“What If My Child Just Goes into the System?
Myths & Truths About Foster Care
Maybe you aren’t in a good place now, and you worry that you won’t be allowed to keep your baby once he or she is born. No parent wants to have his or her child removed and placed in another home, but sadly that is the reality for thousands of families across the country. If this has happened to you, or if you worry it might, there are probably a million frightening ideas and images going through your mind. Let us offer you some hope. The road ahead may not be easy, but it might be leading in a better direction than you think.
Every system has its problems, and foster care is no exception. But there are some common misconceptions out there about foster programs and the well-being of children in them. Below are a few of the myths people tend to believe about foster care with some accompanying facts that may surprise you.
“Foster homes are abusive.”
Many of us have seen personal accounts of abuse and neglect in foster care, and they constitute the most tragic and frightening thing about a system meant to protect children. But those cases are extremely rare. According to a report presented to Congress by the department of Health and Human Services (HHS), about 2 children out of 1,000 in foster care experienced abuse or neglect in 2016. While that number is still too many, it is less than one-fourth that of the general U.S. population, where about 9 children out of 1,000 suffered maltreatment. In other words, kids in foster care are statistically much less likely to experience abuse.
“The social worker wants to keep me from my child.”
Federal laws like the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act protect the rights of both children and parents. While specific requirements vary by state, social workers must develop a plan with the parents that includes services to help them reunify with their children. It’s not uncommon for parents to have multiple visits with children per week, and those visits tend to increase in length and frequency as the family approaches reunification. Permanent separation is only considered as a last resort, and according to the HHS, more than half of children who leave foster care go to live with a birth parent or a biological relative.
“My child will live with strangers.”
Many children in foster care are taken in by relatives or family friends, and even when that’s not the case, it’s possible for foster and biological parents to develop a healthy partnership. A coparenting relationship like this ends up being healthier for the child and helps make reunification a smoother transition. The parents, social workers, foster parents, therapists, attorneys, and anyone else involved in the case are collectively referred to as the Child Family Team (CFT). Social workers will arrange CFT meetings to facilitate everyone working together for the well-being of the child and to ensure that families have a say in setting goals and planning.
“Kids get separated from their siblings in foster care.”
Sometimes social workers are unable to keep siblings together due to availability of homes or for the children’s safety. When that happens, many states require that the written plan include sibling visits and efforts to reunite them if at all possible. Most of the time, however, social workers make every effort to place siblings in a home together because it’s in the best interest of the children.
“Foster homes are overcrowded.”
Sometimes multiple children may live in the same foster home, but states and counties place limits on how many kids can be placed in one room, while factoring in age, gender, and the importance of keeping siblings together. Group homes are less common, and young children are rarely placed in them. For children under 12, that happens 3.3% of the time or less, according to the HHS.
“Children bounce from home to home.”
Sometimes children move from one foster home to another, and a significant minority of children will live in more than two homes while in foster care. Living in multiple homes is more likely the longer a child waits for a permanent situation, but for children in foster care for less than two years (about 73%), most switch homes once or not at all. And even those numbers are getting better. As various state and local agencies work to improve stability for foster children, more and more live in only one or two homes during their time in care.
“Children who grow up in foster care spend their lives struggling and deprived.”
Tell that to Steve Jobs, Tiffany Haddish, John Lennon, Eddie Murphy, or Cher. They all spent time in foster care growing up, as did countless other cultural and political leaders.
It’s true that any child who goes into foster care will face challenges. Separation itself is a trauma, and many children in foster care have faced other traumas that led to that separation in the first place. But with love and support, children can overcome those challenges and go on to great successes.
“I’m all alone and I have no options.”
You may feel this way right now, but there is help available. NAME OF CLINIC offers services to help new mothers and can connect you with local and national groups that assist parents in need. Visit our PAGE NAME page or contact us to learn more.
- Child Welfare Outcomes 2016: Report to Congress: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/report/child-welfare-outcomes-2016-report-congress
- Foster Care Statistics 2018: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/foster/
- Case Planning for Families Involved with Child Welfare Agencies: https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/systemwide/laws-policies/statutes/caseplanning/
- National Youth in Transition Database (NYTD) Brief #6: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/report/national-youth-transition-database-data-brief-6
- List of celebrities who were once foster kids: https://www.ranker.com/list/celebrities-who-grew-up-in-foster-care/celebrity-lists
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