All children deserve a safe and happy life — including the 463,000 American children and youth who have been abused, neglected or abandoned and are in the United States foster care system through no fault of their own. Their families are in crisis and unable to provide for their safety and essential well-being. These children reside in temporary kinship environments, non-family foster homes, group facilities or institutional care as they wait for the professionals who surround their lives to assure their safety at home.
Although more than half of these children will eventually go back to their families, the rest are either unable to return home, because their parents cannot provide a safe and healthy environment and they are waiting to be adopted, or will turn 18 and leave the system without a family of their own.
In 1988, the National Foster Parent Association (www.nfpainc.org) persuaded members of Congress to proclaim May as National Foster Care Month to elevate the national discussion about children in care, to recognize the thousands of foster parents who work on behalf of these children each and every day and to celebrate the promise of all children in foster care. Today, through local events, media messaging and professional partnerships across the nation, foster care has become a more accessible and understandable issue. And yet, there is much more to accomplish. Consider the following:
§ Child welfare issues arise in families of every race, ethnicity, culture, and age group and in all communities across the nation. A disproportionate percentage of youth in foster care, though, are children of color, particularly American Indian and African American children. In addition, children of color in the child welfare system experience poorer outcomes.
§ Children who go into foster care and then return home spend nearly two years in care; children waiting to be adopted can wait four years or more in foster care, are often moved from home to home and can be separated from siblings.
§ Older youth are in most urgent need of attention. Nearly half of the young people in foster care are over the age of 10. During the last several years, the numbers of young people aging out of foster care have annually increased to nearly 30,000.
- A recently released study revealed that youth who reach the age of majority – age 18 in most states – and exit the system, experience futures full of hardship: More than one in five will become homeless after age 18; just 58 percent will graduate high school by age 19 (compared to 87 percent nationally); fewer than 3 percent will earn a college degree by age 25 (compared to 28 percent nationally); and one in four will be incarcerated within two years of leaving the system.
There are more than 12 million alumni of foster care in this country today. Family dynamics of substance abuse, violence and/or neglect that force a child’s move into foster care can interrupt healthy emotional and physical development stages and damage a sense of security for hundreds of thousands of children. You can help develop the full potential of a child in your community and help restore their childhood as a cherished time in their lives. There are many ways to get involved -- this month and throughout the year:
§ Learn more about foster care and the needs of those touched by this issue
Foster Club www.fosterclub.com/foster-care-facts
§ Become a mentor or a volunteer advocate for a child in foster care
National Mentoring Partnership www.mentoring.org/
National CASA Association www.casaforchildren.org/
§ Consider becoming a foster parent or an adoptive parent from foster care
National Foster Parent Association www.nfpainc.org
Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption www.davethomasfoundation.org/Free- Adoption-Resources/Free-Materials/General-Adoption-Information
You can make a difference in the life of a child in foster care. For more information on America’s most vulnerable youth, call the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption at 1-800-ASK-DTFA (1-800-275-3832).
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption is a national nonprofit public charity dedicated to dramatically increasing the adoptions of the more than 150,000 children waiting in North America’s foster care systems. Created by Wendy’s® founder, Dave Thomas, who was adopted, the Foundation implements results-driven national signature programs, foster care adoption awareness initiatives and research-based advocacy efforts. As the only foundation dedicated exclusively to foster care adoption, we are driven by Dave’s simple value: Do what’s best for the child.