sad truth depicts an imagine of forced drugs and sexual attacks which are all hidden beneath a generic image of protection.
Despite the changes in which these children may experience for the better, comes the truth of the matter. Since the 1800’s children have been placed into the hands of individuals that are simply accepting them for their own benefit. In prior times, the caregivers were in it for social acceptance, later they used these innocent children as free labor, further down the line, foster parents were in it for the money and now for sex. Children whom are in the hands of irresponsible parents or guardians are being taken and given to monsters at the cost of nothing. It is said that there has been protective measure being placed in order to stop the many risks within this system however little to nothing have been done. Foster care, built to protect or built to harm?
It is a well-known fact that an individual cannot choose his or her life. As a human many of the decision we make and opportunities we work towards are caused by one ultimate goal, happiness. Everyone searches for wealth and a life of full self-achievement, however what happens when this is no longer available to you. You are a young individual living with your mother who is going through a tough time. It hasn’t always been this way, but others do not feel she is being a well-rounded mother. They decide to call child protective services and you are taken out of the custody of the person that loves you the most simply because the economy is bad, and she happened to lose her job. Where do you go from here? Lemert’s societal reaction theory is a clear form of insight into the future for which most foster children will hold.
The recent findings regarding children reaching the age of eighteen within government care is heartbreaking. Upon turning the legal age of adulthood, they are forced out of these homes and into the real world with no financial means or guidance. Each year, more than 20,000 youth age out of foster care and lose their safety nets overnight (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015). Lemert’s theory is shown here considering their experience within the home is what led them to this hardship. Their family was not able to care for them in which individuals feel that they should resulting in their displacement and homelessness. Lemert explains that one can only move forward within their problems but cannot change their life after an experience such as this.
A child who has been sexually abused within this system is almost promised a definite lifelong journey with mental health issues. In foster care 60% of sexual abuse involved girls and 60% of physical abuse involved boys (Georgina F.Hobbs Christopher J.Hobbs Jane M.Wynne 1999). Meaning nobody is safe, whether sexual or physical, both boys and girls are receiving terrible treatment within homes. Lemert’s theory is witnessed here considering the abuse on these children was not asked for. These life changing experience put a dark shadow over these young innocent children’s heads. Mental health becomes a problem leading to untrustworthiness, suicidal thoughts, and other mental problems. Lemert’s theory is the reason as to how every person becomes the person they are however, within these homes everyone is almost destine for failure.
Drug abuse/overdose is one of the leading causes of death amongst foster children and previous foster children. With so many problems and struggles faced within these homes, there’s no question as to why these young adults are looking for an escape. Whether its malnourishment and trying to stop hunger or trying to numb the limb of abuse, drugs are an easy get away from what one may call or remember as home. For the individuals within the home, living conditions are rarely good. Many homes pile as many kids in rooms as legal, some biological but most fosters. Clutter, noise, and overall problems result in the use of drugs. When the situation takes an even bigger effect, death or continuous drug abuse take effect. In relation to Lemert, the amount of stress within the foster system can lead to the child’s drug use and at times death.
Although there are many relatable factors that link the theories of Lemert to the lack of structural upbringings for children within the foster care system, the underlying factor is the neglect and unimaginable circumstances in which they face. This problem is one that is growing endlessly yet goes unacknowledged day by day. The countless deaths, mentally ill, and amused children rarely go acknowledged.
After analyzing all of the information researched, it is clear that the ways in which foster children are raise are the very reason behind their lack of success. The life of a child or early adult is complicated regardless of what problems have been thrown their way. A person is only as good as the experiences that they have faced. Individuals are shaped into their final form within adulthood through heartaches, loss, and motivation. Lemert’s Societal Reaction theory proves that a child within this situation is indeed shaped by the many harmful events that take place within the foster care system.
Lemert’s main goal was to justify the action of others through gaining a better understanding of them as a person. He took the time to study the relationships and actions that surround them leading to many of his theories. His therapy has proved the many reasons behind an individual’s reaction and way of thinking. When put into a situation such as foster care, individuals face challenges and problems very different than that of a child raised within their own home. A child it meant to be raised, guided, and nurtured. When this is no longer the case, the overall damage of readjusting and dealing with something as drastic as sexual assault and abuse take their toll resulting in a troubled individual. It is evident that the study between Lemert’s theories and the upbringings in which these children are facing are indeed relatable. Lemert’s theory can be proven true within many circumstances, however, the questioning behind the statistics of the under recognized problem share the most. Children should never have to experience problems as severe as that of foster care. Although this problem cannot be fully stopped, we can hope for better conditions. A child away from home is a child away from guidance. Youth within this system should be grouped amongst individuals that truly care for these children.