Ep. 15 Foster Care: How We Have Failed Our Children

Foster Care

History of Foster Care

The history of foster care dates back to the mid 19th century where there were 30k homeless children in New York. Moved them into farms for a better life.

As a country, we have failed our children. One piece of evidence is our foster care system. Foster is a term used to describe with a child is removed from their home and place in the care of another. Whether that is a relative, group home, or in a private home. Typically when one thinks of foster home, they think of a child going to a private home of a stranger.

At any given time there are around 400k children in the foster care system. 400k! On average, over 600k children go through the foster care system every year and spend an average of 3 years in non-permanent homes.

These are insane numbers, and they illustrate a deeper issue in our society. That is a poor home situation for these kids. For whatever reason, states do not want to leave hundreds of thousands of children in their homes. Unsurprisingly, a large number of these children come from poor households. Communities where parents have to work insane hours at low-paying jobs in order to make ends meet.

These children do not have it easy. They have an unstable living conditions. For one, they go and live with complete strangers. 55% of children will go through at least three separate placements. Or in the case of Claudia Felder who had 6 starting at the age of 3. Another report showed that 33% of children changed elementary schools 5 times or more. Imagine being in a different school every year. How can you maintain relationships? How can you stay caught up in school?

They are always being shuffled around, in and out of homes. Never feeling secure. It’s difficult to feel safe, get comfortable because you never know when you’ll be uprooted again. All the while having to sometimes deal with traumatic events.

These kids were pulled from their homes for a reason. It’s never because everything was hunky-fuckin-dory. It’s only in cases of neglect and/or abuse. Sometimes sexual. They may have seen a parent get beaten. They may have suffered the abuse themselves.

Then they leave that home and get placed in a foster home which sometimes are also abusive. I mentioned Claudia Felder earlier, take a listen to part of her story.

Five out of the 6 homes she lived in were abusive before she finally found a permanent home. I wish I could say that this was the worst case or that it was an anomaly but it’s not.

In 2008 there were several lawsuits in florida against the state because one foster parent molesting young girls. 2009 saw Oregan pay out $2 million for abuse against twins. The worst one that I found, because after reading it I decided to stop looking further, was a $30 million payout in california. I won’t go into detail about what he did to those children. Suffice it to say that a jury felt it deserved $30 million, and 220 years in prison.

Part of this stems from the caseworkers who are often undertrained and overworked.  

High turnover. About 20% annually. With fiscally-minded procedures, most cases go to inexperienced workers because they are willing to take less money than veterans.

That brings us to the final challenge faced by children in the foster care system, what it they don’t get adopted? Once they age out of foster care, there is little for them. In 2012, almost 24k kids aged out. 40% were homeless. 60% had been convicted of a crime. Only 48% were employed. 50% were involved in substance abuse. Nearly 25% didn’t have a HS diploma or GED.

They lack the family support that so many of us take for granted. In their unstable upbringing, that are unable to form the connections most of us do naturally, When we were down on our luck, we could always count on family to lend a hand or a couch. We have our parents to call for advice. To help us file our taxes, or how to change a fuel filter. But for youth aging out of foster care, they don’t have this. Once they hit 18, they are pretty much on their own. Due to this, the U.S. spends about $8 billion a year in social costs.

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Music provided by: “Summon the Rawk” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

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