When perusing the news, looking for stories about foster care and adoption, almost without fail there will be an article which states that foster care systems in the United States are not succeeding. So why do we keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results? It’s not working!
Take, for instance, the information shared in this article by former Foster Care Social Worker, Marie K. Cohen. In it she quotes one runaway foster youth as saying, “We should not feel safer on our own roaming the streets than we do with the people that the government is paying to [to keep us in their homes].” Clearly, the system is failing many of our country’s children.
Yes, more money would help. Yes, better screening and oversight of foster parents is a must. But we’ve been saying that for decades. Let’s consider a true overhaul now. Stop complaining that there are not enough social workers, not enough good foster parents. Instead, let’s find an alternative. Because alternatives are out there!
I first learned about foster villages when I explored foster care in Russia. Russia really hasn’t had a foster care system–they’ve kept their orphans institutionalized. But opening their eyes to see that what they’re doing isn’t working, Russia has created Foster Villages. They aren’t the only ones.
Right here in the United States we have similar programs that are proving to be successful, stable, and nurturing. Read this article that Marie Cohen wrote back in 2015 about states that have successfully implemented foster villages. Why are they successful? Many reasons. A community filled with foster children means a community that is inclusive rather than exclusive. These kids can relate to each other. The foster parents are neighbors and support each other. Acceptable, even comfortable housing is provided and equal–so that everyone can feel comfortable visiting each others’ homes. Education, recreation, and nurturing are community events and all are given the same chance to succeed. As a community, the oversight is easy. They watch out for each other.
Although there are some absolutely amazing foster parents in our country, there are not enough of them. That’s why we still have some really, really bad foster parents. The system keeps them because we need a place to put the kids. This writer says, Let’s go cold turkey. Drop the bad foster parents, build foster communities, make our country better by keeping our kids safer!