There were over 400,000 children in the foster care system when the AFCARS collected their data in 2015. Each year that number has increased. The AFCARS data showed an increase of 30,000 children in foster care since 2011. According to a 2016 article, some states and counties are experiencing shortages of foster parents, and the number of children in the system outweighs the number of available homes. Some notable cases were Minnesota, California, and Massachusetts.
If you’re a numbers person, then you can look at it as 427, 910 reasons why foster parenting is important. These kids didn’t choose neglectful or abusive parents; they didn’t choose to enter foster care. If we also don’t choose to help, then we’re leaving a large number of children without support.
We get a glimpse of what happens when there’s no one to intervene for foster children by looking at the statistics for teens who age out of the system. There are approximately 26,000 youth that age out of the system every year. 25% will be homeless within 4 years of aging out. 71% of the women will be pregnant by 21. Only half will find employment at age 24, and less than 3% will receive a college education. Many of these former foster kids will have PTSD.
The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 was an attempt to increase the age youth are able to stay in foster care from 18 to 21. We realize the need of familial support in success of our nation’s youth, and the data shows that youth without it are significantly disadvantaged. We can look at it as an unfortunate issue, but thankfully it’s an issue we have the power to change.
If the statistics move you but it’s adoption that’s on your heart, I’d encourage you to at least think about adopting from foster care because in the adoption game, there can be compelling reasons to go this route.
From 2011 to 2015, the number of children awaiting adoption has been over 100,000, but only half of those children are adopted each year. 1 in 4 foster children have a case plan goal of adoption, and there are currently children in each state that are free for adoption. You can browse your state’s photolist to check on availability.
Some of the benefits of fostering before adopting are that you’ll have time to bond with the child in your home before the child would otherwise be available for adoption, the child will experience fewer transitions, and you’ll know that child’s needs so you can better negotiate for adoption assistance. People who foster first have a better chance of adopting a wider age range. And while private adoption can be expensive, adoption from foster care costs little to nothing. If adoption from foster care piques your interest, you can talk to your agency about signing up for their foster to adopt program where you would be accepting placements with a case plan of adoption.
There will always be a need for quality foster homes, and individuals have to make an intentional choice to sign up for it. Despite popular opinion, every foster parent knows it’s not a money making scheme. It often takes a financial and emotional sacrifice. As long as we recognize and can discuss the need (making sure the statistics aren’t swept under the rug), then I have faith that there will always be people to step up and rise to the challenge of caring for children in crisis.