John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

About Foster Care in America

About Foster Care in America

John William Tuohy

   There have always been homeless children in America.   Since the 1880’s we have struggled between government intervention and looking to private organizations and religious groups to solve the equation of how to successfully raise children without parents.
 Over time political and sociological views of the family have driven programs and laws to ensure homes for these children.   These solutions have not only looked to families to take in children but have put tremendous resources over the years into orphanages, group homes and therapeutic settings.
  Foster care as we know it today has responsibility over about 400,000 children with only about 100,000 of that group available for adoption.  Most of the children in the system have parents that have not given up their parental rights. Children in our system are taken from their homes because the government deems the parents unfit to take care of them, have homes that are not safe, or come from homes where there is too much poverty to adequately care for them.  
Parents that lose their children to the foster care system are faced with an often impossible set of legal benchmarks to regain custody and often do not have the education, resources or ability to re-establish their own family unit. 
   The foster care system always has more children to place than families that they can place children into.  This creates a situation where more people are allowed to be foster parents than may be wise or ideal.  Generally, the government is just grateful that they have a family available to place a homeless child into.
 Although there are certainly many wonderful foster parents that commit to raise these children, unfortunately there are many more that do it for the financial reimbursement or other unsavory reasons. 
Whether or not foster parents have good or bad intentions when they set out to join the system, most do not have the patience or expertise to deal with the emotional fallout that is part of every child’s experience when they are taken away from their parents.
 The psychological land mines that are part of each foster child’s journey are mostly unknown to the average citizen in America.  We do not often think about foster care at all, let alone about the children growing up in our midst that are foster children.  Even the teachers in our schools often miss the educational failure that happens in the midst of an attachment disorder.
  By the time that foster children leave the system as unruly and misguided teenagers, they are no longer given public sympathy that the cute homeless five year old receives.  Our aged out foster children land outside the system with no one in their court and no government assistance to shield their fall. 
   Today the government is still faced with hundreds of homeless children and is still trying to find a program that will solve any of the many issues that continue to be sad, ugly and devastating.
    A federal study of former foster children found that 40% were on public assistance and half were unemployed. A survey by the National Association of Social Workers found that 20% of all runaways come from the foster care system. A survey also found that 80% of prisoners in Illinois and California spent time in foster care as children. 
   Foster care continues to be a major problem in our society with no clear successful strategy.  The laws and programs that are currently in existence continue as “good enough” until another child in foster care dies due to another breakdown of the system.  Once it hits the news we are all aghast that the system let it happen, but nothing changes. The children that don’t die in foster care face a life filled with mental health issues that impact all of us.  Foster care remains one of society’s silent blights that adds dozens of people each year to the roles of the incarcerated, homeless and mentally ill adults in America.

 It's your system...you, the American people, are the owners of foster care in America and you have the power to change it.....and I know you will because I steadfastly refuse to believe that the American people will allow this continue in their name...WE'RE BETTER THAN THIS.

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