A mother named Sarah, who shares her family's journey to become foster care and adoptive parents on her Foster Your Heart Out Facebook page, pointed out a series of crucial flaws in the United States foster care system in an emotional post from earlier this month.
In the post, which has already been shared nearly 54,000 times, Sarah details how the courts mechanically handle foster care cases, often with little or no apparent empathy for the child in question. "Court today. I had to keep my hand on something because it was shaking. They all spoke like it was a legal procedure and nothing more. No compassion," she writes.
"Does anyone want the child? Are you sure? Nobody? Ok, we will be back in a few weeks and finish paperwork," Sarah recalled hearing.
"Meanwhile said 'child' is a boy I care very much about. A boy sitting next to me hearing every word," she adds. "A boy who is trying to wipe away the hot tear rolling down his cheek."
According to ChildrensRights.org, there are roughly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States on any given day, and as Sarah points out, hearing they are unwanted can often (understandably) have a significant negative impact on their lives.
"We ask them to act like respectful members of society. But we drop them off at strangers homes with everything they own in trash bags and then have them sit through court hearing that would shake any adult," she points out. "They have to hear nobody wants them or the few people that might are not fit."
Sarah — foster parent to a 13-year-old son and biological mom to a 2-year old and a 3-year-old — continues, "Then we drop them off at school to handle these emotions. And shake our heads when they are expelled again. We tell them to stay out of trouble and label them as bad kids for outbursts of anger and frustration."
In conclusion, Sarah poignantly poses a question and answer: "Why are our juvenile jails full? Because our custody court rooms are empty."
In sharing this heart-wrenching post, Sarah hopes to encourage others to become foster parents. The mom of three tells Scary Mommy she became aware of the immediate and overwhelming need when they started looking into adoption and foster-to-adoption options. "Once you see that need you can't unseen it," she says. "You see the faces and hear the voices of children in your town needing safety and stability and love. And it starts consuming your thoughts."
If you're eager to help those in the foster care system but aren't quite prepared to foster a child, consider supporting a foster family by providing respite care (though keep in mind you'll likely need a license for that) or simply help out with household chores. For something a bit more structured, try volunteering at your local foster care agency or give some of your time and resources to an organization like Kids Hope USA, which assists at-risk youth.
Since education for foster kids is especially critical, you might also consider donating to an organization such as Foster Care to Success, which prepares foster children for young adulthood as they age out of the system. Recent research says less than 10 percent of foster youth graduate from college, but Foster Care to Success is working diligently to change that. An impressive 65 percent of the organization's scholars graduate college within five years, a percentage higher than that of the overall U.S. population.