There are 500,000 in foster care in the United States on any given day and 800,000 children who go through the system in a year’s time. I don’t think anybody realizes the magnitude of this movement of precious lives. The traffic of these 800,000 children would make them tied to be the 13th largest city in the US. Imagine all of the people living in Jacksonville, San Francisco, Austin, Memphis, or Baltimore being asked to leave their city so just the nation’s foster care children could live in one place. Mind you this is only the children, if you included their parents, grandparents, and siblings who are not in foster care the impacted numbers by foster care would truly be astronomical. Because the impact of children in foster care is muted by the disbursement throughout the United States we don’t recognize the true cost of this phenomenon. These children, who often through no fault of their own, are placed in a system that was never meant to be their surrogate parent but attempts to do the best that it can. We all know that government was never meant to take the place of a family – especially a parent. So often foster children graduate to other systems of correction, supports, and services at a great cost to all.
We must garner the strength and conviction to support these children, their families, and communities. I recently worked with a young teenager, already a mother of a 5 month old, to stay connected to her family and prevent placement in the foster care system. As the grandmother and young teen mom attempted to reconcile their differences which could allow them to stay together, the system worked to bring them apart. As a product of the nation’s largest cities, New York’s, foster care system I refused to let this happen. I know what it is like to be placed in foster care at age 5 along with 9 other siblings, to be shuffled often 100s of miles away from home. Thus, I committed to personally provide the nominal funds to aid this family in staying together. I challenge caring adults everywhere to embrace these children and do what we can to make this segment of our population under the population of the 50th largest city – 375,000 by 2015. A 2008 report cited “of those children who grow up in foster care, more than 30 percent don’t finish high school, and only about 3 percent obtain a bachelor’s degree.” We can, we must, do better by these vulnerable children through concern by advocacy and philanthropic support.