Foster Care System Pros and Cons
“Foster care as a whole has become a broken and corrupt system that can no longer keep kids safe under its care. Everyday children are being placed in foster homes facing different forms of abuse, unloving parents, and even death. The system has only progressively gotten worse leaving behind children traumatized to a point where no amount of love or therapy can fix them.
To inaugurate, the biggest issue with foster care is the inadequate placement of children in the system. In the United States alone there are over 400,000 kids in foster care waiting to be adopted (Ahmann, 2017). Due to these constantly growing numbers children are placed into homes based on cases of availability and not what their unique needs call for. The underlying idea of foster care is to put unadopted children in need out sight and out of mind (George and Walker, 2016). For decades agencies have hosted events called adoption parties that aim to rid children from the system in masses.
How it works
The issue with these parties is they’re used to find families for hard to place kids that have special and unique needs. If the children at these parties even manage to even get adopted, the arrangements usually don’t work out due to the lack of a connection. Experts say the fairs harbor hundreds of kids but only a few have actually been adopted. The benefits are scarce and the event is a waste of time for both the agencies and foster kids (Paulson, 2001).
In addition, another issue with foster homes is that they are more temporary than one would think and kids are moved in and out often. Time in a new home can range anywhere from months, weeks, to even a couple days. When kids are forced out over and over it makes them feel unwanted or that they did something wrong. Shipping children off like this only amplifies the frightening experience of having to live with so many different people.
A study of foster home placement in Massachusetts concluded that almost all children in foster care face at least two moves during their time in the system. The data retrieved from the twenty adolescents studied revealed that some were moved anywhere from two to nineteen times, and ninety percent of them faced four moves at minimum (Beyerlein and Bloch, 2014). A part of this is to blame on the fact that agencies feel uneasy with the idea of transracial adoptions even though white couples want minority children.
Social workers give unethical factors like race and culture precedence above putting children in adoptive homes (Spake, 1998). Ontop of all of this, many children are faced with the problem of sibling separation. Families usually aren’t looking to foster or adopt more than one child at at time so social workers tear brothers and sisters apart. In some cases siblings will never see each other for years or even ever again. It’s sad to think about the fact that a kid’s last true family member can be taken away from them like it’s nothing.
In addition, another serious adversity of the foster care system is the hundreds of children facing mental, physical, and sexual abuse. Child abuse and neglect vary in different forms of severity, but at the end of the day it’s still abuse whether it be repetitive or just a fatal accident. The Child Welfare Government concludes, “According to data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) in 2018, 49 States reported a total of 1,700 fatalities. Based on this data, a nationally estimated 1,750 children died from abuse or neglect in FFY 2016, which is 7.4 percent more than in 2012.
This translates to a rate of 2.36 children per 100,000 children in the general population and an average of nearly five children dying every day from abuse or neglect” (childwelfare.gov, 2018). More kids are dying than ever before and it’s all because of a failing system that no one is making an effort to fix. Not enough home and background checks are being done in order to make sure every kid is being put into a safe home so kids are dying at the hands of their foster parents and siblings.
The following quote from a TIME Magazine investigation on child abuse describes just some of the unfortunate fates foster kids are met with. “The autopsy photo shows a little boy who looks relieved to be dead. His eyes are closed. A hospital tube protrudes from his broken nose. He has deep cuts above his right ear and dark linear scars on his forehead. The bruises on his back are a succession of yellows, greens and blues. On the bottom of his tiny feet are unhealed third-degree burns.
He had been battered and tortured. He had been tied with panty hose and belts to a banister by the woman who had become his foster grandmother. The state of Georgia had taken him away from his mother, then abandoned him in the woman’s care. Little Terrell Peterson had so many injuries that the medical examiner gave up counting them. The child was six years old. He weighed only 29 lbs. The foster-care system is not working in Atlanta. Nor is it working in Chicago, where a boy was beaten to death by two foster brothers who were known to be violent. It is not working in Bibb County, Ga., where a girl with cerebral palsy was placed in a home with a swimming pool; she was left unattended and drowned. And children are not protected in Dallas either.
There two-year-old Joel Hernandez allegedly was beaten so severely that he had to be placed in a body cast. Yet social workers let him stay with his parents, then never set eyes on him–even after 15 visits to the family home brought no one to the door. All the social workers did was send a certified letter. Joel’s body was later found in a shallow grave. His stepfather and uncle are charged with his murder. Untimely death is often the only occasion for the public to catch a glimpse of the foster-care system. But there are living hells, and at times you can smell the brimstone a long way off.
At others the evils come in disguise. In Gillette, Wyo., Homer and Beth Griswold were pillars of the community who were asked to be foster parents. She was a psychologist, a former member of the child-protection team. Her specialty was identifying sexual abuse. But while Beth baked Halloween cookies upstairs, Homer was downstairs molesting two of the girls in their care. Had anyone spent a couple of hours checking his background, they would have found previous allegations of abuse and harassment.
Homer Griswold was sent to prison, and the girls were returned to their birth parents. “”They take kids away from someone like me who hasn’t got an education and money, but they give them to Homer?”” asks a girl’s father. “”Now what am I supposed to do for my baby? You know, when she came home, I didn’t know how to hold her. I didn’t know if, after what she’d been through, she should sit on my lap” (Roche et al.,2000).
Not only does the effects of abuse scar a child, it continues to destroy an already broken family. Not enough laws exist to stop child abuse and help achieve justice for any child wronged by it. Cases of abuse are often ignored or unreported because children are too dismayed to speak up. Austin griffiths writes, “Further, not all abuse is reported. If child sexual abuse does get reported, child welfare practitioners often find that it is “easier” to protect a child by meeting a different standard of evidence in court (e.g. neglect)” (Griffiths et al., 2016). Even in cases when a child is brave enough to speak up, they are not given the justice they deserve.
Going off of child abuse and neglect, there is the trauma and emotional damage that follows it. Childhood trauma is a burden that people struggle with for their entire lives. Trauma that goes untreated can cause mental health issues like anxiety, depression, and even PTSD. The United States spends billions of taxpayer dollars on problems stemming from untreated trauma every year because the issue not only affects the children, it affects their families and communities (Beyerlein and Bloch, 2014). Children facing the aftermath of abuse have severe trust issues after having their boundaries infringed upon both physically and emotionally.
These dysfunctional effects can trail into adulthood with a lasting influence, removing any chances of an ordinary life (Griffiths et al., 2016). Brittany Beyerlein writes, “Most kids entering the foster system have been exposed to different forms of trauma and are susceptible to emotional and behavioral setbacks… Some common responses include a consistent sense of fear, helplessness, sadness, inability to sleep, nightmares, bed wetting, hypervigilance, difficulty concentrating, racing heart, dizziness, and stomach aches. Childhood is a critical emotional and intellectual developmental period that can be hindered by trauma exposure and have lifelong consequences” (Beyerlein and Bloch, 2014).
Through all the unacceptable flaws in the foster care system, some would argue that it is a beneficial program for reuniting families and creating new ones. Laura Finley states, “Indeed, restoration of the family is achieved in over half the cases of foster care… where this is not possible, permanent adoption is the goal with about twenty percent of foster children. Other children are simply waiting until emancipation…” (Jacobs and Finley, 2016).
The issue with this view on the foster care system is that it’s completely ignorant. Restoration of original families in foster care is not always an accessible choice. For example, if a child is in foster care because their parent is sick, restoration is easy but in other cases when a parent is addicted to drugs it’s not quite as “simple” as they’re making it sound. Also, this quote mentions the other half of children stuck in group homes waiting to age out of the system when they turn eighteen. The drawback with this is aging out of the system is in no way a happy or desirable situation.
These kids, who are now young adults, leave the system confused and unadopted with no family for the rest of their lives. Children who age out of the system into unknown lives struggle with the transition and getting a footing. Studies show somewhere between fifteen percent to fifty-six percent of them never finish high school and end up unemployed or with low-end jobs.
A lot of them resort to drugs or alcohol in times of distress and find themselves homeless which can potentially lead to crime (Spake, 1998). Record numbers of kids are getting pushed out of the system every year with no one to fall back on for help. The young adults who age out of the system are not prepared for the hardships of life and they get lost in the mix of it all because of the lack of support in post-foster care (McLaughlin, 2017).
In conclusion, the foster care system needs to be fixed. The more we try to ignore the issues of it the bigger of a mess it becomes. If the problem of proper placement was addressed, almost every consequence that follows would slowly be put to an end. Foster care isn’t a place of second chances, it’s a place full of anguish and dejection. Every child deserves to feel embraced by a family, but in turn they are ultimately left feeling unlovable because of a system that failed them of its biggest promise.”