Imagine you’ve been in foster care most or all of your life. Among all the other disappointments you’ve had to deal with, you’ve had no parents, you have been moved time and time again and few adult mentors were available to teach you what you need to know in order to live successfully on your own – like how to manage money, where to find a job and why you must never, ever give up.
Effects of our present foster care system are disastrous. Children are moved from one foster home to another, their school attendance is disrupted and health care needs often go unmet.
Each move a child experiences is another loss-of friends, school, and surroundings-and another rejection for the child. Without consistent moral guidance, without a positive self-image, and with no cause for hope, the child becomes a fertile soil for failure and hopelessness.
Nearly 75% of children experience more than one family foster home placement during their time in out of home care system
One out of every ten children in the current foster care system can expect foster care to be permanent care, given that they will spend more than seven years in the foster care system
23% of foster children will have two placements
An additional 20% will experience three to five placements
7% of foster children will experience more than seven placements
Some children in foster care are even exposed to abuse or death by those responsible for their care.
Estimates of children abused while in the foster care system are approximately 7,500 per year
“The incidence of neglect, physical and sexual abuse or children in the various foster care systems is feared to be significantly higher than the incidence in the general population” -TIME MAGAZINE, November
During a recent two-year period, one foster care child died on average every seven and a half weeks in the state of Arizona.
In Georgia an astounding 433 children have died while in state care over the last several years -A Critical Look at the Foster Care System- How Safe the Service?
I could present facts from states across the country; hopefully you get the picture from the few I sight.
Some states have “independent living transition services” programs that are suppose to be the path that leads older foster children to self-sufficiency. But for too many of these programs for foster teens, the program is still proving to be a dead-end.
The picture grows even bleaker as teens age and leave foster care – as all must, ready or not – at age eighteen. Former foster children who attend school or college may receive a monthly “road to independence” scholarship, while those not in schools qualify only for transitional help. Many however are being shut out by spending caps, declining allocations and administrative neglect.
Each year more than 20-25,000 youth reach their
eighteenth birthday and age out of the foster care
system, this means an end to ongoing support and
guidance of caring adults -NFPA (National Foster
No wonder so many former foster teens end up on the streets. Compared to other teens, former foster youths are fourteen times more likely to be homeless, six times more likely to go on welfare, and three times more likely to end up in the criminal justice system – as victims, if not defendants – according to a many studies.
The long-term costs, in human as well as financial terms, are obvious. When will state leaders realize that they will either pay now or pay later?
Look at a few facts about how many children leaving foster care, which John Q. Public is paying for through your tax dollar, without the support network necessary for them to succeed:
Perhaps the most distressing study of all, conducted recently in New York City, consisted of interviews with so-called “street kids.” It was found that an astounding 90% had been in foster care prior to winding up living on the streets.
According to a survey by the National Association of Social Workers:
20% of children living in runaway shelters come directly from foster care.
40% of foster care children that leave the system go on welfare
39% of the homeless youth in Los Angeles County are former foster care children
Many leaving foster care ill-equipped for life on their own often end up homeless or permanently dependent on welfare services
80% of prisoners in Illinois spent time in foster care as children
Connecticut officials estimate 75% of youths in the state’s criminal justice system were once in foster care
Foster care currently constitutes .003 percent of the population, but 17% of the people in prison are former foster care children
I do not justify aging out of foster care as a reason for one committing crime. Each person must be held accountable for their actions. I do however question how many of these youth would have ended up traveling down that road if proper care had been provided during their youth.
Children placed in foster care, REGARDLESS OF THE REASON, are definitely at higher risk of developing alcohol and drug problems, homelessness, criminal activity and ending up a hopeless failure.
WHAT CHILDREN NEED:
According to most childcare experts, children need four things:
1) Connectedness; “children need to feel that someone is there for them and they are a part of someone’s life”
2) Continuity; a sense of continuous belonging with another person
3) Dignity; all children are worthy of respect caring, love, thought, and courtesy
4) Opportunity; children need an opportunity to grow and develop- need to be able to explore and express their capabilities-access to quality education, recreation, and leisure appropriate to their developmental levels
Foster care was intended to be temporary care, but one out of every ten children, over 60,000 of all current foster care children, can expect foster care to be, in effect, permanent care, given that they will spend more than seven years in the system. For all too many children, foster care will also be unstable care.
Problems associated children entering our foster care system today or with young adults aging out of the foster care system:
*Instability caused by numerous moves
*Emotional or mental problems not addressed
*Lack of a proper education due to constant moves
*Lack of a support network to help them succeed
*Drug and/or alcohol addiction
*Crime and incarceration
My friends, this is the “Road to Despair & Hopelessness.” This is the failure of our foster care system…not in the past, but today!
We must demand reform. We must demand that those responsible for the system be held accountable. We must demand our tax dollars not continue to be tossed down the drain of failure.