D.C. Events Highlight Need for Foster Care Reform
In conjunction with National Foster Care Month, leading national child welfare organizations - including Home At Last, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, First Star and the National Foster Care Coalition - convened a series of Capitol Hill events designed to increase awareness of the need to reform our nation's foster care system and to improve outcomes for the nearly half a million children in our care.
"As a nation, we must come together and redouble our efforts to ensure that children are able to leave foster care quickly and safely for loving, stable homes," said Miriam Krinsky, executive director of Home At Last, an organization working toward implementation of the recommendations of the national, nonpartisan Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care.
The Pew Commission undertook the first-ever, comprehensive assessment of two key aspects of the foster care system: a federal financing structure that encourages an over-reliance on placement of children in foster care at the expense of other more permanent options for children who have been abused or neglected, and a court system that lacks sufficient tools, information, and accountability necessary to move children swiftly out of foster care and into permanent homes. Reform in these two areas, the Commission determined, will have far-reaching effects for children in foster care and is a critical first step to solving many other problems that plague the child welfare system.
The events included a Wednesday evening reception and art exhibition featuring readings and performances by foster children from across the country and a Thursday morning roundtable discussion, attended by key members of Congress from both parties, which was dedicated to a substantive discussion focused on improving court oversight of foster care. In addition, the voices and perspectives of youth are highlighted in a booklet of art and writing by foster youth and a series of youth empowerment summits taking place in Arizona, Arkansas, California, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Washington.
In the current foster care system, outcomes for many children in care are far from optimal. These include:
- On average, children remain in foster care for three years, and are moved at least three times while in foster care;
- Foster children are often separated from brothers and sisters, family, friends and all that is familiar; forced to change schools;
- There are currently 118,000 children in foster care waiting to be adopted;
Children in foster care experience more than children who have not been in foster care;
- Nearly 19,000 youth age out of foster care each year, without having found a permanent family;
- Of those youth who age out, more than a third will never finish high school, and many will become homeless, incarcerated, need public assistance, or experience mental health problems.
"In order to improve outcomes for children in foster care, we must focus on reforming the system," stated Bill Frenzel, Chairman of the Pew
Commission and a former member of Congress. "States across the nation are actively engaged in reform efforts, and Congress has taken up the mantle of reform."
About Home At Last
Home At Last's mission is to support outreach and educational efforts, both nationally and in selected states, that highlight the importance of the recommendations of the Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, particularly those designed to improve court oversight of foster care in order to improve outcomes for children in foster care. Home At Last conducts research, issues policy briefs, and partners with organizations in order to enhance awareness and provide education to policy-makers, judicial leaders and other stakeholders about the need to address the challenges facing children in foster care. www.fostercarehomeatlast.org
About the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the tens of thousands of orphans and foster children in this country, and the millions of orphans around the world in need of permanent, safe, and loving homes; and to eliminating the barriers that hinder these children from realizing their basic right of a family. www.ccainstitute.org
About First Star
First Star is a national 501(c)(3) public charity dedicated to improving the lives of America's abused and neglected children. First Star's mission is to serve as a catalyst for meaningful reform of the child welfare system through communication, education and legislation. First Star's nonpartisan, multidisciplinary approach fosters collaborative action among organizations, advocates, practitioners and policy-makers working to benefit all children. www.firststar.org
About the National Foster Care Coalition
The National Foster Care Coalition is dedicated to raising public awareness, coordinating advocacy efforts and building diverse alliances that strengthen foster care and community supports for children, youth and families. The National Foster Care Coalition has been instrumental in developing and disseminating information about the Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 and the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. www.natl-fostercare.org