I feel I should level with you. I think dishonesty comes easily for most people, and not because they are liars, either. It’s because most people generalize their feelings as they relate to their actions and, therefore, fail to honestly evaluate the cause behind the effect. My truth is this: When I started this process, I did so as a last resort to satisfy my deep need to be a father. I did so because I wasn’t going to let my failed past relationships decide whether or not I would experience fatherhood. I did so, in short, out of selfish ambition. And, unlike other aspects of my life where I have proactively made choices with a predetermined outcome in mind, I have little to no control over the outcome of this process. The only thing I control is the ability to put myself in a position where I can legally obtain a child from the State and adequately care for the child in a safe and loving environment.
And maybe that’s enough.
Social Service (CWS or Child Welfare Services), foster families, and foster children get a bad rap, each for different reasons. My limited experience with Social Services has dispelled many of the unfounded concerns I had going into this process. My Social Worker has been both easy to work with and encouraging, and has been from my very first inquiry. Gaining a better understanding of the circumstances required to be met in order to remove a child from a home and the requirements for placement into a new home, went a long way in helping me recognize the need for CWS (F.K.A. CPS or Child Protective Services), as well as the difficult legal landscape they traverse on a daily basis.
Foster families are probably deserving of some criticism, but it is unfair to evenly distribute that criticism. There are families who take in children and love them as their own, and others who do it for the money. Of the latter, the children are not always cared for in a loving manner or made to feel apart of a family. Without passing judgement, I would hope that this is the extreme exception, but I’d doubt that is the case, unfortunately. I will say that as long as those children are in a safe home, fed and cared for, that is still likely an improvement over the situation they were removed from, but it’s far from ideal.
The foster children are too often stigmatized unfairly as troubled youth. I have heard every precaution from “They can be dangerous” to “They’re often difficult to reason with and manage”, and there are probably a lot who are. But before you rush to judgment, let’s look at a few statistics. According to a census taken in 2010 (I will look for more recent stats and update these numbers accordingly), there are 402,378 children who are currently in the foster care system and, of those children, 101,840 of them are up for adoption. I believe that number is now closer to 114,000.
53% have a case goal of reunification with their birth parent(s). 52% male/53% female. That means 1 in 184 children in the US are in foster care for an average length of 20 months. The average wait time for adoption is 34 months.
The median age of children in foster care is 8.2 years of age. 25% of children entering the foster care system are infants. 30,000 kids will “age out” of the system without being adopted.
The age in which the majority of kids enter the foster care system is 2 years old.
20% of children in foster care wait 5 years to be adopted.
184,000 households in the US are home to at least 1 foster child.
A male in the foster care System is 4x more likely to commit a crime or become incarcerated.
A Female in the foster care System is 10x more likely to commit a crime or become incarcerated.
Children in foster care are 5x as likely to develop some level of PTSD.
In 2012, only 48% of the adults leaving foster care were employed.
Former foster youth are 7x as likely to develop a dependency on drugs and 2x as likely to develop a dependency on alcohol.
Only 25% of foster youth graduate from college. As opposed to 41% of the general population.
Of men, 33% of former foster youth depend on Government services for their basic living needs.
Of women, 75% of former foster youth depend on Government services for their basic living needs.
1 in 3 Americans talk about adopting. Only 2% actually adopt.
Below are the reasons why I believe these children often act out against a foster family.
18.8% have suffered from some sort of physical abuse.
7.99% have suffered from some sort of emotional abuse.
6.2% have suffered from some sort of sexual abuse.
3.2% were taken into the system due to caretaker inability.
63.9% for varying other reasons.
Doesn’t it make sense that if you abuse a child, starve and/or force them to cope with substandard living conditions, or neglect a child, the likelihood that that child will have difficulty making connections with people would be fairly high? That they might struggle with grades, experience adverse health conditions, and ultimately become dependent on the system or end up incarcerated? I guess what I’m saying is that maybe we need to cut these children a little slack and be apart of the solution.
This isn’t a guilt trip, but you can certainly see why my focus is slowly beginning to shift from satisfying my need to be a dad, to desperately wanting to reach out and protect a child from becoming one of these statistics.
Here’s a little more honesty: I used to see guys with their pants hanging off their ass, hat backwards, wearing a tank-top, and judge them harshly on their appearance. And on that note, it may be wrong to judge anyone on their appearance alone, but appearances do give people an initial impression. In truth, I was more frustrated by the fact that they had a child and I did not. But, since this is my blog and there’s no one to stop me, I’m still going to say this: If you want to be treated like an adult, dress like one. Unless you’re a 16 year old skateboarder, you should probably lose the sticker on your flat-billed hat.
And then lose the flat-billed hat.
Pull your pants up. You’re a grown man, and it might be time to tell your wardrobe. The world needs more men who can behave as men so the next generation can be kids without having to worry about ending up in foster care themselves. The world does not need another 35 year old man-child who dresses like a poorly funded Justin Bieber clone. But I do owe this demographic an apology. I have more recently come to appreciate the fact that, while you may not always “look” the part, at least you are with your kid, being a dad. So, I apologize for judging you on your appearance and not acknowledging sooner that you are taking your responsibility to your family seriously. I’m learning a lot about those who don’t and the damage that can cause a child, so my hat is off to you. Wear whatever you’d like.
Just remember that you have little eyes watching everything you do, looking for an example to follow.
Be an example worth following.
And if those statistics above bother you, let’s work together to help change them.
One final statistic: If just 1 family from 1 out of every 3 churches in America adopted, there would be no more orphans in the US. If there’s room in your home and in your heart, you are very needed. But this is not intended to put guilt on anyone or even an attempt to recruit foster parents. These are just some of the things this journey has taught me, and I’m sharing them with you as they have been part of my learning process.
My future posts will be far less about this issue and more specific to my own experience. Not driven by statistics. I promise.
‘Til next time…