By Ryleigh Alery
Currently, over 400,000 children are in the foster care system. Children are usually put into foster care when their guardians cannot provide the bare necessities such as shelter, food, or water. Children are also put into foster care when they have been orphaned, abandoned, abused, or neglected. Children can be in foster care for a couple of hours or until they age out of the program at the age of 18. The goal of foster care is either family reunification or adoption. The more attention brought to foster care, the more care unfortunate children can receive.
Foster care has been around since the mid-16th century, regulated under the English Poor Law, which was when children were placed to work bound by a contract. Without a suitable guardian, poor children were put on “orphan trains” and were sent to farm families that could take care of them; in exchange for hospitality, the children would usually have to work. In 1980, the federal government started to support the idea of foster care and got involved by giving the states financial assistance for foster care and adoption programs. With more support of the foster care system, perhaps more children can receive the proper care they deserve.
Foster care is still going through changes today with federal government check-ups. The federal government will check up on states with assessment reviews, covering the topics of compliance with child protective services, foster care, adoption, and support services. They also check on safety, permanence, and the well-being of the child and family. However, not everyone agrees with the foster care system. Advocates of foster care believe that the system provides stability, is making changes, and presents more opportunities with adoption and reunification. Critics of foster care think that the foster care system needs to be reformed because of the lack of funding and the treatment of teenagers in the system. Either way both points of views can agree that all they want is what is best for the children.
Many children, especially teenagers, can go through trouble with the foster care system. According to Samantha Walker, who earned a PhD in sociology from the University of Massachusetts, some children are better off with their biological parents than their foster family because of abuse. Many teenagers are also “looked over” in the foster care system because of their reputation and age. A lot of foster parents (looking to adopt) will take care of babies and little children because disciplining them is easier. However, Storer et. al. () reports that “foster youth described the characteristics of supportive foster homes for teenagers as nurturing, a sense of belonging, structure, guidance, and consistency” (Shuker 3). Also, John Coleman, a former child in foster care who was interviewed for his interest in the foster care system, writes about how positive outcomes can come from past stressful environments. He means that sometimes certain children are difficult to discipline; but, when children feel like they belong and are a part of the family, fostering or adopting can be one of the best decisions that parents can make.
With more people acknowledging children in foster care, some of the 400,000 children can be put into a good home where they can be loved and cared for. Every child deserves to be in a nurturing environment, and foster care can help provide that.
Ryleigh Alery is a student at Lanesboro High School. She is one of nine area students participating in the Journal Writing Project, now in its 22nd year.