“One of the very first cases that I had was a case with a substance exposed newborn. The report came in from a mandated reporter stating that the mother had tested positive for methamphetamine. During the labor process of giving birth to the newborn, the nurse found two white pills in the mothers vagina and another white pill in the baby’s placenta. Then, I had to make my response time and see if the baby was having any withdrawals from the mothers drug use during her pregnancy.”
This was the first story my sister had revealed to my family when she first started working as a social worker in the state of Arizona.
“This mother had five other children, and they were living in a motel room with one king size bed. The room was covered with clothes, junk, and wine bottles that were scattered throughout the room. There were drugs laying around in reach of the children and no food in the room. The families that I had put them with each bought them new clothes, provided them with their own room, and made them feel as if they were their own children. To me, that was rewarding because I feel that I personally gave these children a whole new look on life and what they truly deserve.”
After hearing this disturbing story, it caught my attention that there is more to the foster care system then we may know about. Where do these kids go, and are they provided with enough resources?
The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) showed that 415,129 kids were in the foster system in 2014. Out of this number, only 50,644 kids were adopted with help from a public child welfare agency.
Making up the largest percent (46%) are parents who want to adopt that are not related to the foster child. As of September 2014, the foster care system has a variation in age, with a decrease in numbers once the child turns 18.
“The judge decided that it is in the best interest for Serenity that she will be moved to the other family, and at that time my family was devastated. After all the preparation and attachment, it felt as if we lost a family member,” Marc Canez, a police officer and foster parent in Arizona said.
Officer Canez and his wife had been foster parents for Serenity for two years. In the process of finalizing paper work for adoption, Serenity was taken from their custody and given to the grandparents. Only 29 percent of foster parents are relatives of the foster child.
“I think the one thing that we learned becoming foster parents is that love for a child is huge, and that there is always room for more. There are many more children who do not have a home or parents to care for them,” Canez said.
According to the Children’s Bureau, $21.8 million is given by the federal government to all 50 states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico to ensure payments for foster care maintenance and administrative costs. Back in 2009, Tribes became eligible for foster care, where $3 million was put aside to help grant the tribal community. Known as title IV-E, this program allocates this money to help establish safer foster care systems and care placements for children.
The Secretary of State is supposed to grant each state $70,000. In addition, providing a second amount depending on the population of people under 21, and the percentage of money a state should receive. This money is strictly set aside for foster care.
“I believe the system meets the minimum standards. There is financial compensation, however it was not enough to help support Serenity in some areas because taking on a new child is costly in many ways. I think the system should help provide with more clothing, however we were not doing it for the money,” Canez said.
In 2000, data was collected showing that in the state of California 29.7 percent of cases were because of child abuse or neglect. However, there are many other factors that can cause a child to end up in foster care, including teenage pregnancies, financial stability, and overall safety of the child.
“The greatest blessing from growing up as a foster child is my mother being there for me when I needed her for comfort,” Garrin Bailey, an adopted son said. “She taught me that being connected through the heart can be a lot stronger than being connected through blood.”
Garrin’s guardians gave birth to one biological daughter and adopted three boys and four girls, making their family a total of eight.
“Being a foster child taught me how to be a good person and to always spread more love than hate. If you do good things in life, good things will happen back to you,” Bailey said.
Garrin is one of many who have had a good experience with the foster care system, however there are many children who have not had a pleasant experience. There is a lot of controversy when discussing if the foster care system is fair and caring. Also in the year 2000, the Children’s Bureau released a study showing if case workers had a reduced load of cases, the care of neglected and abused children would have much more attention. This is a problem the foster care system still faces today.
“The only thing that I believe the government can change is making sure that there is a better response time for the case managers,” Kaylee Baumstark, Case Manager Specialist for the State of Arizona from the Department of Child Safety said. “The reason I believe that foster care and CPS doesn’t always have a good rating is because sometimes the case manager doesn’t have all the information they need in order to stand their ground with their case.”
Case managers have a lot on their plate, from first hearing a case to making sure the kids are taken out of their homes and put into better care. They receive an enormous amount of cases a day, and if they had more employees for each state or less cases to close within 48 hours, their focus on each case would be better.
“The children I have worked with have suffered extreme trauma during their time living with birth parents. The most common reason for placement includes sexual abuse, physical abuse or severe neglect,” Alyssa Forster, an intern at Koinonia Family Services said. “From my own personal assessment, clients have multiple issues pertaining to the lack of treatment for their childhood abuse.”
Although the foster care system does a lot for our society, there are people who believe they can never be foster parents.
“Adoption is wonderful, but it is not for everyone, and I feel that if I were to choose to adopt, it would be for a very selfish reason of trying to fill a void, and it would be an unhealthy and unfair expectation to put on the adopted child,” Carissa Payan, an infertile wife said. “And while adoption can bless a childless couple with a child, and also bless a parent-less child with parents, the fact remains that an infertile couple will still grieve the loss of their ability to conceive, and we forget how it is an incredibly expensive alternative.”
It costs anywhere from free to $1,000 to adopt a foster child. However, if it is a newborn being adopted from a non-profit organization it can cost between $10,000 and $25,000.
Adopting may not be for everyone, but according to the numbers there are many foster kids still in need of a home.
“I believe that the foster care system should inspire more people to become a foster parent and allow under privileged children a life that they deserve,” Case Manager Baumstark said.