Children in the foster care system have suffered at an early age. They have been abused, neglected, or abandoned and, in most instances, taken away from families who were unable to give them adequate care..
Some children stay in foster care for only a few weeks or months while their parents get their lives back on track, but thousands of others cannot safely be returned home and "grow up" in foster care. Babies who were drug-exposed at birth may go directly into foster care from the hospital. Older children often enter the foster care system without warning -- they have no chance to say goodbye to friends, neighbors, or teachers. They leave home without their favorite stuffed animal and without pictures of their family. They may end up in unfamiliar schools and distant parts of town. Brothers and sisters may be separated and have few, if any, opportunities to visit. While some are cared for by foster parents, others live in group homes where paid staff provide care to youth in rotating shifts. Children in our state's foster care system are moved from one placement to another an average of four times, with little advance notice, giving them few opportunities to form permanent attachments. Their primary contacts are social workers with high caseloads and high turnover rates..
Children enter foster care already at risk for emotional, behavioral, developmental, and physical health problems due to the abuse and neglect they have experienced. About three-quarters perform below grade level in school, and nearly half will not complete high school. Medical records for foster children are often fragmented and incomplete. Health care is inconsistent. Once they leave the foster care system, sometime between age 18 and 21, many are ill-prepared for living independently -- more than half are unemployed, almost a third will become homeless, and one in five will be incarcerated within two years.
The whole community needs to get involved. Taking children away from their biological parents is one of the most devastating actions our society takes. When we place children in foster care, the community as a whole must assume the duties and responsibilities of parenting; we are collectively obligated to provide for and sustain these vulnerable children.
As individuals, there is also much we can do, ranging from a lifetime commitment to a few moments of our time. We can step up to adopt a child and thereby create a permanent, loving home. We can become foster parents to children who need a warm, safe and nurturing environment. We can volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and work with needy children in dependency court or become an Educatinoal Rights Holder through CLC's training program. We can mentor foster youth as they are raised in our system and, as they approach age 18, help them face life on their own for the first time. We can give of our time to serve as a tutor or donate the extra personal items so many children in foster care may lack. We can even donate gifts to make sure a child's birthday is not forgotten or lost in the shuffle.
Children’s Law Center of California (CLC) provides the legal representation for, and is the 'voice' of, children and youth in the dependency court systems in both Los Angeles and Sacramento. CLC is appointed by the court but operates independently of the courts and the Department of Child & Family Services. Our clients are the children, and our relationships with our clients are confidential.
Generally foster parents provide a supportive family for children who cannot live with their birth parents until the child’s family’s problems are resolved, or the court determines that the birth parents are permanently incapable of providing for the child. In most cases, foster parents work with social services to reunite the child with birth parents.
A license is required to operate a foster home, and the process requires a license worker to visit your home and meet with you and other family members. Typically foster parents work with social services staff to determine the type of child best suited for their home (such as age, health issues, and gender). Of particular need are foster homes for pregnant and parenting teens.
Usually expenses are limited to
•Obtaining criminal record clearances for the applicant and co-applicants
•Obtaining criminal record clearance for all other adults in the home
•Becoming First Aid & CPR Certified
•Obtaining medical exams and TB tests for each adult in the home
You can learn more about foster parent licensing requirements at AdoptUsKids.org.