Foster Care Crisis
“So, this is how it is in foster care, you always have to move from foster home to foster home and you don’t have any say in this and you are always having to adapt to new people and new kids and new schools. Sometimes you just feel like you are going crazy inside. And another thing, in foster care you grow up not knowing that you can really be somebody. When I was in foster care, it didn’t seem like I had any choices or any future. All kids deserve families. They need a family, to have someone, this is a father, this is a mother – they need a family so they can believe in themselves and grow up to be somebody. This is a big deal people don’t realize. I wish everybody could understand.” – Former Foster Youth
The above is an excerpt from the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care with Sweeping Recommendations to Overhaul Nation’s Foster Care System released May 18, 2004.
Research continually confirms what common sense tells us about disruption in our family of origin. Note the following dismal statistics:
- More than 80 percent of foster care children have developmental, emotional or behavioral problems (Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, Kaplan and Sadock, 1995).
- The frequency and severity of emotional problems among children in foster care seem to be strongly related to their history of deprivation, neglect, and abuse, and to the lack of security and permanence in their lives (“The Foster Care System and Health Status of Foster Children”, E.L. Schor, Pediatrics, May 1982).
- Out-of-home placements and lack of permanence undermine a child’s attempt to form a secure attachment with a primary caregiver. Disruptions in attachment relationships can lead to Reactive Attachment Disorder of Infancy or Early Childhood, a disorder in which the child exhibits severe disturbances in relationships with caregivers (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).
- Studies have linked foster care to conduct disorder. For example, Fanshal et al. found that 44 percent of young adults who have been in foster care reported being involved in delinquent activities that led to court charges. (“Foster Care, An Update”, Rosenfeld et al., Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 1997).
As reported by The Annie E. Casey Foundation:
- Some studies report high school dropout rates among foster care youth as high as 55 percent.
- Examinations of foster care alumni found that, 2 to 4 years after leaving foster care, less than half had jobs, two-thirds of the females had given birth, and fewer than 1 in 5 were self supporting. Nearly half of the population had been arrested, and a quarter had been homeless.
- In 2009, 420,000 individuals were in publicly supported foster care in the United States.
- Many youth in foster care have been placed in marginal group homes, rather than with foster or relative families.
Statistics reported by the District of Columbia to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services in the Child Welfare Outcomes: Annual Report to Congress provided the following:
- In FY 2001, 44.5 percent of children age 12 or younger at entry into DC’s foster care system were placed in a group home or institution. This number is considerably higher than the national average of 8.7 percent and is the highest percentage reported nationally.
- In FY 2001, only 28.9 percent of children exiting DC’s foster care system who were older than age 12 at the time of entry were discharged to a permanent home, the lowest percentage reported nationally.
Recognizing the risk for foster care children, Senator Mary Landrieu (LA) has introduced legislation that would help match foster care youth with mentors. Unfortunately, and due in part to lack of power of this constituency, too little attention was paid to these efforts, and The Foster Care Mentoring Acts of 2003 and 2009 (S.1419 of 108th Congress, S.986 of the 111th Congress) both failed to pass. These important bills, however, articulated the following findings:
- Research shows that caring adults can make a difference in children’s lives. Forty-five percent of mentored teens are less likely to use drugs. Fifty-nine percent of mentored teens have better academic performance. Seventy-three percent of mentored teens achieve higher goals generally.
- Children who have mentors have better relationships with adults, fewer disciplinary referrals, and more confidence to achieve their goals.
- In 2001, over 124,000 children were under the age of 10 when they were removed from their parents or caretakers.
- Mentoring programs that serve foster children are unique and require additional considerations, including specialized training and support necessary to provide for consistent, long-term relationships for children in care.
- Mentoring programs are cost-effective approaches to decreasing the occurrence of many social ills, such as teen pregnancy, substance abuse, incarceration and violence.
Senator Landrieu reintroduce The Foster Care Mentoring Act in 2011, but it was not enacted. You can read the full text of the bill here.
The National Mentoring Partnership has published a list of research demonstrating that mentoring works. Please visit their site at MentorWorks© Research.
Nationally on average, foster care children experience three different placements after being separated from their families of origin. BEST Kids Mentoring Program provides a mentor that is often a foster care child’s only consistent, caring adult link between foster care placements. Please visit our Investment Approach for more information.