Foster Care in the US

Foster Parent Shortage

by on Sep.15, 2013, under General, Uncategorized

Foster care may be defined as “supervised care for orphaned, neglected, or delinquent children or for personals mentally ill in a substitute home or an institution on either a full-time or day-care basis” (1). For the purposes of this blog I am focusing on children and youth living in either foster homes or in residential facilities under the care of local departments of social services.

[Image by flickr user nicola / CC licensed]

According to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute there are over 400,000 children living without permanent families in the United States (2). Because there are so many children in foster care, some areas are suffering from a shortage of foster homes in which to place them. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, the LA County foster care system is an example of an areas facing such a crisis (3). One reason for the shortage may be the lengthy process which potential foster parents must go through. This includes home inspections, background checks, and various parenting classes. There are also factors that discourage them foster parents from continuing to take in children such as high costs of raising them as well as the frustration that goes along with it.. Due to this shortage of foster homes many children, especially infants and toddlers, end up in temporary facilities where the conditions are far less from optimal.

I have a unique perspective on the foster care system because my parents are foster parents. Throughout my life over 30 foster children have lived with my family. In addition to this experience, I had the opportunity to intern with the Spotsylvania County Department of Social Services over the summer. This gave me an inside look at how the system works and problems associated with it. The situation in LA County seems to be a common one. Not only are there too few available foster families but there is also variation in the quality of care that each foster family provides. For this reason I believe that the foster parent screening process, while lengthy, serves an important purpose in making sure that foster children are placed in qualified homes.  I also find fault with the view that the main problem is the shortage of foster homes. Why not focus on preventing children from needing foster care placement in the first place? Recruiting more foster parents seems to be treating the symptom rather than the disease itself. Maybe, if the focus was on giving aid to biological families, there would be less of a new for foster parents. This would also put less strain on the system and on the taxpayers.

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