15 September 2014

Foster Care System Still Broken

Kids in foster care in Colorado are about half as likely to graduate from high school as homeless kids and kids in poverty. 

Kids in foster care routinely get bounced from home to home, mistreatment and abuse of children in foster care (often at the hands of fellow foster children) is so common place that it is a cliché.  Ongoing support for foster children once they turn age eighteen in negligible. 

Social services also has a poor record of removing children from horribly abusive and neglectful environments despite clear warning flags.  Older children who are being abused or neglected, and people who might help them, are discouraged from taking action to invoke social services involvement, in part, because the conditions faced by foster children if they are removed from their parents are so bad.

A state audit has determined that child welfare departments in Colorado are greatly understaffed, and there are also not enough foster families.

When the outcomes for homeless kids, kids in poverty, and probably even kids in the juvenile justice system often looks better than those for foster kids, it is hard to argue that the state has met its obligations to children who have already been victims of criminally bad parenting.  These kids deserve better breaks than kids who have been fortunate enough to have at least mediocre parents, not state inflicted mistreatment that follows the abuse and neglect that they have already suffered.

The fact of that matter is that foster children are very frequently poor and are very frequently impaired as a result of the abuse and neglect that they have suffered.  They aren't going to graduate from high school as often as middle class kids from families that have nurtured them their entire lives.  But, it is abundantly clear that the absolutely abysmal academic performance of foster children compared to other populations facing seriously hardships has a lot to do with aspects of the foster care system that are broken and that our lawmakers (in Colorado and in most other states) are too cheap to fund in a way that can give these kids what they deserve.

When parental rights are terminated, children lose stability and their main source of economic support.  Since this condition is due in significant part to state intervention, it is appropriate for the state to spend what it takes to provide for these children properly.  If we can afford to spend $30,000-$50,000 to adequately care for adults who have committed felonies, we can afford to spend much more than we do on children who are innocent victims than we do.

1 comment:

andrew said...

At any given time there are about 8,000 people in foster care in Colorado, with an average stay of about 12-13 months and about 4,000 entrants and 4,000 departures each year. Thus, at any given time, about 4,000 people have been in foster care for more than a year, a population skewed towards older children. About 55% of those adopted are preschool aged or younger, and just 10% are twelve or older.

There are something on the order of 2,700 foster homes in Colorado.

Improving the lot of 4,000 kids in long term foster care would be cheap relative to the cost, for example, of the maintaining the 20,000 or so people in prison in Colorado at any one time.