Bridging the Gap for Vulnerable Children During National Foster Care Month

By Anne Basham, Founding CEO

May is National Foster Care Month, and now more than ever foster care intersects almost every other human rights issue: human trafficking, domestic violence, disabilities, education and more. There are currently over 390,000 children in foster care in the United States, and the need to address the challenges they face has never been greater. This is a topic close to my heart because my own parents fostered several children, and I was a foster sibling.

Across many states, the availability of foster homes has plummeted by more than 50%, even as the demand for placements continues to rise. This shortage has led to an alarming trend where children are left without stable homes, exacerbating the trauma they already endure due to family separation. The consequences of this shortage ripple through the foster care system, placing immense strain on resources and perpetuating cycles of instability for vulnerable youth. As I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last June, “The U.S. foster care system is already overly burdened with the number of children in the system often outpacing the number of available families to provide a safe home.  Additionally, U.S.-born children in foster care are already the most vulnerable to trafficking. In fact, 60% of trafficking victims have been in the foster care system at one time. Increased burdens on the foster care system put already vulnerable children more firmly in the crosshairs of traffickers and other abusers.”

Behind the numbers lies another sobering truth: over 80% of those incarcerated have a history with the foster care system. These statistics underscore the urgent need to address the root causes of instability and neglect that too often characterize the foster care experience. Without adequate support and intervention, many foster youth face a heightened risk of homelessness, substance abuse, and involvement in the criminal justice system.

Perhaps the most poignant manifestation of the foster care system’s current crisis is the fact that children are spending nights in government office buildings. Amidst these challenges, there are organizations steadfastly dedicated to serving children in foster care. These frontline organizations provide invaluable support, from placement assistance to advocacy and counseling. However, their efforts are often hindered by limited resources and barriers that impede progress. We are here to change this.

As advocates for foster youth, we are grateful to amplify the voices of these organizations in state and federal legislatures including this groundbreaking child protective services (CPS) policy on behalf of our partner Street Grace which will hopefully pass the Arizona legislature this month and is being considered in other state legislatures as well as the US Congress.

 

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