Friday, April 12, 2013

Adoption April: Foster Care Adoption Part 1: Statistics and General Facts

Hey guys, sorry I haven't posted in a few days. I have been working on this, I just hadn't finished it yet... and I still haven't but it got really long so I've decided to break it into parts. 

Okay, so the foster care system I'm talking about exists in America. I don't know anything about
the foster care system in any other country, and I've encountered nothing in my research that suggests an Indian foster system exists. However, I've included some world facts and explained the foster care system, because I do realize my audience is increasingly global.

This is the heart breaking truth: if than 1% of American families would adopt from foster care, 100% of the foster kids eligible for adoption would have homes. Another way to put it is if one family out of every three church congregations would adopt, there would be no adoptable children without a family. Instead, every year tons of teens age out of the system without a family supporting them.

One third of all adults in the US have said at some point they considered adoption. That means that if only one out of thirty three of them would follow through on that, there would be no children aging out of the foster care system... and I'll talk about why that'd be so great below.

It occurred to me that since my audience is increasingly global, I should perhaps explain foster care.  Studies show that children do poorly when raised in institutions, so foster care is when a child taken away from their primary guardianship situation by the state are placed in a someone's home, their foster parent, until the time they are reunited with family, adopted, or age out of the system (which in most places are turn 18). America also has "group homes" as part of the system, sadly, which are institutions. But they usually have no more than a couple dozen children so that each child is still able to get some attention, but they are even more traumatic than foster homes.

I've seen people cringe when the subject of adopting from foster care comes up, because there is a bit of a stigma. There's this fallacy that they are "bad kids" when in reality they are just kids who often times had to live through something bad. But the truth is, sometimes that's not even the case. Like perhaps they were just being raised by their grandmother who passes without other family apparent to take them in. Or in this day and and age homeless families are ever on the rise and perhaps their parents were just laid off at the same time and conditions deteriorated until the state intervened. I'm not saying let's speculate on every kid's situation, and I'm certainly not saying that the children who were taken out of a truly bad situation are in anyway inferior. The truth is, no child picks the situation they were born into and foster children are just kids, like any other.

Also, not every child in foster care is eligible for adoption. The system's first goal for every family is to reunite them with someone from their birth family or birth community (neighbor, godparent, family friend, etc).  The social workers try very hard to have that happen in 100% of the cases... but obviously it doesn't happen that often and the system believes while it's best for a child to be with adults who have a connection with their past, it's better for children to be in any loving family than to be in the system. So after a minimum of a year in most areas of looking for someone from their background who is fit and willing to take them in, they try to clear the child to be adopted.

This is why people say there are no infants in the foster care system, because there aren't any newborns being adopted. However, newborns are sometimes taken into the system straight from birth, and often foster parents who would be interested in adopting an infant have already been identified so they may go from the hospital into foster parents homes... who then adopt them as soon as they are legally able. So in actuality children of all ages are available through foster care, it's just they are often placed as foster children not adopted children.

Actually statistics show the younger they are placed, the longer it takes: the majority of children waiting for adoption were taken into the foster care system before the age of two.

I discussed as part of some of the common myths about adoption that you don't have to be a foster parent to adopt, and that is true. That being said, foster parents are usually the next people to be considered after the relatives and community connections because a relationship has already formed between them. Also, I just learned from the interview I've completed with someone who has adopted from foster care that at least in some states foster parents can adopt the children they foster for free, if they are eligible for adoption.

The system tries very hard to give foster children stability. That doesn't always happen. But
everything about childhood psychology says children benefit greatly from stability. That is why they so hard to place children in stable situations as quickly as possible... at least in theory. But truthfully not all foster parents are doing it for the right reasons and a lot of foster kids get bounced from one location to another.

The statistics on children who age out of the system without ever having been adopted is alarming.
Each year over 25,000 kids age out of the system. Over a third become homeless within three years. Over half become unemployed. Only about half have a high school diploma by 19 (compared to 87% of the general population.) About a quarter of males go to prison. About two thirds have children of their own within four years... which wouldn't be so alarming if the other statistics weren't so large that you know many of those parents are included in the other categories.

Honestly, America, it doesn't have to be that way. The first set of statistics I gave you at the top of the blog, about how if only 1% of Americans would adopt, is true. And the statistic about how if only one family in every third church? Seriously, America, wake up. The only children that have to be in the system are those not eligible for adoption. The rest could find homes, if only people were open to it.

And guess what, world? It apparently doesn't have to be Americans anymore.

America is part of the Hague convention, which I'll be discussing more at length when we cover international adoption, and apparently is opening itself up for international adoption. That is, for American children to be adopted out internationally. Most Americans I know are probably going, "what?!" But I read this a government website!

America is very nationalistic... but Americans, we're not taking care of our own children, so the government is saying maybe others outside the US would be able to do it. There are 100,000 children waiting for families in the foster care system on any given year, but only about 36,000 will find find families. You can see why the doors may be opened up internationally.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that everyone should adopt from foster care, and I'm not saying there aren't challenges. While there are infants available, mainly these are older children. With histories, and families.

All right, this is getting long and I have a lot more to talk about, so I'll continue it tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. My husband and I have recently been talking about adopting from foster care once our kids get to the 10-18 range, and I really appreciated this post. It helped me realize that my understanding of the system is good, and I can make a difference. :) We live in Canada, but it's very similar circumstances. Thank you for writing this post. It was a big encouragement.


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