Reporting by the Washington Post confirms what the public has long known. Our foster care system is failing, nationwide.
One major flaw involves the use of detention centers and similar facilities to house children who have committed no infraction whatsoever [1A].
“…in an era when a surging number of biological parents are falling into the grips of drug addiction, and child welfare systems are struggling with a shortage of foster parents…case workers and courts have been funneling children into crowded emergency shelters, hotels, out-of-state institutions and youth prisons — cold, isolating and often dangerous facilities not built to house innocent children for years [1B].”
Both literally and figuratively, children taken into foster care for their own protection are instead being warehoused with rapists and murderers. Some are forced to sleep on cement floors with harsh fluorescent lights on during lockdowns.
Scope of the Failure
Because foster care is decentralized, accurate figures are difficult to come by.
As of 2013, approximately 56,000 of the 400,000 children in foster care across the country (14% of the foster care population) were living in what is known as “congregate” care – group homes, detention centers, residential drug treatment facilities, and the like . In West Virginia, fully 71% of 6800 foster children between the ages of 12 and 17 have been relegated to such institutions [1C].
The Opioid Crisis is greatly increasing those numbers.
Children in congregate care are isolated, hazed and/or bullied. Access to case workers, counseling, and education is limited, at best. The impact on children is devastating.
A larger proportion in congregate care drop out of school, develop mental health issues, and/or commit crimes, when compared with the children living with foster families [1D]. Some run away. Some resort to drugs and alcohol, themselves. Some attempt suicide.
This should come as no surprise. The institutionalization of children was recognized as so harmful to their development that most American orphanages were shut down following WWII .
In Search of a Home
The non-profit A Better Life has filed suit against 10 states for such conditions. But the foster care system has clearly failed these children.
Social workers cope daily with low salaries, overwhelming caseloads, and threats to their personal safety . It may take years for the necessary case study, even when a family can be found willing to adopt a child.
More funding, more training for foster parents, and more foster and adoptive parents are all desperately needed. For a child in search of a home, the benefits of a loving family are incalculable .
If there were ever a situation crying out for Christians – indeed all Americans – to step up, this is it. Platitudes are useless. God expects us to do something about injustice. Lip service alone is not enough .
“…the fatherless and the widow who are within your gates, may come and eat and be satisfied, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hand which you do” (Deut. 14: 29).
[1A , 1B, and 1C] Washington Post, “‘Destroying these kids’: The foster children growing up in detention centers” by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux, 12/30/19, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/we-are-just-destroying-these-kids-the-foster-children-growing-up-inside-detention-centers/2019/12/30/97f65f3a-eaa2-11e9-9c6d-436a0df4f31d_story.html.
 US GAO, “Foster Care: HHS Could Do More to Support States’ Efforts to Keep Children in Family-Based Care”, 11/9/15, https://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-16-85.
 Adoption.org, “End of American Orphanages”, https://adoption.com/wiki/End_of_American_Orphanages.
 Quartz, “The US has a shameful history of orphaning children” by Annabelle Timsit, 6/20/18, https://qz.com/1310306/tender-age-shelters-are-part-of-the-shameful-us-history-of-orphaning-children/.
 Washington Post, “Orphanages are no place for children” by Laurie Ahern, 8/9/13, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/orphanages-are-no-place-for-children/2013/08/09/6d502fb0-fadd-11e2-a369-d1954abcb7e3_story.html.
 National Association of Social Workers, “NASW Child Welfare Report”, 6/04, https://www.socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=Mr2sd4diMUA%3D&portalid=0.
 Child Welfare Information Gateway (US Dept. of Health and Human Services), “Families Considering Foster Care and Adoption”, 6/19, https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/f_fospar.pdf.
 Show Hope, “4 Things the Bible Says about Orphans”, 1/29/17, https://showhope.org/2017/01/29/4-things-the-bible-says-about-orphans/.
USA Today reports that children in Florida’s foster care system have been beaten, starved, and molested with few caregivers ever punished.
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