News and Resources
The Poverty Industry: The Exploitation of America's Most Vulnerable Citizens, By Daniel L. Hatcher
White Fragility, By Robin DiAngelo
How to Be an Antiracist, By Ibram X. Kendi
No Ordinary Liz: An Extraordinary Story of Life and Family, By Liz Sutherland
The Black Foster Youth Handbook, By Ángela Quijada-Banks
Foster Care Awareness Month
May 11, 2021
The month of May is an important month to me and Foster Features because it’s a time to reflect and honor the stories of those impacted by foster care. Though it was almost 30 years ago that I exited foster care at the age of 12, it will forever be an important part of my life story. As I’ve interviewed, bonded with, and learned from guests through Foster Features Podcast, it has become even clearer to me how essential and important this work is. I am both grateful and inspired by the extraordinary people who use their voices and agency to bring awareness to foster care and to fight for system reform.
Foster care was once a stigma that I hid from, fearful of anyone finding out. It wasn’t until my mid-20’s when invited by my former adoption worker to speak at a fundraiser about my foster care adoption that my journey to advocacy began. A few years later, I walked away to attend to other life endeavors, as many do, but was drawn back to it by two little boys in foster care whom I worked with during graduate school. As I tried to fight for their well-being I was often stonewalled by bureaucracy and institutional incompetence. Frustrated and overwhelmed with the unfairness and reality of it all, I tried to show up for the boys as best I could, knowing that it would never be enough. That experience changed the trajectory of my social work career.
When we talk about a call to action, that was mine. It was during that time that I knew I couldn’t walk away again, ever. I continue to hold those boys and their stories in my heart, along with the many others who have shared their experiences with my podcast listeners. I now think of my foster care story as a badge of honor, albeit one I should never have had to bear, I know that I'm not alone…there are many of us out there and we will be heard.
If you have a foster care story you would like to share, please email Pauline@fosterfeatures.org. Additionally, if you would like to learn more about the foster care system, there are links and resources on the left side margin of this page. Like many of you, I am also still learning about the complexities of the system and ways to change it, so please reach out with your questions, feedback, and suggestions.
Keep being brave with your voices.
Reform - A Movement
August 9, 2020
Foster Features is building a movement promoting reform of the foster care system. This movement requires the acknowledgement of racism, homophobia, and the criminalization of poverty, among other issues. The current approach and methodologies of social services and law enforcement in the lives of children and families requires transformation if we are to improve outcomes for children in foster care.
If you're interested in participating in this movement, please contact Pauline at Pauline@fosterfeatures.org.
Privatization of foster care is not a solution for reform of the foster care and child welfare systems
July 17, 2020
For change to occur in the foster care and child welfare systems, we need to address the intersectionality of poverty and institutional racism, and the impact it has on outcomes related to education, employment, housing, health, and mental health. Black and brown children are over-represented in the foster care system; just as black and brown people are over-represented in the criminal justice system. These systems are interconnected, which is the reason we see a great disparity in outcomes when compared to white people. The acknowledgment and dismantling of white privilege is required for our child welfare system to reflect a rational, fair, and competent approach, and to provide meaningful support to children and families.
The criminalization of poverty that often leads to the over-involvement of law enforcement and social services, further exploits and oppresses black and brown families, leaving little opportunity for recourse or protection. One such predatory trend we’ve seen over the last decade is the privatization of foster care, which has proven to be an exploitative and predatory approach to providing foster care and adoption services. In the case of privatized foster care, the priority is profits and the children are the profit generators. This leaves very little incentive for private agencies to find safe, secure, connected, and loving solutions for any child in their care. This is only one reason that accounts for the ever-climbing number of foster care placements. This means that private foster care agencies are benefiting from the poorest and most vulnerable populations…all at a profit which has led to the creation of a billion-dollar industry.
To learn more about this, Daniel L. Hatcher wrote a book called, The Poverty Industry, which outlines the billion-dollar industry and how it came to be so lucrative at the expense of children and families.
For a shorter read, Jamie Schwandt provides a digestible outline of privatized foster care for adoption.com.
Both authors expose an important correlation between the for-profit privatization of the prison system and that of the foster care system. That correlation is important to note, as it also relates to the intersectionality of the two systems and ties it back to outcomes related to the education system, employment opportunities, housing, and the health care system.
Aging out of foster care
July 10, 2020
In the United States, 23,000 foster youth age out of foster care every single year.
The statistics below show just some of the challenges youth will face when they have aged out:
Over 20% Will Become Homeless
Under 60% Will Graduate From High School
71% Of Young Women Will Be Pregnant By Age 21
25% Will Be Involved In The Justice System Within 2 Years Of Leaving Foster Care
Under 3% Will Earn A College Degree
50% Are Unemployed By The Age Of 21
60% of sex trafficked youth were from foster care
Imagine knowing that when you turn 18, after living through years of uncertainty, instability, and with little connection to family and community, you are forced to walk into the world with nothing but your trauma, your fears, your hopes and dreams, and literally, nothing else. That is the fate that many youth face when they age out of care.
When you imagine that, then the statistics above make a lot more sense. For many of us, our 18th birthday is a milestone to be celebrated - a time to embark on whatever path we’ve chosen, from college, military service, employment, to world travel. For many, those paths are paved with the support of their families who cheer them on and often provide the financial and moral support needed to set them up for success. That is not the case for foster youth aging out of care.
A major issue in foster care, is the debilitating lack of focus on cultivating and maintaining connections to family, community, and necessary resources to support foster youth as they enter adulthood. In this way, there is no end in sight to the uncertainty and disconnection for foster youth. As Dr. Brené Brown has stated from her research, “we are hard-wired for connection. Connection is the reason we are here.” It is unrealistic to expect the outcomes of foster youth aging out of care to improve when there has not been any sustainable, universal, or required methods of providing the necessary means of connection and stability to counter those abysmal outcomes. We cannot expect that years of trauma, uncertainty and disconnection will lead to college grads, world leaders, and whatever else is perceived as an outcome of success. We must do better. This is doable. We start with informing ourselves, and we move forward to policy changes, as well as changing the hearts and minds of those who hold youth accountable for outcomes that they did not deserve, and are not responsible for.
How do we do this? We vote. We speak up. We don’t back down.
Pride Month and LGBTQ Youth in Care
June 25, 2020
It's Pride month, which makes it an important time to highlight that LGBTQ youth in foster care often face constant rejection, hostility, and harassment. For many, there is a significant lack of safety, connection, and support. As a result, LGBTQ youth in care are more vulnerable to experiencing homelessness, suicidality, and other mental health issues. LGBTQ youth face a higher risk of being put in significant danger by case workers, foster parents, family members, places of faith, and even mental health professionals, such as the ones who continue to support and perform conversion therapy.
Children's Rights, a non-profit organization, reported that studies conducted by the Williams Institute showed that 78 percent of LGBTQ youth ran away from foster homes or were removed by social services due to reports of harassment and threats to their safety. Up to 56 percent ran away from foster homes to live on the street because if was safer.
These outcomes are unacceptable. All children deserve to feel loved, valued, accepted, and supported. To learn more about LGBTQ youth in foster care, please see the following links.
Foster Features stands with Black Lives Matter
June 1, 2020
We are seeing the country and the world galvanized by yet another death of a black man at the hands of law enforcement; a brutal, unnecessary, and preventable death; an expression of a system that has historically and regularly targeted black lives since its inception. For centuries, particularly in this country, we have subjugated and gravely harmed black communities with zero consequence to us white people.
This moment is an opportunity for all white people to acknowledge their privilege, and to commit to the constant challenging of the views, beliefs, and practices that contribute to the oppression of people of color, especially our black communities. To begin the true work of supporting our black communities, we must begin this process and never stop, for this will be become a practice, not a final destination that can be reached by protesting for a couple of weeks. It’s important to be mindful not to appropriate black culture; that is not the way to support black communities. This is about holding ourselves accountable; opening our minds and hearts; listening to black voices and allowing ourselves to be challenged and transformed.
For many, this is a confusing and scary time…while the world is grappling with a pandemic, we are also acutely aware of the consequences of a long-standing and dark history of racism. It is a complicated reality for many of us. I hope that we use this as an opportunity for unity and understanding. As we reflect, challenge, learn, and grow, let’s commit to continuing this work long after the protests end and the media changes its course. Let’s commit to challenging the views of our loved ones who harm and threaten civility and equality. Let’s do this every single day. Let’s teach our children, and hold space for difficult conversations. Let’s hold ourselves and others accountable. We are only at the beginning…let’s see this through, together.
For-profit foster care agencies: an examination through film
February 23, 2020
The film Foster Boy (2019) shines a light on the abuse, neglect and trauma experienced by children in the foster care system, particularly those who have been placed in foster homes by for-profit foster care agencies. Both the film and an article in Variety about the film, written by Shaquille O’Neal, illuminate the importance of facing the very real issues of for-profit foster care agencies. When profits are the priority, it’s difficult to imagine that vulnerable children and families could possibly receive the best care and equal access to resources. As a nation, we have seen the failure of the for-profit prison systems through abuses of power that have traumatized entire communities. For those who have experienced abuse and neglect in foster care this issue hits close to home and begs the question, why is there not more accountability and transparency when the system fails to protect children by forcing them into a traumatic experience that that very system was designed to protect them from?
Massachusetts develops innovative report showing problems with Department of Children and Families
January 4, 2020
Massachusetts' Department of Children and Families (DCF) released a report that DCF's commissioner, Linda Spears called “most comprehensive report the department has ever produced.”, according to an article published by The Boston Globe on January 3, 2020. The report covers issues related to the length of time children spend in foster care, as well as the number of children entering care as compared to previous years. The report also covered staffing challenges including the assignment of case workers and social workers, and the on-going problems associated with heavy case loads and limited resources, which are just a few of the issues the agency has faced over the last several decades. As reported by the Boston Globe on July 29, 2019, some advocates pointed out that the report lacks any data around other critical issues such as the cases involving children who have died in care. To learn more about the Boston Globe's reporting on this topic, see the article here.
Foster Care Class-action Lawsuit in Kansas
October 24, 2019
A class-action lawsuit that alleges significant harm to children in the foster care system was filed against the Kansas’ Department for Children and Families (DCF), the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, and the governor of Kansas, in January of 2019. Allegations claim that foster children are often moved from placement to placement, and sometimes forced to sleep in department offices, shelters, and hospitals, resulting in psychological, emotional, developmental, and neurological harm. The constant disruption in the lives of the children moved through as many as 100 homes, significantly impacts the wellness of the child in all areas, inflicting even more trauma during an already traumatizing experience. The maltreatment of children in care has also led to a dramatic increase in run-away foster youth, who face the increased risk of exploitation and sex-trafficking, the details of which were disclosed to legislators during an October 2017 hearing.
The secretary of Kansas’ DCF, Laura Howard, addressed the allegations publicly by stating that the agency is working to repair and improve the state’s troubled system, and is looking into the consistency around reports of abuse. Specifically, they are looking into how reports are assigned to investigators, the decisions that are made with regard to how the investigations will be handled, and the decisions that get made at the conclusion of an investigation.
See links below for more information regarding the lawsuit and the troubles facing Kansas' foster care youth:
California Surgeon General calls for schools to perform Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Assessments
October 11, 2019
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, Surgeon General of California is pushing for schools to perform ACE screenings, with the goal of developing care plans to address toxic stress in children. Dr. Burke Harris is best known for her work in linking toxic stress in childhood to adverse health outcomes in adulthood.
Foster Care and Homelessness
October 10, 2019
When a foster child ages of out of care, that child is often left without any connection to family, or to any adult who could meaningfully prepare him/her/they to navigate the inherent obstacles of adulthood. This creates even greater barriers to achieving successful outcomes, especially when one is a survivor of trauma. Read Keanakay Scott's story. . .