Teenagers. Sibling groups. Children with physical, mental, or emotional disabilities. Children who have been abused and neglected. These are the children in foster care. More than half of them are of minority descent. Sadly, many of them have experienced abuse and neglect, and all have endured the trauma of being separated from their families. The challenges differ from child to child, but they all long for unconditional love, patience, and understanding.
Children in the foster care system are:
- Toddler-aged and older, including children of broken marriages where neither parent wanted custody, especially boys;
- Non-white children;
- Children with mental handicaps or learning disabilities;
- Children with physical or emotional disabilities too severe for their parents to cope with;
- Babies born to mothers addicted to drugs or alcohol, who may themselves have been born addicts;
- Children born with HIV infection;
- AIDS orphans;
- Children with genetic disorders and illnesses;
- Children from families who have neglected or abused their children;
- Sibling groups: brothers and sisters needing adoption together.
These children have been removed from their families, or voluntarily placed in foster care because of a breakdown in the family, for which the children pay the price. When the family home becomes unstable, unsafe, abusive, neglectful, or criminal, children are removed for their own safety. This, however, does not mean that children don’t love the parent(s) with whom they lived, even in cases of extreme abuse. The separation of families can be highly traumatic for them. Perhaps they are leaving the only home they’ve ever known, being quickly transplanted elsewhere by adults who are not forthcoming with explanations. If they have some belongings with them, the chance is that they are few. While efforts are being made today to keep siblings together, that isn’t always possible and the additional trauma of this separation can be devastating.
Recent years have seen a rise in AIDS orphans. These are children whose parent(s) have died from AIDS and who end up in the foster care system because there are no other immediate options. The death(s) of their parent(s) is immediately followed by placement in a new environment which is probably radically different than the one they came from. The difficult transition is compounded by the complex enormity of grief over losing their parent(s), and grief at losing the life they’ve known.
Medically fragile children, emotionally damaged children, children who badly need a home environment in which to receive care and nurturing to give them their best opportunities for the future…these are the children in foster care.
Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (http://www.childwelfare.gov)