I have always felt strongly about the state of abused and/or neglected children placed in foster care because my mother was a foster child. I do not know a great deal about her past, but I learned enough from our time together to know that her childhood was incredibly sad. The time she spent with her foster parents, as well as her involvement directly with the system, were the cause of a lot of pain. The only positive aspect of her experience was that she was placed in a home with her sister and I know she was eternally grateful for that because she knew that was/is not the reality for many foster siblings.
May is National Foster Care Month and I’m sure that unless you are part of the community (a foster parent, social worker, child welfare advocate, etc.), you don’t know much about foster care or even the fact that it has been given its own month. National Foster Care Month is designed to increase the visibility of the people and programs working on behalf of the over 400,000 children and youth currently in foster care.
Here are ten facts about foster care that you may not know:
- It’s not the same as adoption. It is not permanent. Fostering can lead to adoption, but it is intended to be the temporary placement of a child with the goal of having them reunited with their birth parents or legal guardians.
- Each year more than 20,000 children “age out” of the system.
- Nearly 40% of children in foster care are under 10 years old.
- 30% of the current homeless population were once a part of the system.
- Nearly 25% of the prison population was once in foster care.
- Less than 3% of youth who “age out” will earn a college degree.
- The average length of stay in the system is 20 months.
- The average wait for adoption is 34 months (nearly 3 years).
- 1 in 4 people who are in the foster care system will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- About 14% of children in the system live in group homes or institutions, rather than with families.
Despite the $22 billion dollars allocated to the foster care system (that’s $40k per child), each year, and improved public policy, Wade Horn (Department of Health and Human Services) admits that the foster care system remains a mess. According to ABC News, “There are no provisions for treatment, prevention, family support, or aging out — just for supporting things as they are. He (Horn) wants to rethink foster care on a national level.” Until we are prepared to rewrite all foster care policy and implement programs that better equip children within the system to become self-sufficient adults, we need to support the people at the frontlines of the foster care battle. This includes social workers, foster parents, child advocates, mentors, community organizations, and advocates. We can start by spreading the word about National Foster Care Month by simply talking about it and by using the hashtag #FosterCareMonth on social media. For more information about National Foster Care Month and the American foster care system, visit: https://www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth/ or https://www.fosterclub.com/.