Tuesday, January 29, 2013
One Kid At A Time
This fear of all things foster care is a very common conception. There are lots of statistics that show children who grow up in foster care are far more likely to have problems in adulthood. Clearly, the foster care system isn’t perfect and it doesn’t serve all children perfectly. One very common perception is that all foster parents are only in it for the money and they don’t care at all about the children in their care. Many people even believe the foster care system is worse than the homes abused and neglected children are removed from when entering care.
I have a hard time agreeing with this negative view of all things foster. While some foster homes are better than others, and many foster children’s needs aren’t fully met, most foster parents are pretty freakin’ amazing. The compensation provided to foster parents by the state is barely enough to cover the cost of food for children in there care. It is impossible to get rich by foster parenting, and an incredibly hard job. The vast majority of the people who chose to become foster parents do so for all the right reasons.
I will admit the limited exposure that I’ve had to the foster care system at this point is filled with bureaucracy. Many well intentioned policies have translated into cumbersome paperwork that has little if any benefit for the children in care. Still, I think the largest problem with the foster care stems from societies aversion to all things foster, not from the system itself.
There is a major shortage of good foster parents, so many foster homes are overcrowded and children often stay in “temporary” placements longer than they should. If more people, who knew foster parenting is not a way to make money but instead a way to care for children in need, became foster parents the system as a whole would improve. The problem isn’t that all foster parents are bad, the problem is that not enough people are becoming foster parents.
The second problem with the foster system is that children stay in it too long. In 1997, the Adoption Safe Families Act passed limiting the time a child could stay in temporary foster care before a biological parents rights were removed to 14 months. The reason for this legislation was simple, it’s bad for everyone if kids stay in foster care for years and years constantly jumping around from home to home until they age out at 18.
But tens of thousands of kids across the country still age out of the foster care system every year. Because even if no child should be kept in foster care longer than 14 months, social workers often fail to place children with adoptive parents after their biological parent’s rights are removed. This isn’t the fault of the foster care system, it’s the fault of our society. There aren’t enough people adopting foster children.
Jake Dekker adopted Danny, and wrote a book about it. I’m currently in the process of trying to adopt a foster child as well. But there are more than 100,000 children in the United States currently free for adoption and still living in foster care. Can you blame all their problems on the system that was designed to give them temporary safe housing? Or is the real problem with us? We need to change our society, one kid at a time. We need to start adopting these kids.