Surviving Foster Care is a personal project to explore ideas about alternatives to foster care and to share perspectives from other survivors.
Surviving Foster Care is maintained Derrick Peavy. I am a 49 year old survivor of foster care from age 5 through age 18, and beyond. A total of 7 foster homes, 9 families. My seventh foster home has been my family since age 15, and through today. I am fortunate to have ended the foster care experience on a positive note – the overwhelming majority of us are not so lucky.
Today over 400,000 children are in foster care across America (some estimates are higher). Each year approximately 250,000 children will enter foster care. (2013 data)
Every 2 minutes a child is taken from his or her family and placed in foster care. (source: FosterClub.com)
Over 650,000 children will spend time this year (2013) as foster children (source). While this number is but a small percentage of the general population, the costs of foster care on our society are immense:
- 25% of former foster children are diagnosed with PTSD – 2x the rate of US Vets (source).
- 65% of adult foster children leave the system with no place to live – they become homeless (source).
- Only 30% of children raised in foster care finish high school.
- Less than 3% of foster children make it to college – read that again – 3% (source).
- 51% of former foster children are unemployed (source).
- 40% of persons living in homeless shelters are former foster children (source).
- A child placed in foster care is 6x more likely to be sexually abused than in their own home. (“Orphans of the Living” by Jennifer Toth)
- A child is taken into the foster system every two minutes on average.
Here is a pretty chart:
The life long mental trauma of foster care is not something that can ever be cured. It will color every activity in your life – for the rest of your life.
It will affect your job, your future family (should you be so lucky), your friendships, your eating habits, your health – everything. You will spend the rest of your life learning and relearning your own mind and the triggers of your anger and anxiety, your different-ness. The worst part is most foster children wrongly believe that once they turn 18, their troubles are behind them. In fact, aging out is when the most complex and difficult problems begin.
We all know there are thousands of caring and dedicated social workers and foster parents. But it doesn’t change the outcomes as they exist today across the system. One unicorn outcome in 100 does not justify the pain and suffering of 99 others.
Foster care doesn’t need to be replaced, reformed, reworked or remade. Stop asking yourself or others how to fix it, it is not fixable by design. I believe there is a way to reduce the number of children entering foster care to such low numbers that it will be effectively abolished, and significantly improved for those few who remain.
I will leave you with a quote from the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith:
“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
Do not “get busy” on the proof.
Change your mind.