“Our Child Welfare System Cannot Be Like a Lottery that Some Kids Win, and Some Lose.”
Extended family, parents, siblings – each of these relationships are important for a young person’s healthy development and growth. The latest article in Teen Vogue's Fostered or Forgotten series highlights how disrupting sibling relationships and frequently bouncing from placement to placement harms youth and their futures.
Being in foster care felt like being thrust into a lottery we could never win.
Every child deserves a family and a fair chance at success in adulthood. One of the child welfare system’s core responsibilities is finding permanent family for youth in care. Having an ongoing, family-like, supportive relationship with at least one adult has a substantial impact on a young person, especially while teens and young adults are making the transition into adulthood.
When child welfare systems severe important family ties – like sibling relationships – or fail to find youth families, young people face dire consequences. About 20,000 youth age out of foster care each year, meaning they leave the system without going home or finding a family. Between 11-36% of youth who age out of foster care experience homelessness before age 26 – three to eight times the percentage of youth in the general population.
My sister never gave up on wanting family, but the system gave up on her. Soon after turning age 18, my sister became a statistic — one of the 24.3 percent of former foster youth who experience homelessness and one of over 59 percent of females and 81 percent of males who are arrested.
Over 117,000 youth in foster care are waiting to be adopted. These young people should be able to stay with their siblings and find permanent families. We know older youth in care face unique challenges as they navigate their teenage years and enter young adulthood. Part of our work includes holding the child welfare system accountable to fulfill one of its core responsibilities: finding permanent families for all youth in care.
Fostered or Forgotten is a Teen Vogue series about the foster care system in the United States, produced in partnership with Juvenile Law Center and published throughout National Foster Care Month. In this op-ed, Christina K., whose name has been shortened for anonymity, explains the importance of permanency for youth in foster care.