Understanding Foster Care
who enter Foster Care have experienced neglect or abuse
are more likely to be chronically absent from school
of foster youth in California graduate from high school
in the California Foster Care system will earn a college degree
experience homelessness after emancipating
Foster care is not meant to be permanent, but it often is. It is supposed to be a means to ensure the safety of the child, rehabilitate the family, and ultimately reunify the child to their birth parents. Unfortunately, this may not always occur. Other permanency options may be available for the child, such as living with adoption, guardianship, or living with kin. However, many children find that their stays in foster care are permanent, and they find themselves grappling with the trauma they faced both before they entered foster care and the trauma they experience while there.
Children enter the foster care system for many different reasons; sexual or physical abuse are unfortunately very common, as well as educational, medical, or emotional neglect. Los Angeles has over 60,000 youth in foster care who have experienced abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
Aside from the trauma they faced before entering foster care, youth often experience more trauma while in foster care. The physical act of entering care—being removed from their home, community, and often school, and then placed with foster parents who are in most cases strangers, all within a day—can be frightening, disorienting, and confusing for a child. And too often, children in foster care do not meet the minimal standards of care and protection that we strive to achieve for children as a nation.
The trauma that occurs inside foster care has staggering effects. Only 53% of foster youth in California graduate from high school; and over 50% experience homelessness. Foster youth who age out of the system are 10 times more likely to be incarcerated then their peers who are in stable housing.
Despite these disheartening facts, there are proven methods to mitigate negative effects on a foster child’s life. Trauma-informed care is crucial when working with foster youth. It means attempting to understand behaviors and treat the person, taking into account their past trauma, as well as the maladaptive coping mechanisms they may have developed in response to that trauma.