There’s an ongoing battle to tear down the myths about foster care. In a recent NPR interview, one foster parent discussed the negative impressions that the public is often given related to foster care—and how it’s a barrier to the great work that can be accomplished: “I think all too often the focus is on the negative and not on the good things that happen, the kids that were reunited with their family or the adoption.”
To help counteract negative perspectives and continue to educate Master of Social work students and social service professionals, SocialWork@Simmons created “The Facts of Foster Care.” This infographic provides the latest objective and authoritative data published by collecting bureaus related to foster children and foster families—as well as data that will help to dispel myths about foster care. The goal is to achieve better support for those who need it most—especially the children and those who are caring for them.
The 411 on Foster Care
In the United States, 1 out of every 184 is are in need of a permanent home, which means that there are more than 100,000 children in the foster care system. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau provides foster care services for children who are removed from their homes due to lack of care, lack of supervision, or maltreatment.
Those who are interested in becoming foster parents must pass a thorough a background check and undergo an assessment for suitability. One of the negative perceptions about foster care is that many individuals are in it for the money. However, the amount of state money given to families to support a foster child is only enough to specifically meet that child’s needs. In reality, the mean household income for a foster family is actually much lower than families who have biological children alone.
The primary goals of foster care include reunifying foster children with their birth parents, adoption, and guardianship—which are all positive alternatives to having children live in youth homeless shelters or aging out of the system. According to a 2013 survey by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, aging out of the system is all too common: “Last year, nearly 30,000 children turned 18 and were emancipated from care, with nowhere to go, and no one to provide them with support and encouragement. The door to foster care was forever closed behind them, yet they had no families to call their own.”
Making a Difference
A loving and nurturing foster family can make a tremendous difference in a young person’s life—even though children in the foster care system are at a high risk for negative outcomes due to a variety of factors. Social workers serve a critical role to address such factors, helping to ensure the availability of needed resources, including adequate guidance and supervision.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) agrees that involving social workers in the foster care dynamic is key. In 2015, the district started an initiative that committed $32.7 million to a three-year plan to hire social workers and counselors to help students in foster care. Acknowledging the impact of uncertain home situations on academic performance, LAUSD Foster Youth Achievement Program coordinator La Shona Jenkins highlighted the need: “The counselors have been successful in helping kids graduate. They’ve been successful in enrolling and increasing school stability.”
Although the foster system has persistent challenges that still need to be addressed, foster families are a shining light in this sometimes dark world. The dedication they show to nurturing young lives helps to make a tremendous difference for the children and youth who need them most.