Providing foster care is not for feint of heart. Let’s just get that out of the way right up front. The Kansas City Star’s special reports on the state of foster care in our country shows us is that something is systemically wrong both in the way our culture looks at foster care and certainly in the way foster care is carried out in this country, and certainly in Kansas. This article confirms what I already know to be true through my own research and personal experiences.

If so many children are being victimized then can we assume that what we are doing is not working? From the star;

More than 4,000 former foster care kids every year end up homeless after leaving the system, a conveyor belt that deposits some into sex trafficking and drug addiction. Within four years of aging out, the homeless number doubles in some parts of the country. One center for homeless youth in Indiana reported that nearly 70 percent of the young people it has served so far this year had spent time in foster care, a 36 percent increase over last year.

Laura Bauer and Judy L Thomas , Kansas City Star

As am man who adopted two of our four children out of the State of Oklahoma’s foster care system I can tell you four places I believe the states can begin to turn this issue around;

  • Re-examine the budgets from top to bottom. More money should be allocated to those in the field providing services for families, foster care families and adoptive families (of children from the foster care system) and less on administration of said services.
  • Improve the training, screening/recruiting and the setting of expectations of individuals entering into the care of foster children and/or on the path to adoption.
  • 24/7 Respite Centers should be established to provide temporary relief, training, support and rejuvenation for foster care providers, adoptive parents and the youth themselves.
  • Reverse the privatization of these services. Our children should not be up for profit.

Marie and I were blessed with a strong support system through our families, our personal relationships and the churches we were apart of in both Oklahoma and Kansas. We were surrounded with people who would emotionally and financially encourage us during difficult times. But make no mistake, there were many dark times when we would just need a break.

That’s not to say we didn’t love the children. No. Quite the opposite. It’s because we loved them, because we cared so much that we needed the break. And so too, our biological children. And so too, our adoptive children.

Just Imagine

The world of foster care children, former or current, is much different than the world most of us grew up in. Sure, we may know what it is like to hear our parents fight, to not get everything we want or to be made fun of by people we thought we could trust.

But imagine being rejected by your biological parents. Imagine your first interaction with police or government being your removal from the ones you thought you could trust. Imagine new “parents’ every week, sometimes for years on end. Imagine going hungry, truly hungry.

And then imagine being told, “You’re eighteen now. You’re on your own.”

With no training. No support system No feeling of emotional stability.

One of Emma’s biggest fears was being rejected one more time. Another was being left permanently alone. She would often go into the negative future and imagine “What happens when you two are dead? I will have no one to take care of me!”

Sure, I know it sounds a little odd for most of us. Yet, how many times had Emma been rejected? How many times had Emma been left alone? And Brandon, too. We heard some of the stories.

Early Childhood Development

When you take the time to study brain development in children you quickly realize that the experiences you encounter in your first five years set you up for the rest of your life. Most of us are held, told we are loved and provided with everything we need in the way of food, clothing and shelter.

Before you judge, imagine trading places for those first five years. Would you be who you are today?

That’s why I look at Brandon with such admiration. We didn’t meet him until he was eight years old. The stories we began to hear as the years rolled by literally dropped my jaw. Sure he had some struggles, and still does. Yet, he gets up each day and fights his past and presses on to a better future.

None of us can change one thing in our past. We can only begin today and work to build a better future.

Cost to Society

Folks, when we turn our back on those we are supposed to protect it eventually hurts us all. Do you know why drugs are so prevalent? Do you know why there are so many crimes of burglary and opportunity to feed those drug habits? Do you know that we are throwing away thousands of kids each year?

What does this cost us as a society? If you think taking care of our children is expensive just look at what it costs us to house inmates for decades. In 2015 Kansas spent $237,682,123 on our prison system!

It is time we all rise up and demand a change. It is time we reach out to those families that have taken on the responsibility of foster care and support them. We could write them an encouraging letter or offer to take the children for a night so they can remember what it is like to date. We could take the biological siblings out to a lunch.

We can start with little things as friends and neighbors. Then we can elect men and women who will tackle this problem and begin the process of change through our governmental systems. We can all do this before it’s too late.