Many judge a society on how they treat their youth, and in that aspect, America has failed. I for one am always critical of our government and its bureaucracy, but for once the problem is not only a product of our government but also us — the people.

In America, there are around 415,000 children in foster care which was about a 4% increase from 2012. The amount of children in foster care is roughly the equivalent of all of the kids in Chicago Public Schools.

foster stats

Who are these children:

  • 52% Male and 48% Female
  • 39% 5 years old or under
    23% 6 to 10 years old
    22% 11 to 15 years old
    16% 16 to 20 years old
  • 2% American Indian/Alaskan Native
    1% Asian
    24% Black or African American
    <1% (525) Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander
    22% Hispanic (of any race)
    42% White
    3% Unknown/Unable to Determine
    7% Two or more Races

Government’s Failure

The strain on the foster care system has been a direct result of large government and an ever-growing bureaucracy. It has been pushed to the point of utter chaos, as bureaucrats who, for the most part, have no emotional connection to these children or their cases.

They go to work — clock in and when the days over clock out. With the mindset that once they’re off the clock, the children and their cases are not their problem until their next shift.

As the government has grown, they have also became more and more hostile towards independent and private sector organizations expanding to alleviate the epidemic.

Not Enough Families

This is one of the few occasions where the government isn’t the only player in this growing epidemic. Many advocates in the foster care system like Alex Morales, the CEO of the Children’s Bureau of Southern California, say that the U.S. needs to focus on how it’s going to prevent this problem in the first place.

One major factor is the lack of families.

Particularly in Grayson County Texas, where officials have been given no choice but to move these children out of the county and even across the state to find them homes. Shane Hill, the Executive Director of CASA in Grayson County, said that about 85% of children removed from that county end up being placed outside the county.

The lack of families lead to the sad fact that almost a tenth of the children in the system emancipate — or in other words — “age-out”.

These children who age out, due to the broken system go into the real world without the emotional assets they need to function in the real world. They often do not get the help they need with high school completion or the life skills to get employment, accessing health care, continued educational opportunities, or housing and transitional living arrangements.

The proposed Adoption Tax Credit Refundability Act of 2015, is a form of legislation that encourages adoption, which another a key to addressing the lack of families.

Fixing a Broken System

The clear solution is always strengthen the family of origin. The question we continue to ask – HOW?

Well one major aspect would be to expand economic opportunity, as it would most importantly combat the aggressive cycle and its recidivism. This increased availability of jobs would also insert the value of work into these economically depressed families and areas.

More legislation on the federal level, such as The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, would be a good start to expanding economic opportunity.

Another major reform would be to give more power and availability to independent and private organizations. The increased government presence has only restricted the growth of those none governmental groups, who also have very limited bureaucratic aspects.

Reforming a system this broken is not easy. The easiest part is realizing the crisis, from there it is only an uphill battle. The three major things you can do to help are – educate, advocate, and innovate. The government cannot cure this problem, it takes you and me, the people of our great country to help save America’s forgotten children.

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