On any given day, there are roughly 430,000 children in the American foster care system. Here are the top 5 things to know about children who enter foster care.
1. Children enter foster care through no fault of their own.
They’ve been removed from their family homes because an investigation has confirmed there is abuse and/or neglect in their home and that, for the time being, they will be safer elsewhere.
2. The amount of time a child spends in foster care varies, case by case.
Some children will be reunified with their parents once the system has determined it’s safe for them to return to their family home. Others will age out before that happens. A few will be adopted by a loving foster family. Some will run away.
3. Most children in foster care have suffered repeated trauma.
Trauma affects children’s brain development and alters the way they see and respond to people and situations in their lives. It also impacts their self-confidence. Overwhelmed by their ability to cope, trauma leads to behaviors like increased aggression and distrusting or disobeying adults.
4. They routinely underperform in school and work.
The average foster child changes homes and schools at least once per year. Adjusting to a new school, teachers, and friends, often in the middle of the school year, leads to chronically high rates of absenteeism and significant learning gaps.
5. Learning to trust others is an ongoing challenge for foster kids
Even in the most loving foster home, it’s hard to trust adults when you’ve been hurt by the adults who were meant to protect you in the first place. Building trust is a slow process with many setbacks, but the rewards are worth the effort.
Kids who experience abuse, neglect, and loss in their early relationships often approach new relationships assuming others will hurt them. During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, consider volunteering in the lives of young people who, through no fault of their own, have been through a lot. Whether it’s donating the proceeds from a bake sale or connecting with a nonprofit that focuses on foster youth, we can all help these children heal from their past.