so I am going to do just that.
I don't have experience as a foster child and though there are few foster or former foster children who recognize that they have a voice, there are some who speak out on their behalf. For the many who can't or won't, I'll do what I can. John and I have been involved in various forms of the foster care system off and on for about 23 years. We've done cradle care (foster care for infants waiting for the adoptive parents to arrive), shepherding (pregnant teens), kinship care, and foster care. Over the years, I've come to learn that I despise bureaucracy and paperwork, that foster parents are treated more like criminals than parents, that foster parents are asked to love and sacrifice and call them our own all without any legal rights, no standing in court, and knowing that they could be taken away at any time. I decided a long time ago that I don't do this for the system; I do it for the kids. And if I think my role is difficult, it's nothing compared to that of a foster child.
As much as the system wears down the kids and burns out the foster families, there are two truths that must be known so that the rest of the world can begin to understand the plight of the foster child:
1. The American foster care system is a broken system legislated by broken people who employ broken people who are to look out for the best interests of broken children from broken families and then place those children in homes full of more broken people. And we wonder why this results in more brokenness?
2. Foster children need and deserve the wisdom of Solomon when decisions are made on their behalf but instead they find themselves tossed around by one-size-fits-all legislation.
Many states allow children to remain in care until they are 21 but few choose to do so and leave care at 18. They have no faith in a system that has failed them over and over and in the end, failed to give them permanency. And with a still-developing teen-age brain that has experienced multiple childhood rejections and trauma, they lack the reasoning and foresight to look into a future without a support system, life skills, income potential, and housing.
And then the statistics are staggering.
Children who were promised safety, a home, and a family now find that 1 in 5 of them will be homeless, only 1 in 2 will be employed at age 24, less than 3% will earn college degrees (despite full funding for former foster children), and 7 of every 10 young women will be pregnant within 3 years of leaving care.*
And so we fight for our kids; we fight to give them a home and a hope and a future. We fight to give them a voice.
Will you fight for a child, too? Dare to be uncomfortable in this broken system so you can bring comfort to a child who often doesn't even know how to accept it? Step up, Church.
*Jim Casey Youth Operatives Initiative