TRUE STORIES is a guest post series sharing honestly about adoption and foster care. My hope is to create a culture of support for the adoption/foster community. If you would like to share your story, click here. Today’s post is written by Megan Dottermusch.
When people think about the U.S. foster care system, they most likely have a few preconceived notions. Foster care is often misunderstood, and this could happen for a couple of reasons. The media often focuses on the negative side of the system and people are influenced by stereotypes that permeate popular culture. Limited personal experience could also be a factor. While cons to the system exist, there are still children who are adopted into loving, nurturing homes everyday.
To help dispel any myths or misunderstandings about the foster care system, SocialWork@Simmons created an informative infographic titled “The Facts of Foster Care.” The infographic details the current state of the foster system by outlining the demographics of the children in the system and the outcomes the children experience.
First, it’s important to understand why the foster care system exists. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau provides foster care services to children who are removed from their homes as the result of maltreatment, lack of care, or lack of supervision. Among the primary goals for foster care children are reunification with their birth parents, adoption, and guardianship, which are all positive outcomes when compared to children living in youth homeless shelters or aging out of the system.
About 1 in 184 children in the United States are in the foster care system — that’s more than 100,000 children in need of a permanent home. Becoming a foster care family requires a thorough background check, and while states provide money for those who support a foster child, motivation among foster parents can vary. Often it is the desire to make a tangible difference in a child’s life that pushes a family to seek approval for foster care.
While it is true that children in the foster care system are at a greater risk for drug and alcohol abuse, serving jail time, unemployment, and post-traumatic stress disorder, a nurturing and attentive foster family can mitigate these outcomes. Most foster families aren’t in the system to make money — in fact their mean household income is substantially lower than families with biological children. But an income doesn’t measure the worth of a family, nor does it measure the love contained within a household’s walls.
While there are flaws in the foster care system that need to be addressed, it’s important to remember that people are doing important and life-changing work. There are foster families that help children navigate the difficult and challenging path they must take. Families dedicated to nurturing young lives are needed to help at-risk foster care children lead successful, balanced, and happy lives. The challenge is to make sure children experience positive outcomes after going through the foster care system. For me, this means we need to work to ensure the benefits of the foster care system far outweigh the negativity, and that we need to create an enriching environment that sets up foster children for a lifetime of success.