Challenges In Foster Care
The U.S. certainly has advantages over other countries, especially poorer ones, in its ability to help parentless children, but foster care in America does have its problems. The most obvious is a shortage of new foster homes, which can lead to overcrowding of existing ones. Also, case workers are so overwhelmed that it's impossible to prevent some kids from "slipping through the cracks" and not getting the attention they need to function well in foster care and get adopted.
Those problems likely have much to do with what happens to foster children who "age out" of the system. Studies show 40% of the U.S. homeless were once in foster care and that former foster children are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
In addition, researchers who tracked foster children for 12 to 18 months after they aged out found that:
- 27% of the males and 10% of the females were incarcerated,
- 33% required public assistance, and
- 37% had not finished high school.
- 50% were unemployed
There's also the fact the foster care system can be so hard on children physically and emotionally because a lot of foster kids are shuffled around, ostracized, or just plain forgotten. As a result, foster children are at increased risk for things like low self-esteem, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, developmental problems, eating disorders, and a general inability to form healthy relationships with others.
A study by Johns Hopkins University found the incidence of sexual abuse is four times higher in the foster care system than the general population. Furthermore, children in foster care are 11 times more likely to suffer physical abuse and five times more likely to children in the general population.
Various types of fraud occur in U.S. foster care, though the extent of the problem hasn't been accurately documented. However, some of the most common types known to exist include exorbitant adoption fees, agencies accepting money for services never rendered, and "wrongful adoption" — the willful misrepresentation of a child's emotional and physical history or background. There have even been cases of parents accepting money for expenses from multiple couples looking to adopt without any intention of completing the adoption process.
But perhaps the biggest problem in U.S. foster care is one that has long plagued the system — a general unwillingness of people to adopt, especially older children. According to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 60% of foster children waiting to be adopted are 6 years of age or older. Those ages 1 through 5 account for a disproportionate share of adoptions, comprising 34% of foster children available for adoption but 45% of adoptees.
By contrast, children over age 10 represent 26% of foster children waiting for adoption but only 17% of adoptees. Researchers estimate that, at 8 or 9 years of age, a child's chance of staying in foster care becomes higher than the probability of being adopted.