In America’s major metropolitan centers about 1.5 percent of overall population is held in foster care, either waiting to be adopted or being held in the hope that their families would mend their ways sufficiently to reassume responsibility for them. They often “age out” of foster care at age 18 without the means to sustain themselves, or they accept state handouts for three more years provided they remain in school.
The net result, after costing tax payers close to $40,000 per year, is that half are unemployed, those with jobs earn less than $8,000 annually, 40 percent are homeless some of the time, and only 5 percent of men and 7 percent of women earned an associate degree. The bottom line is that 30 percent of the homeless in the United States and 25 percent of those in prison today came out of foster care.
Proponents of the existing foster care system don’t like facing the fact that, seen in totality, the foster care institution is hard at work creating our next generation of poor, homeless, criminal people.
Far too often these institutions diminish and punish the very children with whom they are charged. In many jurisdictions foster care has become corrupted to yield illegal profits to the facility operators, at the great expense and suffering of the children in their care.
The statistics don’t show the large-scale abuse of foster children, which amounts to a national challenge. Individual communities have to step into the breach to take action against foster care bureaucracies failing in their missions. Local and state elected officials should feel compelled to provide programs that serve the foster care community effectively or else open their doors wide to charitable and service organizations with the proven ability to solve the problems now confronting state and county foster care services everywhere.
America has a nasty habit of stigmatizing the less fortunate. Children, our most vulnerable citizens, struggle every day to learn what it means to grow up and be responsible. But children unfortunate enough to enter the world in an abusive home have their chances of a decent life slashed by a society that forces them through a foster care system that is needlessly traumatic.
Most disconcerting is the almost wicked determination of some foster care providers to wreak mindless cruelty on the defenseless children in their care. In researching my book, The Foster Care Dilemma, my expectation was that interviews of children out of foster care would be discomforting, but not to the heartbreaking degree I experienced.
A foster child is instinctively taught that you don’t speak up. It’s dangerous. And don’t forget that Mom or Dad already gave up on you, so it’s best to shut your mouth or you could end up being moved again.
Society has no business putting its most defenseless members on this treadmill, and we need to examine our hearts and minds to eradicate the greatest evils in a system that has become hopelessly bureaucratized, inefficient, and needlessly expensive. We must work toward the day when politicians in large jurisdictions are elected on how well foster children do in their jurisdiction.
Parental drug and alcohol abuse underlie the reason many children need foster care. Unfortunately, too many children out of foster care wind up becoming addicts themselves and frequently wind up in prison.
I intend to follow my book with subsequent editions that bring increasing depth and insight by adding the experiences of more foster care people to keep the message vibrant and more embracing. My hope is that this will remind the public of what foster care could be if together we make it happen!
Since no established media carries the torch for abused foster kids, this series of books is focused on compelling the public to pay attention.
We need huge public support to accomplish this mission. For more, please go to www.Facebook.com/TheFosterCareDilemma.
Johan Wassenaar was born in South Africa in 1931 in the wild country bordering the Kruger Game Preserve, graduated in engineering from Wits University, engaged in aerospace development in Canada during the Cold War, and moved to Los Angeles to get deeply involved in outsmarting the Soviet Union. He became a consulting corporate strategist following Vietnam, branched into motion pictures and ranching, returned to energy conservation systems design, and turned to authoring novels. He has decided to challenge modern society to treat its foster children with compassion and dignity.