Is the foster care system causing more harm than good?

Biological family is almost always overlooked because before the Family First Act of 2018 funding was only provided to states if children were taken out of their homes, away from their entire families, and placed in out-of-home placements with complete strangers. This led to children being crammed into group homes and complete stranger’s houses, sometimes even out of state, and almost always hours from the children’s home. Many children have been abused in state placements and many children ended up running away never to be seen again. Sometimes children are killed in state placements. NCMEC even went so far as to attempt to implement training for social workers to report runaway children because most of the time their cases were closed after a few weeks of no contact. The children’s parent’s lives are also negatively affected. Their lives spiral out of control and become filled with grief, anger, and loss. Grandparent’s lives are also saddened and cut shorter by negative emotional and financial burdens that occur when governments destroy family units.

Children run away and parent’s lives spiral out of control. Unshakeable feelings of depression, dread, despair, loneliness, and hopelessness lead to addictions and suicides, both by the children and by the biological parents. I’ve seen parents that never drank alcohol or used drugs start using and abusing. I’ve seen grandparent’s lives destroyed and their lives cut short because children disappeared into state custody. Studies show that 80% of children in foster care are prescribed psychotropic drugs “to help them cope”. Jails and prisons are full of former foster children who turned to street drugs after aging out of foster care and not having access to the drugs that they were prescribed and forced to take for years while they were in foster care.

Most of the suicide letters that I have seen include statements about “not seeing a way out”, or that the family “will be better off without me”. The context is usually about child support and custody situations taking place in family courts.

The system certainly seems to cause more harm than good. Not even the Department of Health and Human Services shows any success with the foster care program. Every year the department (HHS) has to report to Congress, and every year the agency reports that it failed. And every year the reason that the department says that it failed is because it does not have enough money and that it does not have enough workers. And every year the department is given more money and more workers, but for decades the agency still reports that it failed.

America has a problem! Many professionals believe that children are over medicated. Studies show that there is a high prevalence of mental illness in the foster care population and that many of the children will be homeless when they age out. When they age out, they do not have access to the drugs they have been prescribed to “help them cope” while they were in foster care. They turn to street drugs because the state’s literally have them addicted to prescription medicines they no longer have access to.

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) has collected data that tells us that children are prescribed doses higher than the maximum levels cited in guidelines developed by the FDA and that legislative action is being taken to address how states are doing this (NCSL, 2021). The last I looked over 300,000 children less than a year old were prescribed adult doses of medications. Some I would guess were born of parents that were either taking street drugs or prescribed medications, but even if they were born addicted to some substance the amounts of psychotropic drugs they are being prescribed is concerning. What will their lives turn out to be like with no family ties and a bunch of pills to ease the pain?

So new laws were made, and states were supposed to make the needed changes. Right now, state and federal governments are just beginning to make policy changes that are required by the Family First Preservation Act of 2018. Four years later and states have not implemented the new law! Currently, as in the past decades, services are geared towards adoptive and foster families.

Funding stream to keep families safe and connected.

Family is the foundation of any society and courts are tearing our families apart! Reports showed that 50% of the girls in foster care become pregnant before 19 years of age, many (about half) before 18 years of age, 50% of foster children will be in prison within two years of aging out and 74% of foster children will end up in prison, 80% of the people on death row were in foster care (HHS, DOJ, Casey Family Foundation, National Coalition for Foster Children). Less than 3% of foster children will go to college!

The cost:

From Florida to California, the foster care system is broken. https://mindinghearts.com/2022/03/14/from-florida-to-california-the-foster-care-system-is-broken/

How does adoption affect a child? https://mindinghearts.com/2022/03/21/how-does-adoption-affect-a-child/

Unaccompanied youth make up 50% of the homeless youth population and they are unsheltered. https://mindinghearts.com/2022/04/16/unaccompanied-youth-make-up-50-of-the-homeless-youth-population-and-they-are-unsheltered/

Trafficking report from the Department of State even says that foster care is a problem. https://mindinghearts.com/2022/04/16/trafficking-report-from-the-department-of-state-even-says-that-foster-care-is-a-problem/

How does adoption affect the biological family? https://mindinghearts.com/2022/04/16/how-does-adoption-affect-the-biological-family/

U.S. says that 300,000 American children are at risk of being trafficked into the sex industry this year! https://mindinghearts.com/2022/04/15/u-s-says-that-300000-american-children-are-at-risk-of-being-trafficked-into-the-sex-industry-this-year/

Solutions:

Place children will family or someone that they already know and trusts so that their lives are not disrupted any more than it has to be. Family is the best way to keep the predators away.

Localize foster care so that youth do not end up in strange places with strange people far from where they know their way around. Localizing foster care offers stability. Children will not be as likely to runaway and this will prevent children from running into traffickers. Children’s lives are more stable when they are familiar with their surroundings and can build lasting relationships.

Make medical, legal, and mental health systems easier for young people to navigate. Biological parents can easily lose custody of their children to the state under the term of “neglect” which can mean missed doctor’s appointments. However, most foster children are missing doctor’s appointments. And when children age out of foster care and become homeless with no family ties and no healthcare insurance, they don’t have anyone to turn to, and most of the time end up filling up the jails and prisons that also cost taxpayers enormous amounts of money with no real results.

The foster care system is broken, and parents are having difficulty working through mental health and legal systems. Foster children don’t stand a chance! They are too young to advocate for themselves and are often passed through several homes. Usually more than one a month! They don’t get to have a permanent doctor or team to help them make it through life. This results in missed appointments, miscommunications, and a lack of proper care. Only about 25% of foster children receive services at any given time (Polihronakis, Tina, 2017).

Minding Hearts is building advocacy and peer support groups in each state.  The groups are created to raise awareness, educate, and advocate for those that might not otherwise be heard. We are here for encouragement, education, and support. We cannot give legal advice, but we can try and direct you in the right direction with your case. Links to legal services are listed with their states. Please share and let’s grow our groups. We are here to support families and develop resources that maintain family integrity. We look forward to your support. If you would rather become active by donating, then visit the donation page.

References

Casey Family Programs, (2021), https://www.casey.org/

Health.am, (2015), Mental Health Disorder Statistics, http://www.health.am/psy/more/mental-health-disorder-statistics/

KJV, King James Version of the Holy Bible, https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/

NAMI, (2021), National Alliance on Mental Illness, https://www.nami.org/home

NCSL, (2021), National Conference of State Legislatures, https://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/mental-health-and-foster-care.aspx

Polihronakis, Tina, (2017), Information Packet: Mental Health Care Issues of Children and Youth in Foster Care, http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/socwork/nrcfcpp/downloads/information_packets/Mental_Health.pdf

SAMHSA, (2021),  mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration, https://www.samhsa.gov/

Shi, L., & Singh, D. A. (2019). Essentials of the U.S. health care system with access (5th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. ISBN: 9781284156720.

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