US CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM IN CRISIS

Child neglect and abuse combined with unaccompanied children crossing the border stress an already strained system


The US Department of Health and Human Services report that nearly 3.5 million cases of domestic child abuse are reported annually. Of those reports, 620,939 children received foster care services in 2019. Many child welfare thought leaders expect that number to skyrocket once kids across the nation are fully back to in-person school where children are more likely to disclose abuse during the pandemic to teachers who are mandatory reporters.


While the number of children in foster care grows, the number of foster parents is declining. According to the most recent state data, there were 214,421 licensed foster homes in 2020, which is down by about 3500 families in 2019. Add to that the thousands of unaccompanied minors who are crossing into the US over the southern border for whom the HHS Office of Refugee Services is recruiting sponsors, and our already strained system is in crisis.


Crisis leads to tragedy.


It would seem that the answer would be to recruit more foster parents, but it’s not that simple.


Successful Survivors Foundation, an educational 501 c 3 organization founded by successful survivors of childhood abuse to help other survivors create successful lives, recently conducted a national survey of people who are now, or who have been, foster parents. The purpose of the survey was to understand why some foster families continue year after year while the majority of foster parents who quit throw in the towel in the first year. The results of the survey told an alarming story.


Current and former foster parents from 31 states responded with powerful information and practical suggestions. The survey revealed:

  1. Families that have little or no emotional support are more likely to quit. Foster families identified personal relationships with family, friends, and other foster parents as one of the most important factors in fostering children.

  2. Families that are connected to resources within the community are more likely to continue fostering. Foster families that are connected with non-profit organizations, houses of worship/ministries, and schools are far more likely to continue the work of raising other people’s children. Also, these types of potential supports can provide opportunities for foster kids to grow within the community in pursuit of a self-sufficient future.

  3. Families that do not receive adequate ongoing training and support are more likely to quit. Foster families need supportive and available foster care support workers, trauma training, and realistic preparation before becoming a foster parent.

All three of these practical suggestions are implementable and do not have to cost millions of dollars. When neighbors, houses of worship, ministries and non profit organizations come together to collaborate to support families that make the decision to care for children who have been abandoned, neglected, abused, or trafficked, everyone wins.


About Successful Survivor Foundation:

Successful Survivor Foundation (SSF) is a national non-profit, educational organization founded by successful survivor of childhood abuse, Rhonda Sciortino. SSF focuses on equipping individuals, nonprofits, & faith-based organizations to create successful lives through engagement, education, and encouragement. The primary initiative of SSF is the Love Is Action Community Initiative, which is a public/private, faith based collective impact initiative. Information is available at www.loveisaction.com.

References:

https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/cb/cm2019.pdf