The American Foster Care System￼Lydia Cockrell
What Is Foster Care?
Foster care, sometimes referred to as out-of-home care, is “a temporary service provided by States for children who cannot live with their families.” As a temporary arrangement, the ultimate goal of the American foster care system is reunification with family. In cases where that is not possible, the next best option is permanent placement in an adoptive home.
Children are sometimes fostered by relatives, or they may be placed with unrelated foster parents. These foster homes are subject to certain requirements while foster parents must undergo training and qualifications. All of the steps in the process of fostering are meant to ensure that children in foster care are placed in safe and nurturing environments.
The American foster care system is supported by the federal government, with much of the decision-making and management being done on state and local levels.
How Does Foster Care Work?
There are a variety of reasons why children may be put into foster care, but ultimately, this occurs when the children and/or their families are in crisis. This can be due to parents’ inability to care for their children, or it can be a result of child maltreatment. In 2020 alone, nearly 615,000 children experienced maltreatment.
Whether being placed in foster care is a result of intentionally harmful circumstances or not, foster care is a traumatic experience for children. Being separated from their families and loved ones, normal routines, and familiar surroundings can engender mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. The mental health of children in foster care is therefore an important consideration.
Children’s situations in foster care are managed by caseworkers, who ensure children’s safety and see that their needs are met. A caseworker’s responsibilities can include:
- Keeping kids in school
- Obtaining medical care
- Maintaining connections with family
- Securing stable, long-term family situations as soon as possible
Children leave the foster care system in one of three ways: by reunification with family, adoption, or “aging out” upon turning 18.
Problems With Foster Care in America
While the US foster care system was designed with the best of intentions, there are nonetheless problems that plague it. American foster care is riddled with issues such as inadequate resources, mental health issues, and poor outcomes for many who age out of foster care. Here are a few statistics that highlight the crisis:
- More than 420,000 children and youth are already in the foster care system.
- 90% of these children will experience severe trauma.
- 25% will attempt suicide.
- Of the 23,000 young adults who age out each year, 97% of these young adults will immediately enter into chronic poverty.
Here at For Others, we’re a collective of change-makers working together to address the crisis plaguing our nation’s most vulnerable. Join us in the fight to solve the foster care crisis, and donate today to help restore lives!