May is foster care awareness month and I am a foster kid success but let’s not forget that no matter what growing up in the system is challenging, before I dive into some good and challenging things, let’s look at some of the statistics in the US.
Here are some key statistics on foster care in the United States:
- As of 2021, there were approximately 437,000 children in foster care in the United States.
- The average age of children in foster care is 8 years old.
- The average length of time a child spends in foster care is approximately 20 months.
- About 50% of children in foster care are placed in non-relative foster homes, while the other 50% are placed with relatives or in group homes.
- African American children are disproportionately represented in the foster care system, comprising about 23% of children in foster care despite representing only 14% of the general population.
- Approximately 60% of children who age out of foster care will experience homelessness, unemployment, or incarceration within the first year.
- In 2021, there were approximately 184,000 licensed foster homes in the United States.
- The federal government provides financial assistance to states for foster care and adoption services through the Title IV-E program. In 2019, this program provided $9.2 billion to states for these services.
- The foster care system is designed to be a temporary solution for children who cannot safely live with their biological families. The ultimate goal is to reunite children with their families or find them permanent homes through adoption.
National Foster Care Awareness, observed in May, is an occasion to recognize and appreciate individuals such as foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, and child welfare professionals, as well as other members of the community who offer support and assistance in finding permanent homes and relationships for children and youth in foster care.
Here is what foster care the system is supposed to do
It provides temporary care for children who cannot live with their biological parents for various reasons, such as abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Children in foster care often face many challenges, including instability, trauma, and the need to adapt to new environments.
Through their experiences in foster care, some children may learn important life skills, such as resilience, adaptability, and independence. They may also learn how to form healthy relationships with new caregivers and peers, how to cope with difficult emotions, and how to navigate complex systems like the legal and child welfare systems.
But let there be no mistake that foster care can also be a difficult and traumatic experience for many children. Some children may experience further trauma, abuse, or neglect while in foster care, and may struggle with feelings of isolation, mistrust, and disconnection from their families and communities.
While growing up in foster care can be challenging and can present unique obstacles, there are also some potential benefits that may arise from the experience.
This has been true for me but this may not be true for everyone!
In part of bringing foster care awareness, I wanted to highlight some things that can be seen as beneficial.
- Developing resilience and adaptability: Children in foster care often experience a lot of change and uncertainty, which can help them develop skills for adapting to new situations and bouncing back from difficult experiences.
- Access to support: While not all foster care placements are positive, some children may find a supportive and nurturing environment in their foster homes or with their caseworkers, therapists, or other professionals involved in their care.
- Exposure to diverse perspectives: Foster care can expose children to a variety of people, cultures, and ways of life that they might not otherwise encounter, which can broaden their perspectives and help them develop empathy and understanding.
- Access to resources: Children in foster care may have access to resources such as healthcare, education, and vocational training that they might not have had access to otherwise.
- Legal protections: Children in foster care have legal protections that can help ensure their safety and well-being, such as regular check-ins from caseworkers, oversight from the courts, and access to legal representation.
It’s important to note that not all children in foster care will experience these benefits, and many may experience significant challenges and trauma. This is why foster care awareness is so important.
And these are more common and the norm, even for those who are actively working on their own healing!
- Instability and loss: Children in foster care often experience significant instability and loss, as they may be moved from one foster home to another or separated from siblings or other family members.
- Trauma: Many children in foster care have experienced trauma, such as abuse or neglect, prior to entering the foster care system. Additionally, the experience of being placed in foster care itself can be traumatic for some children, particularly if they are separated from their families or if they experience abuse or neglect while in care.
- Lack of permanency: Children in foster care may not have a stable, permanent home or family, which can lead to feelings of insecurity, loss, and disconnection.
- Educational challenges: Children in foster care may experience disruptions in their education due to frequent moves or changes in schools, which can impact their academic performance and future opportunities.
- Mental health concerns: Children in foster care may be at increased risk for mental health concerns, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder, due to the trauma they have experienced.
- Stigmatization and discrimination: Children in foster care may experience stigma and discrimination due to their status as foster children, which can impact their sense of self-worth and future opportunities.
It’s important to acknowledge and address these challenges and work towards improving the foster care system to better support children and families who are impacted by it.
Overall, every child’s experience in foster care is unique, and the lessons learned can vary widely depending on individual circumstances. It’s important to acknowledge and validate the challenges and experiences of those who have been in foster care and to work towards improving the system to better support children and families.