As our inaugural Fostering the Future campaign comes to a close, we have had the privilege of sharing 24 first-hand accounts of life in state care, as well as the perspective of several dedicated advocates. Some people describe how foster care provided the foundation to become happy, productive adults. “I now have awesome supporters, a loving environment, and encouragement when I need it,” wrote one. Foster care can be a safe haven; we always are gratified when the system has worked.
But our May initiative also highlighted, time and again, just how much needs to change:
- “By the time I turned 18, the road to college was a distant memory.”
- “I wasn’t getting the right treatment and help.”
- “There are pieces of my life I will never recover.”
- “I never felt accepted.”
- “I was 15 and no longer a virgin and he was 45 and had no remorse.”
- “It didn’t take long for me to lose any hope of being adopted.”
No child should endure these experiences.
When young people enter foster care, they already have been devastated, and often damaged. Some have parents incapable of caring for them. Some are being abused, physically or sexually, or witness abuse in the home. Those who aren’t maltreated certainly experience trauma, such as the loss of a parent or another caregiver.
These kids deserve nothing short of the best treatment. States should do everything in their power to protect them, and help them heal. But far too often they enter foster care only to suffer doubly. It is why I founded Children’s Rights almost 20 years ago, and why we are dedicated to reforming failing child welfare systems across the country.
Our bloggers, many of whom have overcome long odds, also have shown remarkable bravery in sharing their lives with the world. Their voices are critical, because far too often horrifying cases can get swept under the rug.
There are many times when it is necessary to remove children from their families, even if temporarily. They cannot be left in unsafe homes. But we need to hold foster care systems to an even higher standard than their parents. We are depending on them to protect and heal children whose lives have been devastated, and use wisely the 25 billion in taxpayer dollars that are spent annually on child welfare.
As we close out National Foster Care Awareness Month, our writers have demonstrated just how unconscionable it is to stand idly by when children are maltreated in foster care. We are so appreciative to them for sharing deeply personal stories. They serve as the voice for those still in care, whose collective stories are the underpinnings for some shocking statistics and sad realities. We thank them, and you, for following us on this month-long journey.
Marcia Robinson Lowry is the founder and executive director of Children’s Rights
Published on May 31 as part of Children’s Rights 2013 “Fostering the Future” campaign.