Imagine a child’s 2nd birthday and instead of a wonderful celebration you are instead faced with being placed into foster care… Hard to imagine that isn’t it? Sadly, this is a reality that too many children and teens are dealing with.
Right here in the Wine Country there is an urgent need to help those in Foster Care. Each day there are 50-75 Sonoma County children and teens who need foster care assistance. Yes 50-75! Those numbers are not typos.
Recently I asked a young adult who spent his teen years here in the Sonoma County foster care system a few questions:
If you could change just one thing about the current foster care system what would it be?
“It would be more support for those transitioning out of foster care. This would be from finding a job and job placement. Also, more support around housing and housing placement. This is key because without success in both areas the young person is bound to fail and become a statistic and end up in the prison statistic or in the welfare system.”
When you turn 18 do you feel that the system is doing enough to help?
“The system didn’t even do the bare minimum. I had to do all the work on my own. From finding jobs to finding places to live.”
Being a child in foster care did you feel anyone that was to be helping you truly cared?
“Yes, I found people that truly do care. Those have grown into great relationships. Without these caring people I wouldn’t be where I’m at today in life.”
Were you ever placed back with your parents after being taken away from them?
“No. After the foster care system took me my mom went to prison and my bio father went back to Georgia. I went into an adoption house and I didn’t meet my biological parents until I was 16 years old. I was in that placement until I was 14 years old. An adoption that doesn’t work out is known as a failed adoption.”
This young adult has worked hard and is positive and productive young person. He is and advocate for those in the foster care system and has started a nonprofit “Project Blue” (https://projectbluefostercare.org/) to help improve the foster care system. Please take time to check out Project Blue.
Here is a glimpse of what one foster parent shared with me:
“We decided to foster because we were unable to have our own children and I had had always known I wanted to be a mom. I didn’t care if we adopted or just helped children that needed us. We called our local Department of Health and Human Services and started the process.
“It was a lot of things to do, we had to complete classes on fostering, child behaviors, trauma, parenting classes. We had to have background checks, fingerprinted and then wait forever to have those come back. Our home was also put under intense scrutiny and we had to have personal references from employers and friends. People were interviewed about and we had to complete physicals.”
“We had to prove we paid our bills and even our dogs went through physicals. Our lives do not belong to us they belong to the DHS, but when you get that call that a child needs you at 2am and they have experienced trauma that most people could never imagine I am so glad that I am here to help. It is the hardest but best thing I have ever done.”
“These kids need advocates and our system is failing them. We have fostered 8 years and it has just gotten worse (the system) The system needs to do what’s best for the kids, but they seem to think DNA is what matters most and will put kids in situations that are not safe. Most parents just don’t think they have done anything wrong. The saddest part is many were foster kids themselves. I am blessed to be able to foster.”
I wish there was a way to cover every aspect of foster care in this post. Reality is a post is just a small step in helping to make improvements to the foster care system. Discussing foster care and helping those affected by foster care all year long not just when its “Awareness Month” will help bring the much-needed improvements that both foster children and parents want.
Originally published May 2017