9 Facts About the Foster Care System that Will Keep You Up at Night
After going through the process of domestic adoption through CPS ourselves, our eyes and our hearts were opened to so many truths about the foster care and adoption process in the U.S.
I don’t know about you, but I really did not know much about how Child Protective Services works or how many children were actually apart of it.
I hate to admit it, but I am of the digital generation. We do not have a landline or house phone but instead 2 cell phones. We do not pay for cable anymore but instead only watch Netflix, Hulu and Amazon for our shows. That means no local news for us. I follow our local news on social media, I keep up with high level politics through Top Yahoo news and social media, and I keep up with a lot of hot social issues.
And I know I am not the only one! This is definitely a huge trend in the way broadcasting avenues are changing. And one thing not mentioned as much by mainstream media is our foster system.
I was actually reading an article on Fast Company (I love technology and how it relates to business and marketing) on “10 Issues that Will Shape the World in 2016.”
And here is what they came up with:
The Refugee Crisis, Climate Change, Data Security, The U.S. Presidential Election, Regulating Drones & Self-Driving Cars, Gun Violence, ISIS, Global Internet Access, Regulating the Sharing Economy & #BlackLivesMatter and Other Social Injustices.
I mean, given our current headlines, I agree with this list. This is what we see and hear in the news (however you receive it) the most.
It is just still so shocking that you really do not hear a lot about our foster system and how many children need homes! Our system in many ways is in disarray and needs intervention with our laws and regulations, it is in desperate need of more workers, as well as more foster and foster-to-adopt families.
But I guess that is not as sexy of a headline as drones or global Internet access. [Insert eye roll here].
There are 415,129 children in the foster system. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau.  415,000 children in the system! That is a staggering number. Most of these children are coming into care because of some type of neglect or abuse in the home. And an astonishing 250,000 children enter the system each year. No wonder our world is the way it is!
Of these, only 50,644 will be adopted this year. If you do the math, that comes out to 12%. Only a small percentage of the children in care will actually be adopted this year. They will continue to be a part of our state system; they will continue to be in a foster home or multiple foster homes. They will not have a forever home this year.
38% of children in the foster care system are in care for 12 months and more. 28% are in care for 24 months and more. While 16% are in care for over 3 years. Can you imagine year-after-year remaining in a foster home. Having no roots. Even in the best-case scenario staying in the same foster home, is not the same as a child growing up having someone to officially call their own. Everyone wants and craves family and love. And the older they get, and the longer they remain in foster care, the harder and smaller chance they have of being adopted.
More than 22,000 children will “age out” of the system each year. According to ChildrensRights.Org, "Aging out" of the system is a term that describes teens when they turn 18 years of age, and the child has not been successfully matched with an adoptive family or reunited with their biological family. They are then no longer in the state program and are released into society with no benefits or resources.  “Youth who age out of foster care are less likely than youth in the general population to graduate from high school and are less likely to attend or graduate college.” Do you remember life at 18? I know I was not ready to be on my own at that point in time. And I was probably one of the more responsible teens actually attending college classes and having a part-time job at the same time. But by no means would that classify me as a responsible adult who could be totally independent and taking care of myself. And here I had a high school education and working towards a college education for my career. These kids may not have even graduated high school and now have to support their selves in every aspect of life.
4,544 children in the foster care system are runaways. Of these foster children, 4,544 will become runaways. This is huge. These are children under the age of 18 who run away from the foster care system. Their families have failed them. The system has failed them. Where do they run to? What resources do they have?
Children and youth in the welfare system are at high risk for Human Trafficking. According to Childware.gov, “Children and youth in out-of-home care, who have been removed from their homes because of child abuse or neglect, are at particularly high risk of being trafficked. Their background of abuse and trauma—coupled with the impermanence of foster care or congregate care—can make them especially vulnerable. Research has documented a high percentage of trafficked children and youth who spent time in foster care before being exploited, and some have gone so far as to argue that the majority of trafficked youth have experienced some child welfare involvement (Human Rights Project for Girls, 2013).”  Oh, so that is where a lot of the runaways and the aged-out children go. Human trafficking is getting much more worldwide attention and I am so glad it is being brought to the light. And to know many of the girls are in that situation because of bad family lives and no support, and often times failed by child welfare involvement.
The definition of “Special Needs” as defined by the Department of Family Services. This was actually the final straw we needed to get involved in the foster care system. Did you know that if there is a child in care, over the age of 2 and is a minority, they are in the “Special Needs” group in Texas. Or, if there is a sibling set (more that 1 child), they are in the “Special Needs” group. Of course if the child has physical, metal or emotional handicapping conditions they are in this group as well, which is to be expected. The reason for the above-mentioned groups to be added to this classification, is because these are conditions that make children harder to be adopted. That was the group that I knew God wanted us to be involved in. Here is the actual definition as defined by the Department of Family and Protective Services in Texas: - The child is at least six years old; - The child is at least two years old and a member of a minority group that traditionally has barriers to adoption; - The child is being adopted with a sibling or to join a sibling; or - The child has a verifiable physical, mental, or emotional handicapping condition, as established by an appropriately qualified professional through a diagnosis that addresses: (a) what the condition is; and (b) that the condition is indeed handicapping.
Social Workers are Over Worked & Under Paid. “The average annual salary for public child welfare agency workers is $33,000. The average annual salary for private agency staff is $27,000 (ACF, APHSA, CWLA, 2001). It is estimated that child welfare workers spend 50 to 80 percent of their time on paperwork (GAO, 2003). The average caseload for a child welfare worker is between 24 and 31 children. Caseloads range from 10 to 100 children per worker (ACF, APHSA, CWLA, 2001). The Child Welfare League of America recommends caseloads of between 12 and 15 children per worker. The Council on Accreditation recommends that caseloads not exceed 18 per worker.”  And yet, these are the workers who have the balance of these children in their hands. So many get into their profession wanting to make a difference, and have so much red tape, work unrealistic hours, have more cases than recommended, and get paid nothing to do these impossible tasks. We experienced this first hand from all of our caseworkers. We truly had a team of great people who were rooting for us to be Nate’s forever family. Our family would not be what it is today without these amazing people. Our CPS caseworker had over 30 cases at one point in our process and our agency case worker had almost 60! Can you even imagine having 60 cases?! Of those cases, there could be multiple children in each case. And each one of these homes has to be checked in on once every 30 days minimum. I cannot even imagine the pressure he felt and the hours he put in to make this happen.
Nearly 40% of American adults, or 81.5 million people, have considered adopting a child. “If just one in 500 of these adults adopt, all of the 134,000 children in foster care waiting for adoption would have permanent, loving families, according to the new National Adoption Attitudes Survey.” 
If nothing else, number 9 totally keeps me up at night. If just 0.2% people who have considered adoption would actually make it a reality, we would have a home for all the children in the U.S. who have been abused or neglected.
Today, I am praying that our foster care and domestic adoption will take top spot in our mainstream media. And if your heart has ever stirred just a little bit for adopting a child, I pray you become the 0.2% that can make this world a better place.
Holly Nicole James