Dedicated to the all the children in the U.S. foster care system, National Foster Care Day on the first Tuesday in May encourages everyone to wear blue and raise their voices to show their support for foster youth everywhere.
I am not a foster child or foster parent, but through classmates, neighbors, church members, and co-workers, I feel as if I’ve always been connected to the system. I’ve helped celebrate the successes, and attended funerals of those who felt there was no other way out.
Family and friends were not surprised when the foster care system was a focal point in my debut novel, In the Best Interest of the Child. Protagonist Olivia Chandler is a successful child advocate attorney who has a high success rate in winning cases for minor children. Olivia stumbles though when assigned a case by the court which mirrors her own childhood… when she was in foster care. Investigating the case forces Olivia to deal with trauma she’s avoided acknowledging… for almost thirty years.
The book is a work of fiction, but the situations are very real.
On the average, a child is placed into foster care every two minutes in the United States. The poor life choices and bad decisions of adults create dangerous and unhealthy environments children must be removed from. But placing a child into a “safe” foster home doesn’t solve the problem, and could actually create more or compound a child’s traumatic stress which is never adequately addressed.
Whenever legislators seek leaner budgets, services for children are usually first on the chopping block. Cuts are made to foster care on the federal level. When dollars are received by states, cuts are made to fit their budgets…then on to counties and cities… see where this is going?
Foster care children receive minimal health care benefits through Medicaid – a program that comes under fire… and suffers budget cuts regularly. Children with chronic and life-threatening conditions could wait weeks or months for treatment unless advocates intervene. A foster care child in need of psychiatric or even counseling services is put on a waiting list… and forgotten.
We must do better. We must stop allowing children in foster care to be treated like second-class citizens. We must stop blaming children for being in foster care. When Charles Loring Brace founded The Children’s Aid Society in the mid-19th century, he believed that there was a better way to change the futures of the 30,000 children living in the streets and alleys of New York City.
The focus is now nationwide and dealing with nearly half a million children, but the mission is still the same. However, children are not the future, they are the present. What we do for them today impacts their future… and ours.
*Text bolded for emphasis by blogger.
Kicking off Foster Care Month, National Foster Care Day provides a platform to help repair a system that is plagued with shortages nationwide. Many enter care with little to no belongings and have suffered the effects of abuse, poverty, neglect or even the death of their loved ones. There is a nationwide shortage of foster parents and stipends that don’t cover the essentials of a growing child.
With over 400,000 children in the foster care system at any given time, and a new child placed into care every 2 minutes, the need for support services, essential items and foster parents is high. Foster children have an uphill battle with startling statistics to overcome and need the support of our communities across the country. National Foster Care Day shines a light on these children and points us all in the direction of solutions.