Many children in group homes are aware by both the caseworkers in the homes and by their foster parents that they are troublesome, which continues to perpetuate their thoughts and feelings of inferiority. Foster children must show that they are trustworthy before they can truly be loved by their new parents, but in the streets, kids are taught not to trust and remain emotionally detached as a way of protecting themselves. The end result can yield different outcomes where some kids are simply considered reserved and others have chronic social disorders.
When children outgrow or leave the child welfare system, they suffer from a variety of emotional hardships that put them at a disadvantage. Since their home lives are often inconsistent, they’re forced to transfer schools and teachers more frequently than their peers(Rockoff and O’Donell, 2005). These factors affect their psyches and make learning more challenging than it is for most kids. Moreover, many homes are over-crowded and don’t provide conditions that are conducive to studying. However, when Jonathan Rockoff conducted several investigative journalistic initiatives with respect to public schools and youth group homes, he found that:
“Many principals and teachers told him that youths living in group homes were good kids, and the educators were reluctant to specify issues except to say that group homes tried to enroll the kids without complete paperwork from their former schools. That said, some educators told us that the youths present serious discipline problems and drain the Baltimore County school system’s time and resources” (Rockoff, 2005).
There are many other adverse psychological effects associated with abuse in youth homes. According to Susanne Babbel, Ph.D., in her op-ed The Foster Care System and Its Victims, one of the most overarching side effects is impaired brain development, which can impact a child’s cognitive growth, their language skills, and their learning ability (Babbel, 2011). Emotionally, these kids are more prone to have low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal tendencies, post traumatic stress disorder, trust issues, and attachment disorder. Kids who have been abused are more likely to resort to self-destructive behaviors as coping mechanisms which include smoking, drug use, overeating, and premature sexual promiscuity. Babbel also concludes that abused youth have a tendency toward antisocial and behavior which may result in juvenile delinquency (Ibid).
Homeless youth, regardless of abuse or not, tend to lack motivation since they were conditioned to give up trying. Fearful of poverty and loss, homeless youths are constantly overworking themselves to avoid future threats of homelessness. They have trouble forming healthy relationships, feel alone, and have extreme difficulty communicating with others. It’s clear that the depiction of group homes on the Wire is an accurate depiction of how they operate in contemporary American cities. It comes as no surprise that these facilities were the last place Randy wanted to lay his head at night because he experienced their woes at an earlier point in life. He knows what goes on, and because of his new reputation, his reasons to be fearful were legitimate. Their impact on his psyche is apparent from the onset of the fourth season and is reflected in his motivations to make money and avoid shelters at all costs. When his plans backfire and his goals are trampled in the final scene, one can’t help but be disheartened by how disadvantaged these youth actually are in group homes and how many obstacles they face in achieving a decent quality of life.