What Foster Parents Wish Other People Knew

This is not something I have written. I read it on Facebook the the person who complied it sent me the link to it. It so presents many of the issues foster parents deal with and is so well written I thought it needed to be shared by as wide an audience as possible. It is my hope others will get as much out of this as I have. I am a foster care alumni having spent eighteen years in the system. I am sharing it here exactly as it appears:

Posted by Sharon Astyk on March 12, 2013

This essay is a little different than most of my stuff. It is the result of a collaborative discussion on a foster parenting list I’m a part of by a group of foster parents. I’ve paraphrased and borrowed and added some things of my own, but this is truly collaborative piece, and meant to be shared. I do NOT have to get credit for it. So if you’d like to circulate it, use it in a training, distribute it at foster-awareness day, hang it on the wall, run it somewhere else, give it out to prospective foster parents, whatever, go right ahead. This is a freebie to all! I care much more than people know this than that I get credit – and most of the credit goes to a lot of other wonderful people who want to remain anonymous, most of them wiser and more experienced than I.

1. We’re not Freakin’ Saints. We are doing this because it needs doing, we love kids, this is our thing. Some of us hope to expand our families this way, some of us do it for the pleasure of having laughing young voices around, some of us are pushed into it by the children of family or friends needing care, some of us grew up around formal or informal fostering – but all of us are doing it for our own reasons BECAUSE WE LOVE IT and/or LOVE THE KIDS and WE ARE THE LUCKY ONES – we get to have these great kids in our lives.

We hate being told we must be saints or angels, because we’re doing something really ordinary and normal – that is, taking care of kids in need. If some children showed up dirty and hungry and needing a safe place on your doorstep, you’d care for them too – we just signed up to be the doorstep they arrive at. The idea of sainthood makes it impossible for ordinary people to do this – and the truth is the world needs more ordinary, human foster parents. This also stinks because if we’re saints and angels, we can’t ever be jerks or human or need help, and that’s bad, because sometimes this is hard.

2. WATCH WHAT YOU SAY AROUND THE KIDS!!!!!! I can’t emphasize this enough, and everyone is continually stunned by the things people will ask in the hearing of children, from “Oh, is their Mom an addict?” or “Well, they aren’t your REAL kids are they” or “Are you going to adopt them?” or whatever. Not only is that stuff private, but it is HORRIBLE for the kids to hear people speculating about their families whom they love, or their future. Didn’t anyone ever explain to you that you never say anything bad about anyone’s mother (or father) EVER? Don’t assume you know what’s going on, and don’t ask personal questions – we can’t tell you anyway.

3. Don’t act surprised that they are nice, smart, loving, well-behaved kids. One of the corollaries of #1 is that there tends to be an implied assumption that foster kids are flawed – we must be saints because NO ONE ELSE would take these damaged, horrible kids. Well, kids in foster care have endured a lot of trauma, and sometimes that does come with behavioral challenges, but many of the brightest, nicest, best behaved, kindest and most loving children I’ve ever met are foster kids. They aren’t second best kids, they aren’t homicidal maniacs, and because while they are here they are MINE, they are the BEST KIDS IN THE WORLD, and yes, it does tick me off when you act surprised they are smart, sweet and loving.

4. Don’t hate on their parents. Especially don’t do it in front of the kids, but you aren’t on my side when you are talking trash either.

Nobody chooses to be born mentally ill. No one gets addicted to drugs on purpose. Nobody chooses to be born developmentally delayed, to never have lived in a stable family so you don’t know how to replicate it. Abusive and neglectful parents often love their kids and do the best they can, and a lot of them CAN do better if they get help and support, which is what part of this is about. Even if they can’t, it doesn’t make things better for you to rush to judgement.

It is much easier to think of birth parents as monsters, because then YOU could never be like THEM, but truly, birth parents are just people with big problems. Birth and Foster parents often work really hard to have positive relationships with each other, so it doesn’t help me to have you speculating about them.

5. The kids aren’t grateful to us, and it is nuts to expect them to be, or to feel lucky that they are with us. They were taken from everything they knew and had to give up parents, siblings, pets, extended family, neighborhood, toys, everything that was normal to them. No one asked them whether they wanted to come into care.

YOU have complex feelings and ambivalence about a lot of things, even if it seems like those things are good for you or for the best. Don’t assume our kids don’t have those feelings, or that moving into our home is happily-ever-after for them. Don’t tell them how lucky they are or how they should feel.

By the way, there is no point comparing my home to the one they grew up in. Both homes most likely have things the children like and dislike about them. The truth is if every kid only got the best home, Angelina and Brad would have all the children, and the rest of us would have none.

6. No, we’re not making any money on it. We don’t get paid – we get a portion of the child’s expenses reimbursed, and that money is only for the child and does NOT cover everything. I get about 56 cents an hour reimbursed, and I get annoyed when you imply I’m too stupid to realized I’d make tons more money flipping burgers.

Saying this in front of the kids also REALLY hurts them – all of a sudden, kids who are being loved and learning to trust worry that you are only doing this because of their pittance. So just shut up about the money already, and about the friend of a friend you know who kept the kids in cages and did it just for the money and made millions.

7. When you say “I could never do that” as if we’re heartless or insensitive, because we can/have to give the kids back to their parents or to extended family, it stings.
Letting kids go IS really hard, but someone has to do it. Not all kids in care come from irredeemable families. Not everyone in a birth family is bad – in fact, many kin and parents are heroic, making unimaginable sacrifices to get their families back together through impossible odds. Yes, it is hard to let kids we love go, and yes, we love them, and yes, it hurts like hell, but the reality is that because something is hard doesn’t make it bad, and you aren’t heartless if you can endure pain for the greater good of your children. You are just a regular old parent when you put your children’s interests ahead of your own.

8. No, they aren’t ours yet. And they won’t be on Thursday either, or next Friday, or the week after. Foster care adoption TAKES A LONG TIME. For the first year MINIMUM the goal is always for kids to return to their parents. It can take even longer than that. Even if we hope to adopt, things could change, and it is just like any long journey – it isn’t helpful to ask “Are we there yet” every five minutes.

9. Most kids will go home or to family, rather than being adopted. Most foster cases don’t go to adoption. Not every foster parent wants to adopt. And not every foster family that wants to adopt will be adopting/wants to adopt every kid.

It is NOT appropriate for you to raise the possibility of adoption just because you know they are a foster family. It is ESPECIALLY not appropriate for you to raise this issue in front of the kids. The kids may be going to home or to kin. It may not be an adoptive match. The family may not be able to adopt now. They may be foster-only. Not all older children want or choose to be adopted, and after a certain age, they are allowed to decide. Family building is private and none of everyone’s business. They’ll let you know when you need to know something.

10. If we’re struggling – and all of us struggle sometimes – it isn’t helpful to say we should just “give them back” or remind us we brought it on ourselves. ALL parents pretty much brought their situation on themselves whether they give birth or foster, but once you are a parent, you deal with what you’ve got no matter what. “I told you so” is never helpful. This is especially true when the kids have disabilities or when they go home. Yes, we knew that could happen. That doesn’t make it any easier.

11. Foster kids are not “fake kids,” and we’re not babysitters – they are all my “REAL kids.” Some of them may stay forever. Some of them may go and come back. Some of them may leave and we’ll never see them again. But that’s life, isn’t it? Sometimes people in YOUR life go away, too, and they don’t stop being an important part of your life or being loved and missed. How they come into my family or for how long is not the point. While they are here they are my children’s REAL brothers and sisters, my REAL sons and daughters. We love them entirely, treat them the way we do all our kids, and never, ever forget them when they leave. Don’t pretend the kids were never here. Let foster parents talk about the kids they miss. Don’t assume that kids are interchangeable – one baby is not the same as the next, and just because there will be more kids later doesn’t make it any easier now.

2. Fostering is HARD. Take how hard you think it will be and multiply it by 10, and you are beginning to get the idea. Exhausting, gutwrenching and stressful as heck. That said, it is also GREAT, and mostly utterly worth it. It is like Tom Hanks’ character in _League of Their Own_ says about baseball: “It is supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”

13. You don’t have to be a foster parent to HELP support kids and families in crisis. If you want to foster, GREAT – the world needs more foster families. But we also need OTHER kinds of help.

You can:

– . Treat foster parents with a new placement the way you would a family that had a baby – it is JUST as exhausting and stressful. If you can offer to cook dinner, help out with the other kids, or lend a hand in some way, it would be most welcome.

– . Offer up your children’s outgrown stuff to pass on – foster parents who do short-term fostering send a lot of stuff home with the kids, and often could use more. Alternatively, many communities have a foster care closet or donation center that would be grateful for your pass-downs in good condition.

– . Be an honorary grandparent, aunt or uncle. Kids need as many people in their lives as possible, and relationships that say “you are special.”

– . Become a respite provider, taking foster children for a week or a weekend so their parents can go away or take a break.

– . Offer to babysit. Foster parents have lives, plus they have to go to meetings and trainings, and could definitely use the help.

– . Be a big brother, sister or mentor to older foster kids. Preteens and Teens need help imagining a future for themselves – be that help.

– . Be an extra pair of hands when foster families go somewhere challenging – offer to come along to the amusement park, to church, to the playground. A big family or one with special needs may really appreciate just an extra adult or a mother’s helper along.

– . Support local anti-poverty programs with your time and money. These are the resources that will hopefully keep my kids fed and safe in their communities when they go home.

– . If you’ve got extra, someone else can probably use it. Lots of foster families don’t have a lot of spare money for activities – offering your old hockey equipment or the use of your swim membership is a wonderful gift.

– . Make programs for kids friendly to kids with disabilities and challenges. You may not have thought about how hard it is to bring a disabled or behaviorally challenged kid to Sunday school, the pool, the local kids movie night – but think about it now, and encourage inclusion.

– . Teach your children from the beginning to be welcoming, inclusive, kind and non-judgemental, Teach them the value of having friends from different neighborhoods, communities, cultures, races and levels of ability. Make it clear that bullying, unkindness and exclusion are NEVER EVER ok.

– . Welcome foster parents and their family into your community warmly, and ASK them what they need, and what you can do.

13. Reach out to families in your community that are struggling – maybe you can help so that the children don’t ever have to come into foster care, or to make it easier if they do. Some families really need a ride, a sitter, some emotional support, some connection to local resources. Lack of community ties is a HUGE risk factor for children coming into care, so make the attempt.

May is National Foster Care Month…How WE Can Help!

Today across the nation there are over 400,000 children in foster care, over 20,00 of these youth are “legal orphans” awaiting adoption and 25,000 of these children will age out this year. During the month of May hundreds of community events are being planned across the country to help retain, recruit and support critically needed foster parents as well as provide support and advocacy for foster youth and assist children aging out of the system.

We can get involved now to Change a Life one child at a time or pay the cost of our failure later. According to the latest statistics for vulnerable children aging out of the system this is the price we are already paying today for our failure:

Only 54% earn a high school diploma
Only 10% of those go on to college
Only 2% of those obtain a Bachelor’s degree or higher
84% become parents prior to a marriage
51% will experience unemployment due to lack of skills
30% have no health insurance
25% will at one time be homeless
30% receive some type of public assistance
37% become incarcerated
Over 40% will become involved with drugs or are alcoholics

May is an opportune time to highlight the hundreds of ways individuals, churches, schools, libraries, scout troops, civic and social organizations, businesses and government can help support these children, youth and families. I hope it will encourage you to Change a Life by:

Sharing your hearts
Opening your homes as foster parents
Offering your help youth in foster care.
Declare May as “Foster Care Month”

How You May Participate in Foster Care Month:

Wear a “Blue Ribbon” during May in support of National Foster Care Month and help organize or attend a ribbon tying ceremony to advocate on behalf of children in foster care in your community or state.

Write your Governor and Mayor requesting they proclaim May as “Foster Care Month” in your state and community.

Organize a Candlelight Vigil in remembrance of those children who have been abused, neglected or died while in out of home care.

Collect “Teddy Bears” to donate to your local police and fire departments as well as social services departments to soothe children in a time a crisis.

Create “Love Packs” for children living in foster care homes, group homes or other institutional care. (IE: hygiene items, and age appropriate toys, school supplies, story books and a teddy bear)

Organize a drive to collect suitcases and duffel bags as many foster children are moved a number of times while in care, usually their possessions in black plastic garbage bags donate suitcases & duffel bags to foster care agencies so children might move with a little bit of dignity.

Conduct a drive for goods that will assist a youth aging out of the system to get started in life on their own. (IE: alarm clocks, bedding, tools, towels and basic house wares)

Have an “Event Day” for children in foster care (IE: Sports, Zoo, Picnic or Museum Day).

Conduct a creative writing/poster campaign for school children on the subject of Children in Foster Care.

Learn more about how policy, legislative and budget priorities affect children and youth in foster care. Learn the facts about foster care and gain a better understanding of the needs of those touched by foster care. Advocate for reform of the child welfare system so “in the best interest of the child” becomes a reality to the children and youth in care.

Have a “Capital Day” in your state to educate legislatures of the need to reform the child welfare system as many children should NOT be in care in the first place.

Conduct a letter writing campaign to the news media, government officials and others of the plight of children living without parents.

Organize a “Step Out for Kids Walkathon” to raise awareness and funds to assist those children and youth in care. Sometimes, tangible items can have tremendous impact on a young life. Foster youth often lack the funds to pay for an after-school computer class, musical instruments, sports participation or art supplies. Items that most of us would consider basics, such as school backpacks or supplies for a science fair entry, also may be out of reach. Cost of donating to nonprofits benefiting foster youth: A tax-deductible contribution to fit your budget.

Become a “Mentor” or “Tutor” to a child or youth in foster care. By becoming a mentor or tutor you will give foster youth reliable support from someone who holds high expectations for them and encourages them to see a better life for themselves. To mentor or tutor a foster youth not only benefits the recipient, but it is also one of the most rewarding endeavors in life, showing a young person that you care and can be relied upon, even through challenging times. Cost of mentoring or tutoring youth: An hour or two of your time each week. Research shows that children and youth with mentors earn higher grades and improve relationships with friends and families. They also have a better opportunity of success when they age out of the system.

Make a financial contribution to programs and agencies attempting to enrich the lives of children and youth in care.

Have a “Speakers Campaign” to make presentations to your faith-based congregation, civic group, school, PTA and other associations to educate and encourage your community to come together to find families and resources that help young people in foster care thrive.

Businesses have the ability to offer foster youth a life-changing opportunity as well. By hiring young people living in foster care and training them for successful careers, employers provide foster youth with a critical start toward a lifetime of self-sufficiency. Cost of offering and promoting jobs or internships for youth in foster care: Insignificant!

Most important of all, for those children who may not be able to remain with or return safely to their birth families, thousands are needed to open their homes and their hearts and become full-time foster or adoptive parents. The lasting commitment that results from creating a new home is one that can be pursued by couples, married or unmarried, single people and partners. Cost of creating a new, loving family by parenting abused, abandoned and neglected children: Priceless! Contact your local private or state child care agency to see how you may become a foster or adoptive parent.

Many people have asked me how they can become involved in making the foster care system a better one for the children and youth as well as for the foster parents since I was once a foster child. The snapshot of ideas above gives everyone an opportunity to do exactly that.

Yes, the ideas may take time, effort and funds, however, remember these children and youth are our future. As said early in this article; “We can Change a Life NOW one at a time or we will pay the price of their and our failure later.

It is up to US!

What is Foster Care Like?

Image

I don’t think I need say anymore!Click on photo to get the full picture and words.

 

AFCARS Latest Number on Foster Care/Adoption from Care FY2009

As long as there is still one youth still waiting for a loving, nurturing caring, permanent home it is one too many!

AFCARS Releases its Latest Numbers

Released this summer, the 17th official AFCARS report reveals that, in federal fiscal year 2009 the number of U.S. children in foster care and waiting for adoption declined markedly—by 8 and 9 percent respectively. Both figures—424,000 children in care and 115,000 waiting—are the lowest figures recorded since AFCARS released its first report in 2002. In addition, the number of children adopted from care (57,000) rose to its highest level.
 

View the complete report at www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/tar/report17.htm.

Brantwood Children’s Home in Montgomery Alabama Hasn’t Had A Single Adoption in Four Years

MONTGOMERY, Ala., March 12, 2010
American Foster Kids Hold Out Hope
Brantwood Children’s Home in Montgomery Alabama Hasn’t Had A Single Adoption in Four Years
By Mark Strassmann CBS News

(CBS)  The Brantwood Children’s Home in Montgomery, Ala., is a place for kids from families broken beyond repair. They’re all between 10 and 21 years old. All are available for adoption and looking for a loving home.

Will’s a fifth-grader in his seventh school. He wonders what kind of family will adopt him, and how it will happen.

Too often, it doesn’t.

CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports there haven’t been any adoptions at Brantwood in the past four years.

“It pierces your heart,” says Kim Herbert, the executive director of Brantwood. “That’s what we want for them.”

Adoption awareness has been heightened by the Haiti earthquake — which created thousands of new orphans. In the last eight weeks, more than 1,000 of them have come to America for adoption — more than the last three years combined.

It’s a new chance many Brantwood kids will never get.

“It’s been too long for them, and that hope is gone,” Herbert said. “They count on themselves.”

In 2008, America’s foster care system had 123,000 kids available for adoption. Just 45 percent — 55,000 — of them were adopted.

Typically the older they get, the worse their chances it will ever happen. Many children are also battling the scars of mental or physical abuse.

Many states and agencies post albums of available children.

“Meet these kids,” Herbert said, “and learn their hearts. See their needs and what they’re after.”

Jack’s after a second chance. At 13, he’s the baby in a fractured family of nine. He says he’s praying for a home of his own.

They all are praying for a family – and so far that is just a dream.

Brantwood Children’s Home
http://www.brantwoodchildrenshome.org/

60 Years Ago Today!!

Sixty years ago today, in the early hours of
the morning, a young nineteen year old unwed woman
gave birth to her first child…a son.

She spent most of her pregnancy in a home for unwed
mothers as her father would not, as he said, allow a
bastard child in his house.

She was uneducated and unable to provide even the
basic needs for her newborn son.

She did what she thought would be best for
him…because she loved him. She placed him lovingly
for adoption within hours after his birth.

She would not learn for thirty-six years that her
hopes and dreams of a loving home for her son never
happened.

The son instead spent the first year of life in a
hospital nursery and also the nursery of the same home
for unwed mothers his mother had spent her pregnancy.

Despite being a white, blond, hazel eye, healthy
baby…no one came forward to adopt him.

Those first days in a nursery turned out to be
eighteen years of being moved from one foster home to
another or institution…fourteen moves in all.

During those years he would attend many schools, never
have long time friends. He at a time would find his
bed on a back porch and be forced to steal food from
other children at school to dampen his hunger pains
from being fed only one meal a day. He would face the
horror of sexual abuse at the tender age of ten. He would
feel he was worthless and attempt to end his pain
and life before age 11.

Somehow, with the help of a few mentors, hope and a
deep inner faith this baby boy was able to overcome
the years of his childhood. He received a college
education and began a professional career.

At age of thirty-one he suffered a massive heart
attack. He could not answer the doctor’s question of;
“What’s your family medical history?” He was
embarrassed and ashamed for as far as he knew…he had
no family to call his own.

He began a search for the person who he thought would
be able to provide some answers…the mother who
lovingly relinquished him thirty-two years earlier.

The search took four long years. It was a painful,
trying and at times a frustrating journey as he met
numerous obstacles along the way.

He remembers vividly the message left on his answering
machine on April 17, 1986…”This is your mother!”
They would speak a few hours later…a phone call that
would last for hours. His spine still tingles and eyes
tear up as he remembers that day now nineteen years
later.

He met his mother not many months later. It
unfortunately was just the beginning to what turned
out to be a very strained relationship at best. He,
however, had his questions answered.

That relationship ended tragically a mere twelve years
later. His mother, on her own accord this time,
rejected her son and wished him dead as she could not
bear learning her son…her first born…was gay.

Despite several attempts at reconciliation by the son;
mother and son were never to speak or see each other
again in her lifetime. She passed away just shy of
three years after turning her son away.

The son, after time, was able to forgive his mother
and to thank her for not only giving him life but
making the decision she did on the day of his birth.
Despite how his childhood was; it had been the correct
decision.

He also was able to search, find and meet his father
once. His father did not wish for a relationship and
his father passed away four years after he found him.

His half siblings, from both his mother and father’s
side, except one rejected him as their brother. The
one remaining sibling also rejected him after their
mother’s death.

The one foster family whom he considered to be Mom and
Dad, even after he was on his own, are both long
passed away.

So today is this person’s sixtieth birthday.
What should be a joyous occasion remains a painful day
as it always has been. It brings forth those memories
of a childhood he cares not to remember. Acceptance by
his new found mother as well as the rejection.

He has in recent years found and met extended family.
They have welcomed him with open and loving arms.

He will receive well wishes from friends, extended
family and others. However, in many ways he will still
feel alone. There will never be birthday wishes from a
mother, father, brothers or sisters…and his heart
breaks.

Despite those painful memories he moves forward. The
hope and faith that sustained him through these
sixty years continues to sustain him.

Yes, today is that son’s birthday. I quietly wish
him a Happy Birthday, though it may not be.

I know each detail of this person’s life…because I
am that son born sixty years ago.

Yes, today I am sixty! The wounds of the
passed have in many cases healed, however, there are
many that just scabbed over waiting to be broken open
anew…they will never heal.

I however once again…thank my mother and father for
this beautiful gift called life!

Fargo/Moorhead Youth Fill the Dome Project Exceeds Goal!

My blog normally includes articles written by me or others I find on the Internet about foster care, thus the title of my blog.

However I am so proud of the youth here in my hometown community of Fargo, North Dakota/Moorhead, Minnasota that I just have to share this story beyond our area.

In the fall of 2007 a group of local high school seniors wanted to do something as a gift to their community. They wanted to collect non perishable foods and funds to be given to those less fortunate in our community. Each year since new seniors have continued the effort.

They did not think small but decided to issue a challenge to all the local schools.

Fargo has what we call the Fargodome. It is the site where North Dakota State University plays their home football games and where numerous big time stars have given concerts. The football floor contains 80,000 square feet.

The group decided their goal would be to fill the dome floor with food items. Thus began the FILL THE DOME PROJECT.

Since that first year (2007), though the foor did not get filled, they were able to raise over 60 tons of food and over $60,000 for their efforts for 2007/2008 combined.

This year the set their goals higher than what was reached in the first two years:

Goals for Fill the Dome 2009 include: 
Raise $75,000
Collect 75 tons of food
Engage 7,500 volunteers

Fifty-eight local schools and a few outside the local community were involved in this year’s effort. Each school would have a square on the dome floor to fill with non-perishables.

There is also a square designated for the community as a whole participate by dropping off items on the designated date or to purchase a food bag from Hornbackers ( a local grocery store gain ) which would be collected and taken to the dome on the given date.

Yesterday was the culmination of the 2009 effort. Schools each had a scheduled time to brings the results of ther collection drives as well as the food bags purchased by members of the community.

Early this morning, after boxing, weighing, and placing all the food on a number of trucks for distribution the results were announced:

97.1 tons of food that came in and out of the Fargodome.
$96,000 (and counting)
2311 food bages were purchased by community members at Hornbachers
(Yes I bought a couple)
Over 2,800 people who have signed their name, acknowledging hunger is an issue in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The Fill the Dome Project not only exceeded their goals for 2009 by a wide margin but also exceeded the total of the two previous years combined.

The Great Plains Food Bank distributes food to local pantries and shelters. Of money raised, 30 percent goes to local groups and 70 percent goes to a mobile food pantry to help in rural western North Dakota.

These same youth, in many cases, helped save the Fargo/Moorhead area by filling and laying over 4 million sandbags this srping in the effort to save our area from flooding. Without their efforts our city would have definitely suffered severe lood damage.

These youth make me proud to live in Fargo and continues to give me faith in our next generation of leadership.

Hats off to ALL involved; many less fortunate will not go without in the months ahead!!

 

Some of the food collected yesterday

 

To date (2007-2009) Fill the Dome has raised over: 

Over 156,000 tons of non perishable food items

Over $157,000

I will be nominating this organization next year for CNN’S Heor of the Year!

 Below are photos from the 2008 drive:

http://fillthedome.org/ftd/Photos.html

How Long Must They Languish in Limbo?

For a number of years it was the intent of our child welfare system that ALL efforts should be to reunify a family after a child was removed from their biological parent(s) for abuse or neglect. Because of this effort thousands of youth remained in foster care for a number of years without permanency. They languished in a state of limbo year after year; in many cases they simply in the end aged out of the system.

It was the intent of Congress and President Clinton that this would change with the passage and signing of ASFA (Adoption & Safe Family Act) of 1997. Some of the main parts of this act were:

Though reunification may still be an objective, if possible, it was no longer to be the all encompassing goal of the system; it was to just be one of many possibilities as an end goal plan

Termination of parental rights could commence when a child is in out of home care for a period of fifteen months out of the previous twenty-two month; unfortunately discretion of implementing this was left to the state and judge to determine

 An intent of this law is to move youth quicker through the system to some plan of permanency; in particular adoption

It is now ten years since the passage of this law and questions need to be asked:

Has the attitude of “reunification at all costs” been changed?

Are parental rights being terminated within a more reasonable period to allow for a plan of permanency to be established for foster youth; whether it is reunification, kinship care, guardianship or adoption?

From the government statistics available it appears that at first the new law may have helped. In 1997 there were 31,000 adoptions from foster care system wide. The numbers increased:

 1998: 37,000
 1999: 47,000
 2000: 51,000

In the years that have followed, through the last year government statistics are available, adoptions from foster care seems to have stagnated:

 2001: 50,500
 2002: 53,000 
 2003: 50,500
 2004: 52,500
 2005: 51,500 (last year available)

This is while the number of youth entering foster care has increased from fewer than 285,000 in 2001 to over 311,000 in 2005.

Though the number of youth entering care has increased the number of TPR’S has remained fairly constant at about 65,000 per year over the past five years.

This question was recently asked on a message board that I participate in, “How long have you had a child in your care awaiting reunification or termination of parental rights?”

Here are just a few of the replies that came back:

1. EIGHT YEARS for some friends of ours.

The Chancery Judge thought the druggie mom needed another and another and another chance. Bio mom finally volunteered TPR so the family that had had them for 8 years could adopt them.

Youth Court Judge does TPR’s. Chancery Judge finalized adoptions.

Hubby went to the adoption finalization. There were about 35 people there and the judge asked each and everyone why they were there. When it got to hubby he said he looked at her and said, “Judge, I mean no disrespect but it’s about damn time this happened. You made this drag out entirely too long.” He said the judge teared up.

2. Our little ones will be in FC for 35 months by the time we have TPR trial next month.

3. My friend has had her little boy for three years, since he was three months old. TPR trial has been going on for an entire year and isn’t over yet

4. I had my foster son for 4 1/2 years; they did TPR on bio mom, and then did separate TPR on bio dad. The judge did a suspended judgment on the TPR on bio dad, giving him 6 MORE months after the first 4 years, and then reunified him with the bio dad.

5. My adopted son both parents signed away their rights. But in Pa they have to have a hearing called a confirmation of consent. Anyways that hearing didn’t take place until my son was three years old. And we got him as a newborn. He was three and a half years old when he was adopted.

6. My foster son has been with us for over a year now. He went 6 years until TPR and now it has already been over a year for the appeal and we’re still waiting. I think lawyers get good at playing the system and coming up with delay tactics.

We’re just waiting till we can adopt our little man. Poor guy, can you imagine going 7+ years without permanence in your life?

7. My children were in care 40 months before TPR finally occurred.

Their former case worker has a case that she’s had for the last EIGHT years. The parents keep asking for extensions, and doing JUST ENOUGH to get them, but not enough to bring the child home.

8. Friends of ours boys TPR took over 4 years. BF was in prison and they refused to TPR while he was there and gave him a year after his release to work a plan. After all that time the BF ended up surrendering after making them wait for 4 years!!!

9. My former foster daughter was taken into care at 5 months old… her TPR was not completed until she was nearly 6.5 yrs old…..appeals were finalized at 7.5 yrs and adoption completed 6 months later.

10. We had our soon to be adopted son for 33 months before TPR was granted, appeals took another 5/6 months, then we sat in limbo for almost a year until we signed the adoption papers last week to get the finalization rolling. It was 4 years last Monday that he came to us – the same day we signed the papers!

11. Friends of mine just adopted three foster children they have had for SIX years. They had to hire their own lawyer because after five years in foster care the county was still trying to reunify. They spent tens of thousands of dollars but they finally got TPR.

From just the examples above it appears the attitude of “reunification at all costs” remains in the lexicon of social workers and judges.

Bear in mind; I am all for reunification if it is possible and it is able to be accomplished within a reasonable period of time. A youth should not be held in limbo year after year in hopes the bio parent(s) will get their act together.

It has been shown that the longer a youth remains in care, the more moves a youth experiences and the older the youth gets; the lesser opportunity for adoption.

While the number of adoptions has been fairly stagnant the past fiver years the number of youth aging out of the system has increased from 20,000 a year just a few years ago to over 24,000 last year.

Recently I listened to a documentary on Minnesota Public Radio produced by American Radio Works entitled, “Wanted Parents.” It was a program dedicated to the need to finding adoptive families for eligible teenagers before they age out of the system.

One statement during the program caused me to call in after the documentary aired to participate in the discussion program which followed.

The statement was:

An adoption recruiter for The Homecoming Project in Minneapolis arrives at the group home to meet a new client, and tell a worker why she’s there: 

“My goal is to find this teenager an adoptive home.”

“He’s 17,” the worker says. “Why bother?”
 
Having spent my youth in foster care and being very familiar with this type of attitude caused my blood to rush to my head in anger towards this worker…no wonder an adoptive home was never found for me!

I however loved the response of the adoption recruiter.

She calmly says to the worker:

“Let me ask you something: do you still have family that you talk to, family who are important to you, family that you visit with or call when you have a problem that you’d like to talk to someone about?”

She sees a light bulb go on inside the worker. “Well, of course I do,” she says softly.

The recruiter finishes, “You say to me ‘He’s 17, why bother?’ and my answer to you is this: because he’s only 17.”

During the discussion program that followed I called in and said how the group home worker’s comment truly bothered me. The recruiter said it obviously did her as well and unfortunately this is an attitude she finds still very prevelant within the system.
The text of the entire documentary (not the discussion) may be found at:

http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/fostercare/index.html

How many times have workers said, “Teens are too old to be adopted.” “Don’t get his/her hopes up.” “No family would want to adopt a teen.” “Don’t disturb her foster home placement.” “Let’s leave him in the treatment center until he isn’t angry anymore.”

What will happen to these youth when they turn eighteen if they don’t have an adoptive family? Because the truth is, most teens skip around from placement to placement like stones across water. Eventually they turn 18 and age out of the system.

For teens that age out, research tells us that their future is bleak: many don’t finish high school, become homeless, jobless, addicted, incarcerated, pregnant, pregnant again and many times their own children end up in foster care repeating the vicious cycle all over again.

It is wrong that these teens are moved around, ignored, unprepared for adulthood, and then bounced out of the system at an age when most kids are still either living at home or financially supported by their parents.

It appears the system today continues to allow youth to languish in limbo and to move children from one home to another with no apparent reason. This does not take into account the emotional costs to the child of being raised in a non-stable environment. They also separate siblings, often allowing no contact between those siblings.

You can quote the Adoption and Family Safety Act of 1997 and get a totally blank look from the people who are supposed to be in charge of enforcing the act. They need to get “all their ducks in a row” and follow the intent of the act which is “the best interest of the child is uppermost”. As it stands now, it’s the rights of the parents.  Their “civil rights” have to be protected no matter how much further damage is done to the children already scarred by the placement in the system.

Overall it appears to me that ASFA of 1997 has been a failure!

Too much discretion has been left to states and judges to determine when a TPR may occur or whether it occurs at all. Youth are being allowed to languish in the system year after year with permanence being no more than just a word in their vocabulary.

When a child is removed from their home and placed in care after all other alternatives were researched I believe that the ASFA law should be changed as follows:

1.If the reason for removal was neglect: the parent(s) should be given a case plan which MUST be accomplished within ONE YEAR otherwise TPR MUST proceed. Biological parent(s) cannot be allowed chance after chance after chance while the youth remains in foster care.

2.If removal has been for severe physical abuse or sexual abuse: the person allegedly responsible MUST be charged. If convicted TPR MUST begin immediately. No child should be placed in the position of the offender having yet another opportunity to harm the child

3. Red tape Must be streamlined to make it easier for foster parent(s) or others to adopt youth from care. This is one of the main complaints from those who end up adopting overseas rather than domestically.

4. More effort needs to be concentrated toward finding adoptive homes for teenagers.

I am sure there are other changes that need to happen with the law but these are the few primary ones I will address in this blog entry.

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

The best way to achieve all the above is a permanent, stable, loving family rather than years of languishing in limbo within the system moving from one temporary home to another!

They need someone to adopt them and treat them as their own son or daughter long before they face aging out of the system and possible destruction of their lives!

Today there are 114,000 youth eligible for adoption across the country. Many of them are teenagers who have been in foster care five years or longer…far too many of them face the prospect of aging out of the system. 
 
All must be done to make a youth’s time in foster care short and with as few moves as possible. Any decision made MUST be made in the child’s best interest…this needs to become the reality rather than the myth it is today!

The sooner youth have permanency in their lives the better the opportunity for them to become stable, productive members of society as they reach the age of maturity.

A National Adoption Day Celebration

adoptiondayc2.jpg 

Yesterday began as just a normal fall day in Fargo, North Dakota. It was however to be a special day.

I was driving through a light snow fall to the Cass County Courthouse to attend a National Adoption Day ceremony. I had not attended one before and thus had no clue what to expect.

The outside walkway to the entrance had colorful large lollipops on each side. A person’s first name was on each. Later I was to learn that each represented a North Dakota eligible for adoption but still awaiting a family.

Inside the courthouse a crowd was gathering. For no particular reason I chose a courtroom to enter. I was to find out I made the right choice.

Today six children from our county were to have their adoptions finalized. The courtroom I chose to sit in was to be where one family with three children already were about to add four more children to their family. The courtroom was full to capacity with soon to be grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and numerous friends.

The clerk called the courtroom to order as the judge entered. The lawyer then had the clerk swear in Ronald & Billie Jo (adoptive parents) and each took the stand to affirm to a series of questions. Jemisyn was then called forth. Jemisyn was the oldest of the four children being adopted by this family and since she was over the age of ten she had to verbally give her consent to be adopted as well as sign a form also stating it.

The lawyer then asked for the judge to approve the adoption. With a signature and a few words he so declared and suddenly four children were a part of a new family. The judge joined the family for numerous photos being taken of this newly enlarged forever family. I made the choice not to take any photographs during this time as I did not want to intrude on this moment of celebration.

A reception followed in the courthouse rotunda followed by a short speaking program. Letters of support were read from both our U.S. Senators, a word from each of the two judges who conducted the adoptions (two adoptions by two families were held in a second courtroom).

The four of the children said a few words oh how they felt about being adopted. The highlight was one of the boys, who appeared to be maybe five, stood in front of the crowd for a minute or so and finally blurted out, “I don’t know what to say!”

The program concluded with Mom (Billie Jo) giving very heartfelt and tearful comments of what the day meant to her and her family.

While the reception was going on I had the opportunity to speak to one of the county social workers about our situation in North Dakota. We have over 1,400 youth in foster care. Over 300 of these children are eligible for adoption; with over of 100 of them just in our county. These are high number considering North Dakota has less than 800,000 people living in the state.

I was also able to share a few brief moments with Ronald (the adoptive father of the four children). I had a much longer conversation with Billie Jo’s father, the new grandfather. He told me more of the family’s story.

Billie Jo & Ronald have one biological child. They became foster parents a number of years ago and have cared for twenty-two youth. This is their second adoption. They adopted two children earlier. Today their family grew from five to nine, including the parents.

The inside program ended and it was time to move outside for a balloon ceremony. Each color balloon released held significance:

White: Love and unity
Green: Remembering the birth families of each youth
Yellow: Remembering former foster families of the youth
Red: Honoring the three sets of adoptive parents
Orange: Thanking extended adoptive families/friends for their support
Blue: Celebrating the lives of the newly adopted children

adoptiondaya.jpg

Each of the newly adopted youth were given a bouquet of these balloons and released them one at a time as words of remembrance, thanksgiving, honor and celebration were offered. The photographs on this page obviously were taken during this time.

Jemisyn, Raziah, Kaisha, Charley, Cale & Elizabeth today have forever families.

The program concluded and I moved on to a local restaurant for a late breakfast. I didn’t know it would end up being the same place Ronald, Billie Jo, their now seven children, extended family and friends would also choose to gather in one of the private dining rooms.

During the course of eating my breakfast Billie Jo unexpectedly came over to my table. She thanked me for being present at the ceremony and also spoke of some of the comments I had shared with her father.

This turned out to be a very special morning for me. I am glad I attended the ceremony. It was also bittersweet. As I sat in the courtroom listening to the finalizing of the adoptions I could only think back to my own childhood. I had lived in foster care my entire youth, experienced sixteen moves during those years; however, I never had the joy of experiencing what these children experienced today.

There will be another National Adoption Day next year (the Saturday before Thanksgiving); it is my hope and prayer that a far larger number of foster youth in our county and state eligible for adoption will be joined together with a new forever family.

This is but one celebration held across the country yesterday. In over 250 courtrooms well over 3,000 foster youth became part of a forever family!  

Every child deserves a stable, secure, nurturing and loving family…whether it is a biological or adoptive family!

November – Nat’l Adoption Awareness Month

Thousands of children in foster care await a permanent family; the longer they languish in the system the more damage done to them…they need adoption!

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.

Michael wants to “make it” — but the odds were stacked against the 18-year-old man.

The reason: he spent his formative years as a ward of the state, bouncing among more than a half-dozen foster homes.

“When you grow up like I did, you can’t wait until you turn 18 and can get out of the system,” said Michael, who was in foster care since age seven. “I thought I would just pack my bags and walk out and have my own life.”

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

Being raised by the state can be a ticket to a lifetime of struggle and failure for foster children, according to a new study by the Harvard Medical School and Casey Family Programs. Researchers found young adults are often released from foster care without important life skills — many are alone and adrift after foster care with little or no support from state caregivers.

The picture grows even bleaker as teens age and leave foster care – as all must, ready or not – at age eighteen.

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 Parent Association)

Nationwide, nearly a quarter go homeless within the first year and one-third live below the poverty level. Former foster children also receive public assistance at a rate more than five times higher than that of the general population, and fewer than 2 percent earn college degrees.

Michael was among the unprepared when he was emancipated shortly after turning 18. He did not have a high school diploma and very few low paying job prospects. With no family — he didn’t have anyone to turn to for help.

“You just feel so stupid and so alone,” he said.

Each year, thousands of foster youth, like Michael, are released from the state’s care after their 18th birthdays.

Michael struggled with the transition from state care, “where they tell you when to eat, when to pee and when to go to bed.”

Such problems are common among former foster children, according to the Harvard-Casey study. Although 80 percent of the former foster children surveyed said they felt loved by their substitute caregivers, the study found just 20 percent were “doing well” on their own. The majority face significant challenges:

*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
*Homelessness
*Joblessness
*Unwanted pregnancy
*Drug and/or alcohol addiction
*Crime and incarceration
*Death

My friends, this is the “Road to Hopelessness.”

Russell W. Massinga, president and CEO of Casey Family Programs, said the findings should be a wake-up call.

“Children enter the child welfare system because of traumatic family circumstances and through no fault of their own,” he said. “We have a responsibility to provide them with good, permanent homes to help them repair the hurt and succeed in life.”

“When it comes time to take them out of the system, they don’t have the skills they need. Many of them end up right back in the system. It becomes a vicious cycle.”

The best they can hope for is that somebody they’ve had a relationship with — in the community or the child welfare system — will provide some assistance that will help them pull out of several years of despair.

“I think most people underestimate the struggle these kids face and their need for support, it’s almost like we are giving them an impossible task.”

Personal support is vital!

I know what Michael and others like him will face aging out of the system. I was in foster care from birth to 18.

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 and live through many other things that are not important now … I made it.

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.

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

The best way to achieve all the above is a permanent, stable family rather than years of languishing within the system moving from one temporary home to another!

They need someone to adopt them and treat them as their own son or daughter long before they face aging out of the system and possible destruction of their lives!

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Though the need for adoptions is year around, special emphasis is placed on the crisis need during this particular month.

From data I have been able to gather from across the country; the number waiting across the country is approximately 114,000 children.

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?

As we commemorate another “National Adoption Awareness Month,” 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 foster child is waiting for you!

I implore anyone who believes in children having the right of a caring, loving, and 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.

If interested please contact your local Department of Human Services office or a private agency in your area.

Will you be that one person or couple?

Foster Care Reimbursement Rates

As you read this please bear in mind that I am highly critical of our current foster care system.

I believe far too many children are  removed from their homes too quickly or for unjustified reasons.

I further believe that that there are children left in homes where they are in imminent danger when they should have been removed and these children pay the ultimate price.

I believe youth in care are moved far too many times from home to home which causes damage to them which may haunt them for a lifetime.

I further believe necessary services are not provided to the foster parents or the children in their care.

Though I am critical of the current system I believe if the state determines they need to remove a child from their home then it becomes their responsibility to provide adequate funding to provide for that care.

The report below reflects yet another reason our current foster care system is failing those they are to care for; the children! It also gives added reasons of why our system needs refrom from top to bottom!

Yesterday October 3, 2007, the Children’s Rights Organization, the National Foster Parent Association and the University of Maryland School of Social Work released a historic, first-ever nationwide, state-by-state calculation of the real cost of supporting children in foster care. The report reveals widespread deficiencies in reimbursement rates across the nation—and major disparities among the states—and proposes a new standard rate for each state to use in fulfilling the federal requirement to provide foster parents with payments to cover the basic needs of children in foster care, including food, shelter, clothing and school supplies.

One of the requirements foster parents must meet prior to being licensed is that they have income necessary to meet their financial obligations without any reimbursement from doing foster care. Reimbursement from foster care is meant to cover only additional financial outlay due to caring for a child; the states are not meeting these costs today.

Providing foster care for a child is not meant as a way for foster parents to become rich nor should it cause financial difficulties due to low reimbursement. There is a minority of foster parents that do attempt to provide care for the money but they usually do not last long as foster parents. The majority of foster parents are meeting the needs of children in their care out of their own pockets due to the low reimbursements made by the states. 
 
Most states reimburse foster parents significantly less than the actual cost of raising a foster child, complicating the task of finding good homes for children who need them, according to this first-of-its-kind survey.

The survey analyzed regional living expenses and calculated on a state-by-state basis the minimum cost of adequately raising a foster child. Only Arizona and the District of Columbia pay foster parents more than this minimum amount, according the survey.

To adequately cover the cost of rearing a foster child, base payments would need to be increased as follows:

10 states would need to be raised at least 25%:

Alaska, Nevada, Wyoming, Texas, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Connecticut and Maryland 

10 states would need to be raised from 26-50%:

Montana, New Mexico, Minnesota, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, Georgia, New Jersey and Hawaii

15 states would need to be raised from 51-75%:

California, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Iowa, Michigan, Alabama, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, Vermont, Delaware and Massachusetts

9 states would need to be raised from 76-100%:

Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Rhode Island and New Hampshire

5 states would need to more than double their current base rates:
 
Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin

Of the more than 513,000 U.S. children in foster care at any given time, about 75 percent live with foster parents, while most of the others are placed in group homes and institutions.

The report expressed concern that inadequate reimbursement rates would worsen a shortfall of foster parents, “potentially increasing the likelihood that children will be placed in institutions or shuttled from one foster placement to another.”

“The bottom line is that when these rates don’t reflect the real expenses that foster parents face, it’s the children who suffer,” said Karen Jorgenson, executive director of the Foster Parent Association.

Although child welfare agencies are required by federal law to reimburse foster parents for the cost of raising foster children, there is no national minimum, leaving states and localities free to set their own rates. The result is a huge disparity. The base rates paid for raising a 2-year-old foster child range from $236 a month in Nebraska to $869 in the District of Columbia.

The “minimum adequate rates” in the report represented the cost of providing basic needs — housing, food, clothing, and school supplies — as well as a child’s participation in normal after-school sports and activities.

The monthly rates recommended by the report, averaged out on a national basis, were $629 for 2-year-olds, $721 for 9-year-olds and $790 for 16-year-olds. Currently, the average actual monthly base rates offered by states are $488 for 2-year-olds, $509 for 9-year-olds and $568 for 16-year-olds.

For details of each state click on the link below:

http://www.childrensrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=hittingthemarc

http://www.larrya.us (my web site)

All They Want for Christmas!

Almost fifty-eight years ago, in the early hours of one
morning, a young nineteen year old unwed woman gave
birth to her first child…a boy.

She spent most of her pregnancy in a home for unwed
mothers as her father would not, as he said, allow a
bastard child in his house.

She was uneducated and unable to provide even the
basic needs for herself yet alone for her newborn child.

She did what she thought would be best for him. She
placed him lovingly for adoption within hours after
his birth.

She wished for him the best; a loving, nurturing,
stable family and a home to call his own.

Instead he spent the first year of life in a hospital
nursery and also the nursery of the same home for
unwed mothers his mother had spent her pregnancy.

Despite being a white, blond, hazel eye, healthy baby,
no one came forward to adopt him…he was NOBODY’S
Child!

Those first days in a nursery turned out to be
eighteen years of being moved from one foster home to
another or institution; fifteen moves by age eleven.

During those years he would attend many schools, never
having long time friends. He at a time would find his
bed on a back porch and be forced to steal food from
other children at school to dampen his hunger pains
from being fed only one meal a day. He would face the
horror of sexual abuse at the tender age of ten.

Each Christmas, as he heard the carol, “All I want for
Christmas” he would change a few of the words so his
birth mother’s wish for him would become a reality.
All I want for Christmas is a Mom and Dad to call my
own! That this would be the Christmas a family would
adopt him and call him son!

His wish never became a reality. Christmas, the most
joyous time of the year for children, became a time of
anguish and pain for this boy. The pain continues even
now. 

He aged out of the system at eighteen, thrust out into
the world whether he was ready or not.
 
Somehow, with the help of a few mentors, hope and a
deep inner faith this baby boy was able to overcome
the years of his childhood. He received a college
education and began a professional career.

At age of thirty-one he suffered a massive heart
attack. He could not answer the doctor’s question of;
“What’s your family medical history?” He was
embarrassed and ashamed for as far as he knew…he
still had no family to call his own.

He began a search for the person who he thought would
be able to provide some answers…the mother who
lovingly relinquished him years earlier.

The search took four long years. It was a painful,
trying and at times a frustrating journey as he met
numerous obstacles along the way.

He remembers vividly the message left on his answering
machine on April 17, 1986, “This is your mother!” They
would speak a few hours later…a phone call that
would last for hours. His spine still tingles and eyes
tear up as he remembers that day now nineteen years
later.

He met his birth mother not many months later. It
unfortunately was just the beginning to what turned
out to be a very strained relationship at best.

They never developed a mother/son relationship; even
saying they became friends would be stretching it.

This relationship ended tragically a mere twelve years
later. Painfully it happened on Christmas Day 1998,
the first and only Christmas he would ever spend with
any immediate family. His mother, on her own accord
this time, rejected her son and wished him dead as she
could not bear learning her son…her first born…was
gay.

All the anguish of the unfulfilled Christmas wish of
the past years came flowing back to him. He would
spend that Christmas night alone in a hotel, crying
himself to sleep. After all these years he realized he
still did not have a family to call his own and
probably never would….he was still NOBODY’S CHILD!

Despite several attempts at reconciliation by the son;
mother and son were never to speak or see each other
again in her lifetime. She passed away just shy of
three years after turning her son away.

The son, after time, was able to forgive his mother
and to thank her for not only giving him life but
making the decision she did on the day of his birth.
Despite how his childhood was; it had been the correct
decision.

He also was able to search, find and meet his father
once. His father did not wish for a relationship and
his father passed away four years after he found him.

His half siblings, from both his mother and father’s
side, rejected him as their brother.

The one foster family whom he called to be Mom and
Dad, even after he was on his own, are both long
passed away.

What should be a joyous occasion remains a painful day
as it always has been. It brings forth those memories
of a childhood he cares not to remember.

He has, in recent years, found and met extended
family. They have welcomed him with open and loving
arms. He has even been able to share Christmas with
many of them. Yet, pain, rather than joy, is his
holiday season…there is still a hole in his soul!

He will receive well wishes from friends, extended
family and others this holiday season. However, in
many ways he will still feel alone. There will never
be Christmas wishes from a mother, father, brothers or
sisters…and his heart breaks. His eyes still tear up
when he hears, “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”

Despite those painful memories he moves forward. The
hope and faith that sustained him through these many
years continues to sustain him.

How do I know each detail of this person’s life?  I am
that son born to the unwed mother almost fifty-eight years
ago.

The wounds of the passed have in many cases healed;
however, there are many that just scabbed over waiting
to be broken open anew…they will never heal. The one
that will never completely heal; a Christmas wish
never to be!

Why do I share these memories with you? It is not to
obtain any sympathy for I survived my childhood and
will survive it all and continue moving on with my
life.

I share it because of the thousands of “legal orphans”
stuck within our foster care system today awaiting
their forever family to come forward…to call them
son or daughter.

Many people have asked me over the years, “What did I
want the most as a child and what do kids in foster
care today want?” The answer to that question is no
different today than it was for me as a child; “A
family and home to call my/their own!”

Millions of children soon be thinking of the holiday season and will write their wish list to Santa this year. In most cases the one wish of foster children will not be written or vocalized. They will hold it deep within their hearts as many have been too
disappointed on Christmas’s past. 

They will awaken Christmas morning bright eyed and
wishful only to have their little hearts broken yet
again…there will be no family or home to call their
own. They will lay their heads upon their pillows, if
they are lucky enough to have even a temporary home,
tears within their eyes but yet a hopeful heart that
maybe, just maybe, next year!

As we begin to think of baking gingerbread houses,
decorating our trees and homes, buying gifts for loved
ones or sending a card to a friend; I ask you to think
of the children in foster care that would love to be a
part of your holiday planning.

It is far too late to make their wish come true this
year in most cases, however, if you begin working on
it now it could become real for yet this Christmas.

If you are unable, for whatever reason, to bring
another’s child into your life as your own please do
something to at least brighten their holiday season a
bit.

Many will find under a tree, as I did so many times,
only their semi-annual clothing allotment from foster
care and maybe a toy or two.

Visit your local agency; bring a gift or offer to host
a party; anything to make the holidays just a tad
easier for them.

No, their Christmas wish won’t be fulfilled by these
gestures, but it might bring a smile to their face for
at least a bit.

Clothes, toys, candy etc will last just a short time;
a family and home can last forever.

Won’t you consider being a forever family to a foster
child in need of one and make their Christmas wish,
their everyday wish, a reality. On this Holy Night of
the year let them once and for all sing, “I am Home
for Christmas!”

Next month, Novemember, is National Adoption Awareness Month…though it is now only October it is never too early to start the process.

Make the Christmas season a time of joy for a child,
after-all Christmas is for kids!

Peace!

I’m a Child!

The following poem was not written by me.

I read it on a messageboard yesterday. I was moved to tears as I read it as I could so relate to it having spent my entire youth in foster care. Though I aged out of the system almost forty years ago the once closed wounds can very easily be reopened. This shares perfectly just a few of the feelings a foster youth endures while in care of the state. 

I later asked the author, after the tears dried, if I could share it on my blog and she agreed. Please bear in mind it is her copyrighted material and cannot be used in any manner without her consent.

The writer is a biological mom, a foster mom as well as an adoptive mom.

God bless her and the many I know like her!

I’m A Child!

I’m a Child,
I’m not a placement.

I’m a Child in foster care,
I’m not a foster child.

I’m a Child,
not a RADish, a child who has been hurt deeper than anyone can imagine and I have behaviors that I would change if I could, but I can’t, until I have someone who comes along and sees me as more than my diagnosis.

I’m a Child just like any other child,
except that my parents weren’t able to care for me, so the state took me. The damage that my parents did hardly compares to the damage the state is doing by not providing my foster parents with the services they need to care for me. Instead I am moved from one house to another until I end up in a place called Residential Treatment Center.

I’m a Child,
not a statistic. If I aged out of foster care, it’s because the state didn’t do their job, as my legal parent, to find me a home that could love and care for me.

I’m a Child,
not a payment to the state to keep me in permanent foster care, where they can, at their full unaccountable discretion move me away from the HOME where my FAMILY is.

I’m a Child,
Please don’t give up on me when my behaviors say I’m so unlovable. That may be how I feel about myself right now. I need someone to show me I’m wrong.

I’m a Child,
who, like any other child, wants to be loved and cherished. I want someone to see the value within me. I have the same hopes and dreams as any other child. I need someone to help me realize them.

I’m a Child,
I have no voice.
I need someone there to advocate for me when the system that I’m in makes decisions that are going to hurt me. Please don’t give up on me!
_________________
copyright 2007Lovemy6
Bio, adoptive, and foster mom

 

Petition: All Children Deserve Permanent Homes

Thousands of children enter foster care through no fault of their own, as victims of child abuse, neglect or abandonment.

Unfortunately for too many of these children’s; the hope and dream for a permanent, loving new family never becomes a reality. Over 24,000 children available for adoption will turn 18 and leave the system without a family this year.

In fact, more than 114,000 children in the U.S. foster care system are waiting to be adopted right now. More than half of them are nine years of age or older. They often wait five years or more to be adopted, can move three or more times in foster care and are frequently separated from siblings.

Through no fault of theirs, these children are “lost in the system and treated as if they have committed some crime! Being jerked from one foster home to another, can only add to the turmoil already going on within them .Our country can put a man on the moon, build rockets, create a “test-tube baby”, yet we cannot give older children a loving home life ? What’s wrong with this picture? This SHOULD BE our # 1 PRIORIOTY! Let us take the title President Bush used in “No Child Left Behind,” and apply it to this situation, let us look these older kids in the eyes and promise them, “You will not be left behind ever again.”  Are we willing TO MAKE AND KEEP THIS PROMISE?

Policy makers need to know that Americans believe:

Every child deserves to live in a safe, loving and permanent family.

No child should linger in foster care or leave the system at age 18 without a permanent family of their own.

No child is unadoptable!

Tell U.S. policy makers the process of adopting foster children must be streamlined so every foster child is adopted into a permanent, loving home!

Below is a link to a petition sponsored by the David Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Please take a few moments to read, sign it and pass it on to all that you know!

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/592844389

All kids under 18 have a right to a loving family; free from abuse and neglect. They all need love and guidance to help them become respectable members of society. A child is everything that it is brought up to be. As adults and elders we guide them to they’re destination and we teach them to be the best they can possibly be. Please we must do all we can do to make the future of the world a better place for all by starting with the innocent children!

Analysis of Foster Care System Data

The U. S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children & Families collects data each year from the states as to their foster care system. This, along with other resources, provide for the base of this analysis. There is usually a 2 year lapse in this data collection; thus this data is from FY 2005…the last fiscal year that data is fully available.

In FY2005 there were 3 million reports of child abuse and/or neglect

Of the 3 million cases reported 872,000 were supposedly verified. I say supposedly because the verification process can differ from state to state as well as counties within each state. Because of how Child Protective Services acts some verifiable cases can actually result from false allegations…if CPS wants to find you guilty they will no matter the evidence. Some of these reports came in after a child was removed from their biological family and placed in out of home care.

I also wonder about the over 2 million reports that were NOT verified. Were they not verified because there was not enough evidence? Were they not verified because they were false allegations and were those who made such allegations held accountable for their actions? What price did the bio/foster/adoptive familes pay (not just financial) due to these allegations?  

Of the 872,000 supposedly verifiable cases there are some cases that may be from a second or third report regarding the same child

Of the 872,000 supposedly verifiable cases the data breaks down as follows:

65% neglect
18% physical abuse
10% sexual abuse
7% emotional maltreatment

966 cases actually resulted in the death of the child

After supposedly verifying the cases of child neglect and/or abuse 311,128 youth were placed in the foster care system. Data is not provided as to how the remaining cases were resolved.

At the end of FY2004 there were already 517,463 youth in foster care

In FY2005:

The U.S. spent $22 billion dollars ($5 billion from the Federal government and the balance from state/county governments) to provide services for children and youth in foster care. This averages out to $40,000 per child.

311,128 youth entered foster care
828,591 youth spent some portion of FY2005 in foster care
287,998 youth exited foster care via reunification, adoption, runaway, aged out, etc
534 youth died while in out of home care attributable to a variety of causes including medical conditions, accidents and homicide).
114,000 TPR (termination of parental rights) complete awaiting adoption of which 66,000 had TPR completed in FY 2005
24,407 youth aged out
51,691 adopted by foster parents or others
513,131 remained in care at end of FY2005

Placement settings of youth in foster care during FY2005 :

Pre-Adoptive Home                                              4%    18,691
Foster Family Home (Relative)                        24%   124,153
Foster Family Home (Non-Relative)               46%   236,775
Group Home                                                          8%     43,440
Institution                                                            10%     51,210
Supervised Independent Living                          1%      5,918
Runaway                                                                 2%    10,930
Trial Home Visit                                                    4%    21,883

Case goals of the youth in foster care during FY2005:

 Reunify with Parent(s)                                    51%    262,706
Live with Other Relative(s)                               4%      21,722
Adoption                                                             20%    100,949
Long Term Foster Care                                      7%      37,628
Age Out                                                                 6%      31,938
Guardianship                                                        3%      15,653
Case Plan Goal Not Yet Established                  8%     42,403

Outcomes for the children exiting foster care during FY 2005

Reunification with Parent(s) or Primary Caretaker(s)
                                                                 54%   155,608
 
Living with Other Relative(s)              11%     31,362
 
Adoption                                                 18%     51,691
 
Age Out                                                    9%     24,407
 
Guardianship                                          4%     12,881
 
Transfer to Another Agency                2%       6,440
 
Runaway                                                 2%       4,445
 
Death of Child                                         0%         534

(NOTE: totals do not equal per the US DHHS due to how states submit their data)

32 states had an increase of youth entering care in FY 2005; Texas had the largest with a 3,320 increase over FY 2004 and Florida showed the second largest increase of 2,315.

29 states had an increase of youth in care at end of FY 2005; Texas had the largest increase of almost 20% (FYI: Texas data is also available for FY2006 which shows yet another almost 20% increase over FY2005.)

Of the youth entering foster care in FY2005 the percentage based on age is as follows:

0-5 years          32%
6-10 years        20%
11-14 years       20%
15-up                 29%

The lengths of stay in foster care for youth in care at the end of FY23005 are:

Days to 11 months         42%
12-23 months                 21%
24-35 months                12%
3-5 years & up               25%        

The 10 states with the most youth of foster care at the end of FY2005 are:

1. California              81,174
2. New York            30,420
3. Florida                 29,312
4. Texas                   28,883
5. Pennsylvania      21,691
6. Michigan              29,498
7. Illinois                   19,431
8. Ohio                      17,442
9. Georgia                13,965
10. Massachusetts  12,197

Race/Ethnicity of youth in care:

White, Non-spanic                                                       40%
Black, Non-Hispanic                                                    34% 
Hispanic                                                                         18% 
American Indian/Alaska Native, Non-Hispanic        2% 
Asian/Pacific Islander, Non-Hispanic                         1% 
Unknown                                                                         2% 
Two or More Races, Non-Hispanic                              2% 

Gender Percentage:

Male         52%
Female     48%

Foster Homes Available:

In 2005, there were 153,000 licensed non relative foster homes nationwide.

None of the above data includes the more than 2 million U.S. children living with grandparents or other relatives because their parents cannot care for them but are not part of the foster care system. When relatives provide care it is known as kinship care.

There are currently 114,000 youth who are eligible for adoption at the end of FY2005 after 51,691 youth were adopted. The data does NOT include youth age 16 and over who are eligible for adoption but whose case plan is for them to age out of the system

Age percentages of those waiting for adoption at end of FY2005 are:

0-5 years          37%
6-10 years        25%
11-14 years       23%
15years-up       14%

Lengths of stay for those youth awaiting adoption at end of FY2005 are:

Days-11 months            13%
12-23 months                25%
24-35 months                23%
36-5 years or more       42%

Age percentages for those youth that were adopted from foster care during FY2005 are:

0-5 years            53%
6-10 years           28%
11-14 years          14%
15 year-up             5%

The above data clearly shows the older the youth is and the longer the youth remains in care the less opportunity they will have to be adopted and instead will age of out the system.

Top 10 states with the great number of youth adopted from foster care during FY2005 are:

1. California              7,549
2. New York             3,422
3. Texas                    3,181
4. Florida                  3,020
5. Michigan               2,884
6. Pennsylvania        2,065
7. Ohio                       2,044
8. New Jersey          1,380
9. Missouri                1,309
10. Washington        1,306

The 10 states with the greatest number of youth in foster care but eligible for adoption at the end of FY2005 are:

1. Texas                   10,768
2. New York              9,219
3. Florida                   7,374
4. Michigan                7,061
5. New Jersey*          4,425
6. Ohio                        4,348
7. California                4,121
8. Oklahoma*             3,993
9. Pennsylvania          3,679
10. Oregon*                3,441

*Though these states are not amongst the highest with youth in care they are among not those with the highest number of youth awaiting adoption

In FY2005 24, 407 (this is up 4,400 from FY2004) youth aged out of the foster care system. Many are only 18 years old and still need support and services. Several foster care alumni studies show that without a lifelong connection to a caring adult, these older youth often are left vulnerable to a host of adverse situations. Based on previous studies done over the past number of years these youth will face the following:  

Will earn a high school diploma                                                      54% 
Will obtain BA or higher                                                                    2%
Will become a parent 12-18 months after discharge                   84% 
Will experience unemployment                                                      51%
Will have no health insurance                                                         30% 
Will become homeless                                                                      25%
Will receiving public assistance                                                       30%
Will experience the justice system                                                 27%

There is vital data missing from what the states report to the federal government (or the state does not provide this data) which would prove vital in analyzing the foster care system and the potential damage caused to youth in care. They are:

1. The number of placements the youth experienced while in care. This is vital as it has been shown the more the placements the higher the possibility of damage to the youth.

* * Children have on average three different foster care placements. The longer a child or youth remains in foster care the more moves. Frequent moves in and out of the homes of strangers as well as new schools can be profoundly unsettling for children, and it is not uncommon to hear of children who have been in 20 or 30 different homes or 5 to 7 new schools. Many have been separated not only from their parents, but from their siblings.

*Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support

2. The percentage of lengths of stay and age percentage for each state. This would show how each state is doing in complying (or not) with the AFSA of 1997 in regards to the 15 months out of 22 months rule.

3. How many TPRs were completed were done in each state. This could help in figuring out why a state as California have over 81,000 youth in care at the end of FY2005, only 7,549 adoptions happened during that year but only 4,100 were still eligible for adoption at the end of  FY2005.

4. How many of the youth in FY2005, or before,  had been in care before but had been reunified with their family only to return. How many have been reunified and returned more than once and how many times?

5.  How were the other 560,852 supposedly verified cases (of the 872,000 total supposedly verified cases) of child neglect and/or abuse in FY2005 resolved? (IE: parenting classes, in home services, rehab, therapy, etc.) Were some of these reported a second time and come into foster care?

6. What are the exact figures from each state for youth aging out and how many of the 24, 407 youth nationwide who aged out of the system in FY2005 were offered services to assist them to become productive members of society so as not to end up as one of the statistical failures indicated above?

My top question is: How much longer will our society allow our youth to languish within the quagmire of our foster care system???  

The highest measure of a civilization lies in how it cares for its children. ~Margaret Mead

I Was the Child Left Behind

Thoughts of a one lovingly placed for adoption…an adoption that would not happen but rather 18 years of foster care.
 

I watched others being chosen. I was ignored.

I hoped. I waited.

Sometimes they wanted girls, sometimes boys.

Sometimes they wanted a brother and a sister under
five.

I was too young.

I was too old.

Sometimes they looked for a child who had blue eyes.

Sometimes they looked for a child who had curly hair.

They looked and whispered that I was too short.

They said I was too fat.

Sometimes I was too tall or just “Not quite right.”

I wished that someone would come see me and choose me.

I don’t have much hope anymore.

They took some away.

They took little babies.They took pretty girls.
They even took young boys.

I am not sure where they took them.

They said they go across America.

They said some even go to other countries.

When I had hope, I hoped I could just go.

That was before I knew that I was too young or too
old, or too tall or too short, too fat or ” Not quite
right.”

My hope gone. I was the child left behind.

http://www.larrya.us (my web site)

What’s It Like?

Questions of a former foster child: This blogger waited 36 years to just say HELLO to my birth mother and 40 years to do the same with my birth father. Despite this most these question have remained unswered and will forever remain so as both are deceased.

What’s it like:

To know there were shouts of joy by all when you were born?

To have a mother or father hug and kiss you because they love you?

To feel proud as you run “home” from school with your first A and share it with your parents?

To play catch, fish and other things a son does with your dad?

To be able to say “my family”?

To say “my house”?

To say “mom and dad” and know they truely are?

To hear “C’mon Son!”?

To show your dad you can ride without training wheels?

To feel it “neat” to introduce your teacher to your parents?

To share your joy of high school and college graduation with your family?

To hear your life stories from your family?

To answer, “what does your dad do”?

To share pictures of you and your family with others?

To get a family heirloom?

To say you have lived here for X number of years?

To know a “family friend”?

To hear and say “I love you” and know it is meant?

To have Thanksgiving and Christmas with family?

To not feel “attention seeking” when telling your life story?

To answer the doctor’s question…”What is your family medical history?

To answer the question…”So… where is your family from”?

To say to anyone that…”This is my family?”

Please…What’s It Like?…tell me for it is the only way I will know…What’s it Like!

Diary of an Unborn Son

May 3, 1949
I am here today though my mommy doesn’t know it; she
will feel me real soon.

Late May 1949
I am a boy! I can see now and I even have a tail in
which to swim, I love my mommy even if she doesn’t
know that I am her little boy, I am here!

June 1949
My mommy knows I am here, I can feel the love swelling
up in her. I give her a hug with my tiny hands but I
don’t think she can feel them yet, I wonder if she
knows my name is Larry, I will have to tell her that
when I see her that is my name you know.

Early July 1949
My mommy will be proud of how fast I am growing, I
have allot of space to swim around. I am very warm and
secure. She rubs her belly I can feel her warmth. I am
going to pick flowers for my mommy when I am out.

Late July 1949
She brought us to a doctor today. She can’t hear my
heart yet but I hear her tell the doctor that I feel
like a little butterfly. I have a little bit of hair;
I wonder what color of hair my mommy has?

August 1949
My mommy is sad. I can feel her crying. I give her a
big hug cuz my arms are real big now. She cries a lot
when I kick her but I am just telling her I love her.

September 1949
My mommy brought us to a doctor again. She heard my
heart, she said it sounded like horses racing. I don’t
know what a horse is but I know that I like the sound
of her heart. It makes me feel safe and warm cuz I
know that she is there.

Early November 1949
My mommy is crying again. She sings you are my
sunshine to me.I like that she makes me sleepy. I try
not to put my feet in her ribs but I am so big I can’t
move around. I wonder why my mommy is always crying,
it makes me feel sad.

Mid-November 1949
I am so big now I can hiccup. My mommy thinks this is
funny and she pats my bottom with her hand. I don’t
know why but that takes my hiccups away. She eats my
favorite food for me. I like peanut butter, I hope she
makes peanut butter sandwiches for me when I come out.
We can sit and eat peanut butter sandwiches and drink
milk. I will sit on her knee after so she can sing me
a song. I love my mommies voice.

December 1, 1949
My mommy is sad again. She told me that she my grandma
and grandpa don’t understand. Why I wonder? They will
love me like you do because I am so cute.

January 1, 1950
Mommy started to cry again. When I get out I will tell
my mommy that I am a good boy and she doesn’t need to
cry anymore because I love her, and then I will give
her a great big hug with my big arms, and she will be
better.

February 1, 1950
We went to see the doctor again, I heard her ask the
doctor to see me. I don’t know how she could see me
cuz I am in here. She saw me though and she giggled
and started crying again, boy my mommy cries lots.

February 6, 1950 morning
We went to the doctor yet again and my mommy was
talking very loudly. I wonder why she is upset, maybe
she wants to see me real bad. She is crying real hard
and it is hurting me. I think I should try to come out
now cuz maybe I am hurting my mommy and she needs to
hug me.

February 6, 1950 evening
My mommy is screaming and my mommy’s belly is trying
to push me out. I think it is too squishy in here
anyway because I am such a big boy.

February 7, 1950 early morning
I am coming out of my mommy now. Wow, its bright out
here. I am not going to cry because I don’t want my
mommy to be sad anymore cuz her big boy is here

February 7, 1950 mid-morning
This isn’t my mommy holding me, she doesn’t smell
right, I am going to cry now. Mommy, mommy where are
you? Come and get me Mommy!

February 7, 1950 late afternoon
Mommy has left me. I can’t hear my mommy anywhere. I
am cold. I am scared. Why did you leave me mommy?

(Note) My birth mother did not see me before she left; at 19, unwed and unable to provide she had been convinced it would be better to place me for adoption. She found out when I was 36 and found her I was never adopted but lived my entire childhood in foster care.

http://www.larrya.us (my web site)

Pro-Life Does NOT End at Birth!

Did the headline catch your attention? I sure hope it did! It is part of a person’s signature on a message board I belong to which I have read numerous times over the past couple of years and it had an impact on me each time I read it. It however took awhile to get it through my head the full impact it should have on me…I finally got it!.

No this blog entry is not on the subject you may think it is. Though I have my personal thoughts about the Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice; that debate is for someone else to expound upon. I am sure though that this entry will receive negative feedback.
 
I do have an issue with those who seem to think that as long as the life is begun through birth their battle is over.  They do everything they can conceive of to stop a woman from making a decision to abort her child. They provide services for women having financial, pre-natal care or other problems so the women will make the decision not to abort. They even talk to the woman about adoption if the woman is unable to provide for her child after birth.

My questions are: Where are they after the child is born? Where are they when a child is neglected, abused or abandoned after birth? Where are they when the family may need services or financial help to keep their family together? Where are they when there is a need for foster or adoptive families to care for children after they have been abused, neglected or abandoned?

This is why I headline this entry Pro-Life Does NOT End at Birth!

It is NOT enough to do everything possible to see that a child is born. It is also everyone’s responsibility to see that these children (our children) grows up in a stable, loving and nurturing home  so they may have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential as productive members of our society.

I do not wish to generalize and say no pro-lifers have come forward to meet their responsibility; as a number have. I thank them! However I believe many feel their responsibility is fulfilled once the child is born. Your (our) responsibility has just begun!

These children are our kids. They are our neighbors, our children’s schoolmates, and our family members.  They are part of our communities, and they need their communities to stand up, be outraged and be involved in helping them reach their potential and grow up into successful adults, who in turn make significant contributions to their communities.

Over 1 million children this year alone will experience abuse, abandonment or neglect. The reasons for this is wide and varied though none of them are justified.

Over 1500 children will die this year alone as a result of their abuse or neglect. Some will occur while the child is within the foster care system.

Over 700,000 children will experience a period of foster care this year alone with 519,000 living within the system for some extended period of time. There are also a number of children in foster care for which no true justification can be found except CPS removed them from their homes.

There are a total of 170,000 licensed foster care homes in the U.S. Numbers are not currently available for children or youth placed in group homes, residential treatment centers or other institutional care.

Over 120,000 children this year alone will have the parental rights of their parents terminated and be eligible for adoption. Only 20% of these children this year will be adopted. The rest will continue to languish within the system because no family comes forward to adopt them. They are considered too old, too troubled, not the right gender or race.

Over 20,000 children eligible for adoption will age out of the system this year with no family, no mentor or other tools available to them to become dependable, productive members of our society.

A recent study of young adults ages 18-24 and 2.5-4 years after aging out of the system shows:

33% will experience homelessness 12-18 months after leaving foster care. Three of ten of the nation’s homeless are former foster children

27% of the males and 10% of the females had been incarcerated (80 percent of prison inmates have been through the foster care system) National Association of Social Workers

33% were receiving public assistance
37% had not finished high school
10% obtain at least one year of college
2% obtain a Bachelor’s degree or higher
51% were unemployed
84% became a parent
40% experience alcohol or drug abuse
37% have some type of mental disorder due to experiences within the foster care system
30% have no health insurance
Former foster youth have a higher rate of suicide than the regular youth population

*Casey Family Programs National Center for Resource Family Support

I should briefly state why I have such strong feelings on this subject. My birth mother had a choice back in 1950. She was unwed, 19 years old, incapable of providing for a child; yet she was pregnant. She made the choice rather than have a back alley abortion to give birth to me and place me for adoption. She did not know until I was 36 year old when I found her that her wish of adoption never happened. I was instead placed in foster care where I survived eighteen years of sixteen moves, hunger, verbal, physical and sexual abuse as well as attempted suicide due to the sexual abuse. I could have easily been one of the statistics listed above.

I was fortunate. Despite confronting the traumatizing events as I did  I did graduate high school and college, never abused drugs or alcohol nor the face other issues confronting youth aging out of the system. Far too many youth abused, neglected or of the system are not as fortunate.

So I repeat my questions:

Where are you after the child is born and parents are in need of services?

Where are you when the federal government, your city, county or state governments decide to cut programs that would assist these children and their families and possibly keep them family together?

Where are you when these children are abused, neglected, abandoned or killed?

Where are you when these children cry out for a foster or adoptive family when they need to be removed from their homes temporarily or permanently?

Where are you when these children need mentors, teachers, guidance, etc. when they have to age out of the system due to no family coming forward to adopt them when they became eligible?

Where are you when the system set up to protect and provide for these children fail them and they yell for reform of the system that may have damaged far more than what they were taken from?

I am a firm believer in life. I believe however the ultimate decision is up to the woman, and her God.

I am however putting my actions behind my words. I am fighting for the youth once they are born so they have the opportunity I have had; to live my life to its fullest potential.

As I said many pro-life folks today are adoptive or foster parents…they are there in the fight. I thank you and congratulate you! However there are, according to so many reports, millions in the US who proclaim they are pro-life. If that is the case then there should never be a child who is never given this opportunity when for whatever reason they are removed from their homes, they should never languish in foster care for lack of a family coming forward to claim them as their own, our foster care system would be the best in the world rather than the broken failure it is today.

Pro-Life does NOT end at birth…Be Pro-Life after the child is born! We MUST ALL Assume our responsibility today!