Teen Vogue’s Fostered or Forgotten Series Shows Why Foster Care Prevention Services Matter

Juvenile Law Center,
Infographic saying: 1 in 7 children reported child abuse and neglect cases in the last year; $124 billion lifetime economic cost of child abuse and neglect."

For National Foster Care Month, Juvenile Law Center and Teen Vogue have partnered to produce a new series Fostered or Forgotten which explores issues affecting youth and families involved in the child welfare system. The latest article shows why prevention services matter and how avoiding foster care is sometimes best for youth and their families.

Fourteen years later, as an adult, I still feel the effects of a reactive child welfare system. As I create my own adult life and achieve milestones such as weddings, graduations, and trying to grow a family, I am constantly reminded of the preventable losses I’ve experienced.

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The United States has among the lowest social expenditure on family benefits along with the lowest child well-being ranking and the highest number of child maltreatment deaths. Nationally, our child welfare spending focuses on separating families not preventing system involvement or reunifying families after youth return home. Of the $7.2 billion federal funds dedicated to child welfare in 2007, only 10% was allocated for prevention and reunification services. In 2008, the total lifetime economic cost of child abuse and neglect as approximately $124 billion.

Youth deserve better than a “one size fits all” system which focuses on removing children from their families.

When I look back now on my family’s experiences, I realize that the child welfare system only saw our family’s trauma and hurt, our dysfunction and abnormalities. … The system removed me first, and provided services second—after the trust was broken and the damage was done.

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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, Nico’Lee Biddle, an LCSW, trauma therapist and freelance speaker, explains how her family’s foster care journey may have been different if prevention services were offered before she was removed from her home.