Blog Post 8: What I’ve Learned So Far

Since the first overnight, my group and I have been researching the different aspects of foster care – from what it takes to be a foster parent to how a child enters the system to the government’s active involvement in supporting this country’s kids.  

I spent some time delving into creating a basic profile for children likely to enter the system based on the characteristics and situations of children already in foster care.  It isn’t fair to say that all children are the same because many share backgrounds; including this as part of out project is meant to help people understand where foster children are coming from, not give them a way to group them together demeaningly and insensitively.  

What I found is that most kids that end up in foster care have been abused or neglected, though according to the Child Welfare League of America, only 2.4% were neglected.  A much higher 47.9% were physically abused and 51.5% were sexually abused. Child Trends, a nonprofit research center in Maryland, furthered the typical profile of a foster child: 95% were white, 56% were male, and 32% were between the ages of one and five.  The website did differ from the CWLA’s, though, because it said that neglect was the primary reason a child enters the system (49%), and parental substance abuse was the second most common reason (30%). And while the exact percentage of children entering the system due to abuse or neglect may not necessarily be agreed upon between organizations, it is clear that a high number of foster children are in the system due to one or the other.  Maybe even both.

A study done for the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health also indicated that 84% of foster children come from families with divorced biological parents, 26% from families with parental incarceration, and 81% from families with low incomes or that are at the poverty line.  Of course, many of these children have behavioral, social, cognitive, or emotional problems due to these difficult situations.

From doing this research, even before talking to anyone involved in the foster care system, I have learned so much about what a child in the system is experiencing.  I collected this information to better understand what they are going through and to break whatever preconceived ideas I have about who foster children are or appear to be.  No two children are the same, and it is just as unfair to compare any two children living with their biological parents to two children living in foster homes. With our project, my group wants to make it clear that while many foster children might have common backgrounds and come from similar situations, they cannot be perceived as either all one thing or all another.  One foster children may, admittedly, be more difficult for a certain family to take care of than another; some children naturally require more assistance. But that shouldn’t stop a family willing to offer their home to a child in need from continuing to help, and that’s what we want to let more people know.

Kaitlin Emerson

One Response to “Blog Post 8: What I’ve Learned So Far

  • Robin Bebo-Long
    5 years ago

    You have completed a significant amount of research. The foster care system is multi-dimensional and has multiple paths in and out of it. One thing that I have noticed with foster kids is their reticence to trust. Often, they will test you to see if you will fail them too. In the long run they just want stability and love. This often comes with finding room in your heart for a child who may be suffering from PTSD (a result from the abuse factors you noted in your data. I commend your work, as always, I look forward to watching your progress.

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