Why What You Think About Foster Care Matters

It's time to change the future of the foster care system and the kids involved in it.

Today, while so many are focused on issues such as gun control, health care and economic security, we as a nation face another immediate concern that is impacting us all, even though many of us are not aware of it.

The number of children in the Foster Care system is staggering, and their education, financial status and job outlook is going to affect all of us—regardless of whether or not we have any involvement about the foster care system. Here are a few foster care considerations that we all need to be mindful of.

Foster care’s financial impact

When you think about the economy and how much is paid in taxes each year, consider the fact that every child in the foster care system is supported by your taxes. In 2012, there were about 650,000 children that spent some time in and out of home care in the United States. The Department of Economic Security pays foster parents to house these kids in addition to paying for childcare, clothing, food, etc.

Another, larger concern that we as citizens should consider is what becomes of these children in the foster system when they transition to adulthood. According to 2011 data from the website Angels Foster Family Network, of foster children:

The foster care system not only impacts the children today but also every American’s future.

  • 54 percent earn a high school diploma
  • 2 percent earn a Bachelor’s degree or higher
  • 84 percent become parents too soon, exposing their children to a repeated cycle of neglect and abuse
  • 51 percent are unemployed
  • 30 percent have no health insurance
  • 30 percent receive public assistance

How is this impacting the American citizens who are not only paying for the children to be supported, but also paying for their unemployment, healthcare and public assistance as adults?

Foster care’s emotional impact

The foster care system takes an emotional toll on the children involved both while they are in it and after. According to the advocacy group Children’s Rights, up to 80 percent of foster children have serious emotional problems.

More than 60,000 children living in foster care have had their biological parental rights terminated, and once the parental rights are terminated, many of the children will wait on average two years to be adopted. This translates to a lack of consistency in their home lives, and sometimes, a lifetime of trouble.Thirty-five percent of foster children reported having been incarcerated at some point before reaching the age of 17. According to a study from 2006, around 25 percent of those in prison were once in foster care.

With these grim facts, it stands to reason that we need to address these issues today and help focus on the issues that create the wide spread problems and concerns of tomorrow.

Changing the future of foster care

As these statistics show, the foster care system has far-reaching problems for the kids involved and Americans in general. It's time for America to change the way we look at concerns and focus more on redeveloping a system that allows us to love and nurture foster children. The children in foster care today need support, education and a better system that helps them to be successful as adults, which in turn would be better for our nation as a whole. Instead of supporting the system in place today, perhaps it’s time to look at re-adjusting it.

In the meantime, there are many ways to get involved today to help our foster children prepare for tomorrow. Obviously, you could look into becoming a foster parent or even a foster-to-adopt parent, in which you provide a child a permanent home. But not all of us are in a position for these sorts of measures, and if you're not, there are still many ways for you to get involved.

The children in foster care today need support, education and a better system that helps them to be successful as adults

One is to volunteer to work with the children as a mentor or even as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate). For some children, having reunification with their biological parents would be a win-win situation, but many of these parents need help and guidance. According to Connie Hayek, a child welfare consultant in the D.C. area, some of the best ways to help struggling biological parents include assisting with meals, household tasks, reaching out and providing encouragement and assisting with job-seeking skills.

Organizations such as the Dave Thomas Foundation or websites such as adoptuskids.org are excellent resources to help you take that first step in making a change for tomorrow.

Foster Care is an issue that can't be ignored any longer. Especially within the Church, it's high time for us to reach out to love, support and mentor foster kids throughout their time in the system and after they age out. It's time to look at what we can do today to impact the future of foster care.

8 Comments

Anna

23

Anna commented…

My mom and dad are foster parents and I've seen a lot of kids coming in and out of my home (my parents do more short-term foster care, generally, though we've had some longer term stays) and the emotional impact comes from the biological parents first, and then from the fact that they are in the foster care system; not from the foster parents themselves. I would say, from watching my parents and friends of theirs they've made through foster care who also care for foster children, what foster parents strive for is to provide these kids with unconditional love and serious structure - and honestly, that's the best thing for them.

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Andy Herndon

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Andy Herndon commented…

My wife and I have been foster parents for almost 5 years in two different States and I myself was in the CPS system as a child. In reference to the following comment: "...the author of this article seems to imply that the emotional impact to these children (as evidenced by poor outcomes in education or high crime rates) is due to the system. I believe that is a fallacy (correlation should not imply causation). " I would say that yes the trauma they usually face before going into care has significant impact on them, but the author is correct in saying that the system hurts children.

Some states are better than others... the last state we served in was HORRIBLE and made the problem worse whereas the current state we serve as foster parents in is much better. There are 50 States with 50 different systems and even those differ from county to county. Either way the foster car system in our country is broken and is evidence of a much bigger problem.

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Dan

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Dan commented…

My wife and I have been foster parents for a little over three years. In that time we have had five children in our home, and adopted one of them. Although our experience is limited, it didn't take long to experience some of the shortcomings of "the system". We do get reimbursed for some of the costs, but it's nothing like getting paid to do it. I suppose there are some who might. That seems like a crazy idea to me, because the price for being foster parents is very high. It will take a toll on your family that is hard to describe, and there is no way to prepare for, in my experience anyway. That is not to say that it isn't also a blessing. The kids we have had were costing the state a lot of money, and their families were too. In my opinion this would probably not have changed as they grew up, and began having baby's and perpetuating the dysfunction. The fact that there are over half a million kids in foster care is evidence of a much greater problem. The foster care system is far from perfect, trying to apply human solutions to fix something that was broken long ago in a garden with human solutions.

Here is what I want to say. Invite a child into your home, by God's grace, be the best parents you can be. Love them, nurture them, encourage them, and show them God's love in every way possible you can. If possible, adopt them. I know that everyone can't do this. But if God calls you to it - say yes.

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Becky Brown

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Becky Brown commented…

I have been a foster parent for 61/2 yrs. We take in primarily teenage boys. The system is so busy trying to cover it's own self that many many many times it its to the teens detriment. I have had 17 boys now. 2 of which are in jail. 3 are in college. God is good. We work really hard to help these young men and try to incorporate the school and community to get them ready for real life. It is always an up hill battle. The kids always feel like they don't belong and always feel they cannot be normal. They system did not create their pain it perpetuates it. Many times they do not have proper ID so they can get a job,or a drivers license. Just to get them a legal copy of their birth certificate is like pulling teeth. Any way I digress.
The biggest problem is the lack of continuity. Every state every county, every agency,and every judge do thingsdifferently. I have had 3 boys in my home from 3 different counties with 3 different sets of rules. AND we wonder why our children coming out of the system fail.
We need stable homes and parents that will fight to get each child what they need. The bio parents need to be re educated on how to parent. BUT you cannot change a conscience, you cannot change a person who just should never have had this beautiful miracle of God. You cannot change the fact that a mother has 5 different kids from 5 different fathers and cannot care for them and cares more about her drugs than feeding her children. Any way I could comment forever. So i will stop now.
Also I feel the statistics in the article are grossly underestimated. Especially when it comes to the African American population.

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Anissa

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Anissa commented…

"They system did not create their pain it perpetuates it."

Thats a great way of putting it. Its not the systems fault they are IN foster care to start with, but they aren't always super quick to help get them in better situations. I think the point of the article is that for people that love God its time to add the children here to our priority list by doing what we can to take care of them. Make them our emergency.

My parents have been foster parents for years.They are rad parents. Others haven't been as fortunate. Some kids get put in homes where people just do it for the money...so the more God loving people who help kids, the less kids in terrible or suspect foster homes.

I appreciate that the article is bringing up the issue, because I bet its something some of the Relevant readers haven't really thought about. Especially if they are college aged and don't feel like there's anything they can do.

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