But don’t foster kids usually come from poor families? Why should I, an educated person with a decent income, worry about foster kids? My kids will be just fine. Whether or not most kids do just fine is one issue. But the foster care “system” has kids from all walks of life, even if most are among the poor and the poorly educated.
Only about two percent of the Golden State’s foster kids make it to college. Why is the rate so low? Because foster parents have traditionally lost government financial support when the kids hit that 18 mark, forcing them to liberate the kids and send them to fend for themselves.
According to an editorial in the February 14, 2011 San Jose Mercury News, one fourth of all foster kids in the state go to jail within two years after leaving foster care. One third sign up for state or federal assistance within a year of turning 21. One in five becomes homeless. Two-thirds of all ex-foster girls have babies before turning 25.
Last year California passed legislation that allows foster families to get support until the kids reach age 21. The author of that law is now the author of a bill that would give foster kids the same privileges as it gives students with disabilities or those who are military veterans.
These are steps forward. But not all of foster children’s problems are directly related to education or financial support. These kids come from homes where there is the loss of a parent, family conflict, or mental illness. Their lives teach them to be insecure and untrusting; often a stranger in someone’s home.
The children themselves often struggle with blaming themselves for their removal from their birth home; wishing to return to birth parents even if those parents abused them; feeling helpless about being placed in multiple foster homes; and having trouble making an attachment to their foster parents.
Their pre-placement lives teach them to be insecure and untrusting. Most foster children have been victims of severe dysfunction and that victimization is their blueprint. So, when they arrive in a foster home, they are sometimes abused again. This abuse may be inflicted in several ways:
- Birth children in the home can abuse the foster child due to jealousy that their foster sibling is receiving so much attention.
- The foster child can perpetrate sexual or physical abuse on the birth child or on other foster kids in the home.
- The foster parent(s) may mete out abusive/humiliating punishments
- A foster parent may sexually abuse a foster child.
A recent report by Saskatchewan’s Children’ Advocate in Canada concludes that children in the province’s foster care system were subjected to many abuses (www.Suite101.com, April 2009 article by Karen Stephenson; “Child Welfare System Needs Professional Accountability”). Foster Care is imperfect at best and can be downright dangerous. Stories and studies about these issues abound.
We wonder how many would-be parents think about the possibility they will bring kids into the world who could end up in foster care.