Most foster families quit within the first five years of fostering. Many of those quit in the first year. When foster parents throw in the towel, it means that the children in their care have to move. This means losing friends and everything they've become accustomed to. It often means changing schools and losing whatever connections they've made with teachers and other students. You may be surprised to know that the average foster child moves four times a year. It's no wonder that so many kids in the foster care system get labeled with "attachment disorder." Anyone would quit trying to connect after losing everyone and everything multiple times.
As the number of victims of abandonment, neglect, and abuse who enter the foster care system continues to grow, the number of safe and caring foster homes is not growing commensurate with the need. Consequently, children are often kept temporarily in government social services offices, hotel rooms, and other inappropriate and inadequate places.
The situation will worsen if the expected wave of new reports of child abuse begin to arrive as children who were locked up with abusive caregivers start school in person.
To find out what foster families need (and aren’t getting), Successful Survivors Foundation conducted a national survey of current and former foster parents.
The good news is that the problems are fixable.
Current and former foster parents from 31 states responded with powerful information and practical suggestions. Survey participants revealed that the top three reasons why most foster families quit are:
Little or no emotional support. They identified personal relationships with family, friends, and other foster parents as one of the most important factors in fostering children.
Little or no engagement with non-profit organizations, houses of worship/ministries, and schools. Engagements with these types of potential supports can provide opportunities for foster kids to grow within the community in pursuit of a self-sufficient future.
Need for supportive and available foster care support workers, trauma training, and realistic preparation before becoming a foster parent.
The top ten things that surveyed foster parents said they need are:
1: Well-rounded preparedness prior to receiving their first foster child
2: Continued education on trauma
3. Communication between all case members
4: Trauma-Informed support within academic settings
5: Easily accessible resources for common foster parent needs
6: Consistent mentorship for foster parents
7: Mental health support for foster parents
8. Respite options
9: Sense of value & support within local communities
10: Sense of value & appreciation within child welfare services
The answer to the need for foster homes isn’t to recruit more families. That’s part of it, but we must also keep the good families who have already signed up but who do not have the support necessary to do this difficult work.
One possible response to the needs of foster parents can be found through the Love Is Action Community Initiative. Love is action encourages everyone in the community to get engaged. One family cannot do it all, but with the help of our neighbors, we can heal the wounds of child abuse. Free downloadable help is available at loveisaction.com.
We need to come together quickly because in the words of Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Successful Survivor Foundation (SSF) is a national non-profit, education, 501C3 organization. SSF focuses on equipping individuals, nonprofits, & faith-based communities 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.
Amber Jewell, LMSW, is SSF board president, former foster child, foster-adoptive parent, national speaker, and author of Finding Hope: The 12 Keys to Healing Hardship, Hurt and Sorrow. As a successful survivor of severe childhood abuse, Amber tells from formal education and lived experience, the 12 keys she discovered in her journey toward healing. Finding Hope helps all readers, particularly those from hard places, discover new levels of hope in their lives.