Nationwide almost 519,000 children are in foster care. While think-tanks do studies and politicians debate, almost 123,000 children are stuck in foster care—and the system that’s supposed to help them find permanent homes isn’t working very well.
Thousands of children are stuck in foster care—children waiting to be adopted but who face myriad challenges. They need, as well as hope and pray, for loving families to adopt them.
These are children who have been abused, neglected or actually given up by their biological parents for adoption. Yet they are languishing in foster care. They have already been declared eligible for adoption but no forever family is available for them.
They are the “legal living orphaned” of the world.
From data I have been able to gather from across the country; the number awaiting across the country as 2004 ( last year data is available) ends will be approximately 123,000 children.
Thousands more will be added to the ranks during the coming year. The vicious cycle goes on and on!
There are a number of reasons in nearly every state why children remain in the foster care system for extended periods prior to and after them being made eligible for adoption. I will not address the reasons of prior to at this point as my concern at the moment is for the children ready and waiting for adoption.
Some of these children have been waiting for years while continuing to languish within the system. Some, in fact, will actually age out of the system. They will be cast out into the world to make it on their own. In many cases they will have no immediate family or other support network to assist them. Approximately 60% of them will end up without a high school diploma, taking a deadend/low paying job, doing drugs or abusing alcohol. Worse yet … a number of them will end up in prison or even dead.
Thousands of children continue to have the innocence of their youth stolen from them. Many are doomed to a life a failure before their lives really have had a chance to get started.
Though each of us are responsible for the decisions and actions we make in our lives and must bear the consequences of them, I wonder if, in many instances, those decisions or actions would have been different for many of those aging out of the system if it had not been for their foster care experiences.
At the same time, adoption rates have gone up in recent years, states Wade Horn, assistant secretary for children and families in the Department of Health and Human Services. Still, he said, more must be done.
“There continues to be unfortunate barriers to adopting kids out of foster care,” he said. There are a number of reasons as to why this is true.
Two of the most commons reasons stated are:
* Forty-seven states say they have trouble recruiting adoptive parents. This is particularly true for children who must be placed in sibling groups, who are older, who have behavioral problems or have other special needs.
* Families are reluctant to adopt children from state foster care systems. They have a poor view of children within this system. A growing number of kids go into the foster care system and never get out. And the worst is the misconceptions of the foster care system and the belief that only bad kids end up in foster care.
Many people think of foster children as messed up ghetto kids who are looking for just the right benevolent parents who are willing to devote their lives to helping these special needs children.
This perception does explain the reason so many people who want to adopt normal children choose to spend their life savings for lawyers and private adoption agencies, rather than taking advantage of the immense adoption systems, set up and run by so many government agencies. Some even will look internationally as thousands of our children continue to languish within the system here at home.
However, that perception and subsequent reaction only creates more problems. Every year, thousands of children are either abused or abandoned by their birth parents, (who are not really parents but merely womb donors and sperm donors) and subsequently end up in foster care. These are usually wonderful children who only need love and caring to have a fantastic and normal life.
Most children are in foster care absolutely through no fault of their own except being born to parents unable or unwilling to care for them in the fashion that they have the right to expect!
Many children come into the system initially at an early age, and without the problems they have by the time they are finally (if ever) adopted. The longer they are in the system, the more problems they are likely to develop. Yet the length of time a child is in the system continues to get longer. The only thing they get better at is moving. Most foster children can pack everything they own in the world (toys, clothes, and all their worldly possessions) in today’s “paper bags,” and usually do on a regular basis.
The longer kids are in the system the more problems they develop. The more problems they have, the worse the reputation that foster care kids get. The worse the reputation foster kids have, the fewer the number of people who adopt them. The fewer people who adopt them, the longer kids have to stay in foster care. The longer kids are in the system the more problems they develop. And so on, and so on!
Please dispel the myth that kids placed in foster care are somehow ”bad children” who are to be blamed for their situation. The overwhelming majority are there simply because were so horribly abused and neglected.
When I speak of problems within state foster care systems, I am speaking of the system itself…NOT foster parents.
Foster parents, to me, are very special people in our society. They provide a temporary refuge for those of considered society’s “throw away kids.”
I do know that being a foster parent takes a very special type of individual.
Foster parents take kids into their homes for short or extended periods of time. They attempt to provide the nurturing, care and love that has been deprived us.
Many times they do this at great emotional and financial expense to themselves. Most are not fostering for the money, but for the love of the child. They often feel as abandoned by the system as do many of the kids. They should not also go bankrupt in the process.
I, for one, believe foster parents are the spine, backbone and HEROES of the foster care system. They may never get a medal or an award. However, you will be able to know that many of your kids of today or kids of yesteryear became something…just because of YOU!
I write today not as a social worker, judge or other part of the system. I write due to my own personal experience.
I am a product of the foster care system. I was placed in it at birth and was moved fourteen times by age eleven. I had no behavioral problems or other special needs, however, I was never adopted and aged out of the system.
I was one of the fortunate ones. I may be an adult now, but I have fought every inch of the way to be where I am. I had to go without food, sleep on an unheated porch, be sexually assaulted, attempted suicide at age 10 and live through many other things that are not important now … I made it.
That is why I am who I am today. Trust me when I say, take nothing or no one for granted. I never gave up, because I wanted to be better. I had few advocates in latter years in the system that used to tell me; “They cared about me, I was worth something and that I must always remember that.” You have no idea how many times I had to keep repeating that to myself in mind and heart when I finally heard it until I believed it.
I was on my own at eighteen and I have made my share of mistakes, but that is OK…I hope I learned from them. With the help of a few, I was able to overcome, in time, the damage that had been done to me.
One never fully leaves the system. It remains a part of you throughout your life. Much of it remains deep within us never to be revealed to others. We, many times, keep it inside so as not to have to relive the heartache and pains of our youth. But they still remain a part of us. It can play a role in our ability to have loving, trusting relationships with others.
For many it plays a determining role in decisions that will affect them throughout their lives.
Today there continues to be a constant flow of children aging out of the system who are not as fortunate as I was. Children are very fragile. They want to be loved so badly that they will do whatever they are told just to cope. Inside they are dying. They are not able to form who they really are. How could they?
If you really want to know what a foster child thinks, look into their eyes, the story is right there.
Do you know how many times as a child I just wanted a hug and someone to smile at me, look me in the face and tell me I was worth something and I was going to be OK and maybe they loved me … as their own son???
If we as a society expects children to grow up to be mature, productive members of society, they then must see that each child is given the appropriate tools needed to achieve that goal. Instability caused by moves, inability to trust those responsible for your care only causes reaching the goal extremely more difficult if not almost impossible for some.
We must remember that these kids are our future. They need time and nurturing to develop as people. We must be cautious and inform them in terms at their level of the things that are affecting their lives.
This is a subject very close to my heart. There is so much to be said and done. I pray for the system and do what I can.
My point for writing this piece is to get each of us to look at these children even look at your own children. Love them, talk to them, hold them, look in their eyes, let them feel secure. I don’t care if your a volunteer, advocate, friend, family…you are a human being and all these kids really want is love and security! Don’t you ??
All I ever wanted as a child was to have a stable, nurturing, loving home and a Mom and Dad to call my very own!
Each of us are responsible for children, whether they be our own or not.
We must come to the realization that as a society this is our responsibility, not just the government’s. If we can build football stadiums and spend billions of dollars on a war, surely we can take care of our children.”
I ask you to consider becoming an adoptive parent or parents. The rewards will be numerous. You do not need to be rich to adopt, you do not need to be married. Character, love and stability are the most precious commodities you have to offer a child.
Help a child in need, give them a home, love, nurturing. Though some will be difficult due to special needs or problems that developed during their stay within the system…you can watch them grow and mature into productive, law-abiding citizens you will be proud to call your son or daughter.
They need you! Only you can offer them the tools needed young in life for them to be all they can possibly be.
A child is waiting for you!
Having been a child whose life was impacted negatively by the foster care system; I do hold myself accountable to do all that I can to change the system that harmed me and continues to harm thousands of children yearly.
I will continue to campaign to help kids in the system. The first is to try, whenever I can get an audience or a willing ear, to speak and write on the subject. I implore anyone who believes in children having the right of a caring, loving, nurturing home and “real” parents to join me in this fight… Please consider adopting a child in need of a forever family!
All it takes is one person to make a difference in their lives, somebody they can turn to in the critical points. Will you be that one person or couple?