Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Too Many Birthdays in Foster Care


Photograph from www.kidsarewaiting.org
Kids are waiting. Fix foster care now.
This was the message sent by current and former foster youth, advocates and policymakers on March 27, 2007 at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C. as they delivered birthday cakes to every Congressional office and every member of the House of Representatives.

Each cake came with a birthday card that read: "Happy Birthday to the 513,000 children who will celebrate their birthdays this year in foster care without a permanent family."

People in and from foster care wore T-shirts. On the front, the shirts said, "I am waiting," and on the back "Don't turn your back on me."


The message was simple: "Foster children spend too many birthdays in foster care, waiting for a permanent family to celebrate these and other special days in their lives. Congress could act to help more of these birthday wishes come true. Kids are waiting. It’s time for reform."

WHO ARE THE NATION’S CHILDREN WAITING IN THE FOSTER CARE SYSTEM?
There are 517,325 children in foster care:
31% are between the ages of 0 and 5
29% are between the ages of 6 and 12
40% are between the ages of 13 and 21

WHERE ARE THEY WAITING?
42% of children experience three or more foster care placements
19% (96,593) of children live in group care or institutional settings

WHAT ARE THE NATION’S FOSTER CHILDREN WAITING FOR?
250,790 (48%) are waiting to be reunified with their birth families
116,031 (22%) are waiting to be adopted

HOW LONG DO THEY HAVE TO WAIT?
Average time foster children have been waiting to be adopted: 42 months
Average number of birthdays a child spends in foster care: 2.5 birthdays (30 months)

WHERE DID FOSTER YOUTH GO AFTER LEAVING FOSTER CARE IN 2004?
Roughly 287,000 children leave foster care annually.

In 2004:
282, 597 young people exited foster care.
149,154 (54%) were returned to their parents
50,567 (18%) were adopted
32,848 (12%) left to live with relatives or via guardianships
22,741 (8%) “aged out” of foster care at 18 or older
10,722 (4%) left for other reasons (ran away, transferred, died)

*Data from AFCARS (2004), ASPE Claims Reports (2005), and ACF Budget Reports (2005).

The Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, a group made up of child welfare experts, legislators, system administrators, judges, foster and adoptive parents and youth, issued a set of recommendations in 2004.

These included:
- More prevention services to avoid the need for foster care.
- Support relative caregivers through federally subsidized guardianship.
- More flexible use of federal funding in order to meet each child’s needs.


The vast majority of federal child welfare funds are restricted for foster care maintenance. In the United States, only 9% of federal dollars dedicated for child welfare can be spent flexibly to serve families and children. Approximately $704 million out of a total of $7.7 billion child welfare dollars are flexible.

With more flexible funds, states would have the flexibility to use funds to provide necessary services before, during and after foster care.

They could use these funds:
- To reunite children with their families.
- To place them with adoptive families.
- To provide legal guardianships when reunification and adoption are not possible.

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Comments:
A sad reality. My son celebrated most of his birthday's in the system. Number 12 is going to be a celebration on a grand scale!!
 
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