Here are 5 things I have learned through the process:
1 There are no orphanages in the United States: One of my new favorite questions to ask people is, “How many orphanages are in the US?” The typical answer is around 100–500. People are usually taken back when I tell them that there are zero. The reason why there are no orphanages in the US is because when kids do not have parents or relatives to take care of them they are put into the foster care system. I believe the word association of “foster care” vs. “orphanage” has hindered the communities understanding that the kids in foster care have the same needs as those in orphanages.
2 Kids in the foster care system did nothing wrong to get there: One of the common question my wife and I get when we tell friends and family that we work with foster kids is, “what did they do to get there?” or “are they troubled?” First, the kids did nothing wrong to be in foster care. It is the consequence of poor decisions by the child’s caregiver that has put them in the system. Second, are they troubled? No. Have they experienced trauma? Yes. At minimum, the kids have been through the traumatic experience of being taken from their caregiver.
3 Foster parents are rockstars: Growing up I thought “foster parents” were people who had a lot of kids so they did not have to go to work and were paid by the state. I was dead wrong. The foster parents that I have met are some of the most gentle, caring, brave, daring, funny people I have ever met. The ones that I know are people that are making a living doing something else; yet, they see the need and put their families on the front end by serving. (There are people that take advantage of the system as with anything; however, you can clearly tell the difference between those who are doing it for the money and who are doing it to help.)
4 The statistics of kids leaving foster care are awful:
Here are a few from 2014:
22,392 kids aged out in 2014
1 in 5 kids will be homeless. (4,478)
1/2 will not have a job at the age of 24. (11,196)
Less then 3% will finish college (671 out of 22,392)
71% of young woman will be pregnant by the age of 21. (Link to government document linking sex trafficking to foster care.) (15,898)
1 in 4 will experience PTSD (5,598)
5 The foster care system is a community based problem with a community based solution: It is the responsibility of the state to make sure the kids in the foster care system are safe from harm, but it is the community that has the opportunity to make sure the kids can thrive. As it stands today, a majority of the kids in the foster care system are not thriving when they leave their foster homes.
I invite you to help with the solution. Here are some ways that you can help:
- Do you know someone with foster kids? Go bring them dinner.
- Become a foster family.
- Become an advocate for a foster child.
- Educate yourself on the foster care process on who is involved.
- Visit a group home. It is basically a US based orphanage.
If you need more ideas feel free to contact me. I would love talk with you more about ideas of how you can help. To keep up with our families story like Firm Foundation Youth Homes on facebook.
Thank you for your time and your heart.