Foster Children have no voice in our world.
they need ours.
The foster care system as we know it has never worked. It is still broken. We haven't treated our fellow man this badly since slavery, and let's be clear these are not men -- these are abused children. 500,000 children are in foster care in our country and they are at shockingly high-risk of being harmed all over again by the ineffective and outdated intervention we fund to protect them. Studies show that adults who were once in foster care experience more than double the PTSD symptoms of our Iraq War veterans (Plotkin, 2005). This means the intervention we provide for our abused babies and children is twice as psychologically damaging as war. That must be UNACCEPTABLE.
Foster care historically provides unqualified and undertrained volunteers to care for and treat our most vulnerable victims of child abuse during vital times of development. This strategy has failed miserably for more than a century in America and next to nothing has been done to change it. The outcomes for the majority of these traumatized children are appalling. Research has proven over and over how toxic and dangerous these foster homes can be.
Almost 80% of those incarcerated in our prisons have spent time in traditional foster care. 40-50% of former foster youth become homeless within 18 months. 60% of youth earn incomes below the poverty line. Only 1-3% graduate from college, and 25% will be in prison within two years of emancipation (Courtney, Dworsky, Ruth, Havlicek, Perez, & Keller, 2007).
These numbers describe an extremely disadvantaged and vulnerable population in desperate need of help. We must drastically improve the quality of care through foster parent professionalization. All of the most dedicated and hardworking child welfare workers in the world will not be able to effectively protect the safety of these children with brief monthly visits to unqualified parents caring for up to six traumatized children at a time, sometimes for the wrong reasons.
The Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI) (2015) describes U.S. foster care as, “ … An anemic and dysfunctional system in need of a major overhaul”. The token support and services the current system provides has created a culture of failure in every community. That culture wears down even the most caring and hardworking child welfare workers. They bring good intentions and dedication to a broken system every day and beg for unqualified volunteers to care for and protect our most vulnerable victims. The majority of these parents are either unable or unwilling to provide the consistency and love that children desperately need to feel safe and begin healing. They bounce from one failed foster home to another, experiencing new forms of trauma at each stop.
These children are at alarmingly high risk to drop out of school, become pregnant too early, become addicted to drugs and alcohol and repeat the cycles of abuse over and over again. A foster care system producing these outcomes does not need to be modified or tweaked; it needs to be completely transformed by innovative strategies into a new system we can all be proud to be a part of.