Due to late notice of adoption possibility with my daughter and not having time to complete all of the adoption paperwork, she was placed in foster care for almost four months. For three of those four months, we had no idea where she was, who she was with, or how she was doing. Having no experience with foster care in the past, I was petrified. I was sure she was in some dark, dirty house somewhere, crying and alone. All I had to go on was the picture of foster care that had been painted for me in the media. Those were some of the hardest months of my life.
Imagine my surprise and relief when her foster mother was given permission to reach out to me, and I discovered that her foster family was amazing. They lived in a wonderful ranch house in the country next to a quaint church. She had four foster brothers and wonderful foster parents. She was not only cared for but incredibly loved. Around this time, I also became a part of a mom’s group called MOPS, where I met some other foster parents who were also wonderful. This is when my picture of foster care began to change and continues to shift. While there are absolutely unsafe foster homes and abuse situations, it may not be as rampant as some believe.
In a study done between 2010 and 2014, the Children’s Bureau reported to Congress that 0.00-1.24% of children in the foster system, whether in a home or facility setting, were subject to substantiated abuse. It is important to note that this will not include any abuse that goes unreported or unsubstantiated. The report most poignantly notes,
“…it is important to keep in mind that, while the percentages of maltreatment may be numerically small, these events have serious implications for the safety and well-being of children. Children who experience maltreatment, either at home or in care, can experience a wide variety of consequences ranging from physical and mental health problems to issues with cognitive development and academic achievement” (Child Welfare Outcomes 2010–2014 Report to Congress). Simply put, the bureau is aware, as many in the adoption and foster care world can attest, that any amount of abuse is notable and unacceptable.
There are many reasons reports go unregistered. One of the most powerful scenes in the critically acclaimed drama This Is Us is when Deja, a foster child, reports physical abuse to her social worker and is removed from the home with her foster sister. The foster sister is angry at Deja, proclaiming, “At least he only hit. We could have stayed in those beds for years.” Moving from home to home to home, it is understandable that children in the system would seek stability, oftentimes at a very steep cost.
Foster care is generally safe. The statistics tell us that the rates of abuse are incredibly low. However, no statistic can tell us a true number of abuse as many types of abuse are historically underreported. Foster care agencies are doing a much better job of regulated caseload and making sure children do not fall through the cracks. There are firmer guidelines in place to screen foster families. However, there is a crisis for a need for foster families and safe places for these children to have stability and peace. There is always room for growth and a need for great foster families to step up.
Lita Jordan is a master of all things “home.” A work-from-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five. She has a BA in Youth Ministry from Spring Arbor University. She is married to the “other Michael Jordan” and lives on coffee and its unrealistic promises of productivity. Lita enjoys playing guitar and long trips to Target. Follow her on <a href=”//www.facebook.com/halfemptymom/”>Facebook.</a>.