Foster care is often discussed in statistics: about 640,000 kids spend time in care each year; nearly 15,000 children have been waiting for five or more years to be adopted; at least 25 states do not meet the federal standard for keeping kids safe while in care.
But when it comes to raising awareness about what state care is really like, numbers just aren’t enough. It is crucial for the public to hear directly from those whose lives have been affected. That is why Children’s Rights launched our second annual National Foster Care Month campaign – to amplify the voices of those who have experienced state care.
I am glad to report that more people are paying attention.
We’ve heard from 30 people whose lives have been touched by child welfare. The first-person accounts from former foster youth, foster parents and advocates have gone far to educate the public on the impact – good and bad – that foster care has on kids. Both Univision and New York City’s National Public Radio affiliate covered the campaign. When we shared the blogs on Facebook, the posts received nearly 18,500 likes, double those of last year. Throughout the month, our Facebook page received 2,500 new likes, more than triple those of last May.
As a result, thousands of people have been exposed to the realities of foster care, a crucial first step in creating change. We are profoundly grateful to our Fostering the Future writers for helping to make this happen.
Some described the silver linings of state care: “My foster mother, Connie, took the time to teach my foster brothers and me valuable things like cooking, writing and how to find employment … Without the stability of that home I don’t know where I would be today,” Vannak wrote. Another blogger, Ollie, said she had “a fantastic group of caseworkers … They never gave up on me or my goals.”
Others provided more grim details: “I went through four different placements in as many months. I felt like my life was in complete chaos,” wrote Kaylyn. “Not knowing what might happen to me was terrifying.”
“My brother and I were frequently tortured by our foster mother. If we didn’t perform well in school, she would punish us. Sometimes we wouldn’t eat for days,” Gilbert wrote.
“For four years, I lived with the same foster family. I called them ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ and begged them to adopt me,” wrote Hank. “One day, I returned to find my bags packed … My feelings of self-worth and sense of belonging deteriorated completely.”
No child deserves to endure experiences like these. Unfortunately, this is what life is like for far too many kids in foster care. It is unconscionable that, all too often, child welfare systems fail to keep kids safe or address their needs.
Children’s Rights uses legal advocacy to effect change, but we also know that raising public awareness is crucial to making foster care a better place for kids. It takes a brave person to emerge from struggles, and tell the world what they’ve endured. As we close out the month, I want to thank our bloggers for being so courageous. It has been a privilege to share your stories.
Thank you to all the people who followed along with us this month, and took the time to read these highly personal accounts, share them with friends and family, and help us raise awareness about what life can be like for the hundreds of thousands of kids who must spend time in state care each year.
Published on May 31, 2014 as part of Children’s Rights’ “Fostering the Future” campaign.