Percentage of foster care children in congregate care by state in 2013. Photo in public domain by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
The United States foster care system is broken. There are over 400,000 children in foster care in the United States and not nearly enough people working for child protective service (CPS) or available foster parents. This is how children end up in group homes. The subject gets very little attention. Because foster kids do not have much of a voice, issues in the foster care system mostly go unnoticed. Although the US foster care system is better than most it is still very flawed.
A foster child does not get to choose the home CPS places them in, so if the home is not suitable for them they have to stay there until CPS can prove they need to be moved. Almost 20% of children in foster care are three years old or younger– so they do not have the means to speak for themselves. 9 out of 10 foster kids say they have experienced abuse at least once in their life.
In the short film, Emily’s Dragon a little girl named Emily is terrified of a dragon, and she feels like she has no one to express her fears to. A real girl named Emily in the Texas foster care system made this film. Emily was being abused at a young age fortunately she was able to get out of that situation, but that is not the case for others.
Teens who age out of the system have no support if they are not adopted before 18 they go out into the word with no support. This is why over 23,000 foster kids end up homeless or in poverty after aging out. According to the Nation Foster Youth Institution, about 1 in 4 kids who age out the system will not graduate high school or be able to pass their GED. The inconsistency and lack of proper care in some cases do not provide a positive learning environment. The inconsistency can also make it difficult for foster kids to form attachments. If a child is relocated to several different homes throughout their life, the system is set up so they are expected to leave their foster family, classmates, and a familiar community. 33% of foster children will change elementary at least 5 times. 11% of children placed in permanent settings will reenter the system within the year. Even with foster families who have good intentions, if a child is dealing with trauma and constant change it may be difficult for them to flourish.
When entering the foster care system officials can separate siblings. As a minor, it will be very difficult for them to have little contact if any. This separates what little family they have left, especially if the children are young they won’t have much memory of their sibling(s). For older children, the separation may be a very traumatic experience.
Reform in the foster care system is necessary. No child should be separated from their family unless it is for their own well being. There needs to be more stability and evaluation into individual homes. Children who are old enough to speak for themselves should have a say in all decisions regarding their home and available opportunities to have private conversations with a CPS person; to guarantee their comfort in the home. Unfortunately, millions of children are orphaned around the world, with some adjustments hopefully America can make their foster care system more pleasant.