One woman's viral Facebook post detailing her overwhelming experience in court with her foster son is resonating with a lot of people as it reveals the day-to-day difficulties that both children and their caregivers often face within the foster care system.
"'Does anyone want the child? Are you sure? Nobody? Ok, we will be back in a few weeks and finish paperwork.' Meanwhile said 'child' is a boy I care very much about. A boy sitting next to me hearing every word. A boy who is trying to wipe away the hot tear rolling down his cheek," Sarah Quinlan wrote in a post, which has over 48,000 shares and 44,000 reactions, on the Facebook page, Foster Your Heart Out, on April 3.
“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.”
Though the system differs by state, foster care or “out-of-home” care generally means a temporary living arrangement for someone under the age of 18 who can no longer live with their parents or guardians. While 45 percent of children are placed with non-relative foster families, others live with relatives or in group homes. There were 427,910 children were in foster care in September 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
One of the biggest obstacles that children in foster care face is changing schools.
“Foster children, typically have low attendance rates, as they are moved from one home to another,” Dr. John DeGarmo, foster parent and author, explained in an article for Foster Focus Magazine. Because most children in the system move once or twice a year, they also have issues registering in new schools and transferring credits.
In fact, the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education estimates “youth in out-of-home care lose approximately four to six months of academic progress with each change in school placement.” Experts argue that all of these factors contribute to the high dropout rate among children in the foster care system, with only half of which actually graduating from high school.
“As a result of the sudden and dramatic changes in their lives,” DeGarmo noted, “many children in foster care have great difficulty in adjusting to school, both academically and behaviorally.” Quinlan echoes this idea in her Facebook post, saying, “We drop them off at school to handle these emotions. And shake our heads when they are expelled again.”
“Why are our juvenile jails full?” Quinlan wrote. “Because our custody courtrooms are empty."
On top of these dramatic changes, many children have likely already experienced traumatic events before being placed in the foster care system. Of the 732 children surveyed in a 2013 study, 50 percent had experienced interpersonal violence and almost 30 percent reported sexual trauma. Children in out-of-home care are twice as likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than the general population.
As Quinlan’s post illustrates, children in the foster care system encounter a number of obstacles. Though the average child spends one to eleven months in foster care, more than 20,000 age out every year without being adopted or finding a permanent family.
Read her full Facebook post below: