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Understanding America’s Foster Care System and 3 Things You Can Do Now to Help

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America’s foster care system is designed to help children get the care they need when their parents or family are unable to provide it. Created with great intentions, there’s no denying that this system has garnered a bad reputation in this country, and not without reason.

While there are thousands and thousands of success stories of loving homes opening their doors to children, providing them with care, guidance, and safety, there are the stories that shine a light on the issues that plague the system, such as families that are involved only for the tax breaks and additional income or those that abuse, physically or psychologically, the children that are placed in their care.

And then there are the stories that fall somewhere in between, those that reveal the hardships on both the foster families and the children within the system, demonstrating that serious changes need to be made to the U.S. foster care system in order to stop the cycles of distress, distrust, disassociation, and, of course, abuse.

The system that guides the inner-workings of foster care in the United States allows for children to be placed, and then re-placed, in homes with seemingly no warning. Foster children, therefore, find it difficult to allow themselves to get attached with the families they are staying with because they have no idea how long they will actually be staying with that family. Two months? Two days? Two years?

Foster families, then, deal with the same hardship, wanting to love and care (perhaps even adopt) the children that come into their home, but without any guarantee of how long the stay will be. There are heartbreaking stories of foster families who lovingly welcomed foster children into their home for years, who begin the process of adoption, and who, without any substantial notice, find “their children” taken from them, with little to no hope of reunion or communication.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg, of course.

But, while flawed, this fact remains true: Foster children need somewhere safe to call home.

Want to help?

Aside from becoming a foster parent yourself (which is an incredible thing to do if you’re prepared for it!), here are three ways you can help improve the foster care system:

  • Volunteer to do paperwork. Hundreds of children are continuing to be in the system just because stacks of paperwork are preventing them from either exiting or being adopted. Look into your area’s foster network to see where you can volunteer to help with this backed-up paperwork.
  • Mentor a child in foster care. Through programs, like Big Brothers, Big Sisters and CASA, you can become a mentor for a child in the foster care system, providing them with guidance, support, and fun, giving them one more point of contact with a responsible adult they can look up to.
  • Donate to help foster care parents. Find organizations within your community that help to support parents who are fostering children. Oftentimes these parents need extra help to give the children in their home everything they need, which can include items like school supplies, clothes, and books.

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