For the Children

Children in the foster care system are in dire straits.

One of the hidden consequences of the opioid crisis is the increasing number of parents who are becoming addicted, necessitating the removal of their children from their care. These children go into foster care, right? Maybe under normal circumstances, but these are not normal circumstances. The foster care systems in many states across the country are overloaded and have no room for these children, whose only “crime” is happening to have a parent or parents who cannot care for them due to their addiction issues.

As surprising as it may seem, these children, at best case, are instead funneled into emergency shelters, or hotels (we’re not talking the Ritz here). At worst case, they are shipped to out of state institutions, or, most shockingly, placed in juvenile detention centers, and, in some cases, youth prisons. Remember, these children, have done nothing wrong, committed no crimes, or gotten into any trouble that would normally land one in such a facility.

In one example, a child spent time in a detention center, housed with accused rapists and even murderers, sleeping on concrete floors, being forced to attend group therapy sessions for teens accused of rape. Again, he had not done anything wrong, nor was he in the center because he had been accused of rape. To, me this situation is outrageous.

We have known for decades the harmful effects of children growing up in, or spending significant time housed in congregate care (group homes, institutions, residential treatment facilities). Pre-World War Two, they were called orphanages, and these facilities were largely shut down after the war because of their negative impacts on a child’s development and chances for success.

As the foster care system is decentralized, it is hard to get a handle on exact numbers, but when we do, they reveal a devastatingly high number of children not receiving adequate treatment and care in the foster system. Some of the data is coming to light through lawsuits filed on behalf of the children by the non-profit organization, A Better Childhood. In one such case, filed in West Virginia, the foster care system is so overloaded that an estimated seventy-one percent of children, ages 12-17, are housed in congregate care institutions.

This would seem much more of a crisis than who the president has tweeted about on any given day, yet the press pays only passing coverage to issues like this in their constant obsession with taking down Trump. Where are speeches from the Hollywood elites at their sanctimonious self-congratulatory award shows? I guess they are too busy buying their children’s future successes to bother learning how real children live and struggle every day.

In addition, we also need to look ourselves in the mirror, myself included, and ask, are we doing everything we can, in a constructive and collaborative way, to address the crisis in the overloaded foster care system? We certainly cannot count on the paralyzed ever-fighting politicians to solve anything, without us demanding action.