The first step is Shining the Light on the need for change and taking on honest look at what is happening to our innocent and victimized children. Statistics and outcomes for this unsuccessful strategy speak for themselves. The current foster care system is like playing Russian roulette with our abused children's lives. Children are leaving our current therapeutic intervention with more than double the PTSD symptoms of our Iraq War veterans. More than 70% of foster children will be homeless, incarcerated or dead within the first year of leaving the current system. More than 50% of children aging out of the traditional foster system will be unemployed, 30% will survive on public assistance and more than a quarter will experience homelessness at some point. Only half will earn a high school diploma and a mere 3% ever earn a college degree (ChildRights.org, 2015).
Despite all of these tragic facts, there is limited attention paid by the general public, the media, or public officials. Perhaps the problems seem too large or too complex. Maybe it’s because very few people actually know a foster child. The heroic efforts of countless loving volunteer foster parents, overworked social workers, administrators, and nonprofits, together with millions of dollars in charitable contributions have led to some minor ameliorative improvements in certain pockets of certain counties. However, the system-wide progress has been minimal and ineffective for over a century.
When children must leave their homes because of abuse or neglect, they require and deserve positive, healing experiences in care. We must create stable placements that lead to timely permanence for children—via reunification or adoption. Children deserve and need to live in safe places with caregivers who can realistically fully meet their short- and longer-term needs.
There is no issue in greater need of a grass roots-driven revolution than our nation’s foster care system. We need to use our research tools to educate stakeholders about the unacceptable failings of the current systems serving foster children, but also highlight innovations – standards, policies, programs and practices which have proven successful in order to make real change. We need to advocate for the creation of new laws to help children and encourage replication of highly effective programs and best practices. Our target audiences are child welfare administrators, educators, and politicians at the federal, state and local level. Foster Care 2.0, in the immediate local version, is a community intervention program built on innovative strategies to serve abused foster children 6-10 year olds. The global version of Foster Care 2.0 is rooted in the principles of community psychology and will change the value of foster parents to “Professional Parents”. This transformation will liberate marginalized and oppressed abused children and create a culture of success that we can all be proud to be a part of.