The foster care system in this country is in dire straights, with no reform or correction in sight. We hear a lot about adoption, but very little about fostering and foster kids. A lot of people assume that the foster system feeds directly into the adoption pipeline, and that kids in foster care eventually go on to find their forever family.
Sadly, that couldn't be farther from the truth. Foster families are hard to come by, and the system is taxed beyond belief by too many kids, and not enough families and resources. Becoming a foster family is an amazingly selfless thing to do, but it's also incredibly difficult in so many ways. Sadly, fewer people, couples, and families are stepping up to take on that challenge, and the result is an astronomical amount of kids languishing in the foster care system.
According to the American Society for the Positive Care of Children, there are approximately 437,000 kids and youth in the foster care system. About 45% of those kids live in non-relative foster family homes, while 32% lives in relative foster homes, and 23% live in institutions, group homes, or trial and pre-adoptive homes.
Right now, there are 118,000 kids just waiting to be adopted. Sadly, foster care wait times can hit 3-4 years, and 10% of kids are in foster homes for 5 years or longer. 51% of kids in foster care eventually reunify with their biological parents or caregivers, and 52% of foster kids are eventually adopted by their foster parent.
This #FosterCareAwarenessMonth you will see a lot of numbers & statistics about foster care. This is an important reminder from @TNKidsBelong that children in foster care are NOT statistics, they are KIDS who need love and permanency. #fostercare #awareness #getinvolved #NFCM2018 pic.twitter.com/yo1eaAIEqE— ProjectMeetMeHalfway (@ProjectMMH) May 4, 2018
It's just a sad situation all around. Certainly more families WANT to be foster parents, so what's holding them back? Emily Westbrook shared some of her experiences as a foster mom in an article for Romper. First off, fostering doesn't pay very well; in Texas, where Emily is a foster parent, the state pays about $675 per child per month, which is expected to cover all expenses (clothes, food, school, etc.). Many foster kids enter the system with only the clothes on their backs, so setting them up with essentials isn't cheap.
Also, when it comes to fostering, the goal is almost always for the child to be reunified with their biological parents. Many people aren't cut out for caring for and loving a child, only to have them taken away and sent back to an uncertain situation.
The foster care system is deeply flawed, but absolutely necessary. Hopefully, society can find a way to rebuild the system so the kids who spend time in it (through no fault of their own) are supported and cared for throughout the process.