September 2 – Our Families: Foster Care

America’s Foster Child System

Vital Sign Religious Freedom

People who know will tell you that many of America’s child welfare systems are broken, and children are suffering as a result. 

The statistics are startling: In 2019, over 672,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care. On any given day, there are nearly 424,000 children in foster care. On average, children remain in foster care for over 18 months, and five percent of children in foster care have been in the system for five or more years.   

Despite the common perception that the majority of children in foster care are very young, the average age of children entering care is 8. In 2019, one-third of children entering U.S. foster care were young people of color. Family settings are home to most children in foster care, but 10 percent live in institutions or group homes. 

More than 71,000 children whose mothers’ and fathers’ parental rights had been legally terminated were waiting to be adopted in 2019. And in that same year, more than 20,000 young people aged out of foster care without permanent families. 

An average of 17,000 children removed from their families’ custody and placed in foster care are reunited within 10 days. 

The goal of foster care is to provide children with a safe and nurturing temporary home until they can be reunited with their biological family or receive a permanent placement. However, the reality is that thousands of children age out of the system each year before this ever happens. 

In many cases, children are removed from their biological homes due to maltreatment, abuse, or neglect, which means the child has already experienced physical, emotional, or psychological trauma. Despite officials’ efforts, the foster system does little to ameliorate that. 

Many experts and studies on child development say that the moment when a child is taken from his or her parents is the source of lifelong trauma, regardless of how long the separation lasts. 

Dr. John DeGarmo, founder of The Foster Care Institute, says, “Children in foster care often struggle with issues of trust, attachment, and anxiety. They also face significant emotional difficulties such as a lack of self-worth and the need to be in control, which can make it hard to establish healthy, loving relationships.” 

Children who are bounced from foster home to foster home, those who receive five different placements or more, get involved with the criminal justice system at the rate of 90 percent. And simply living in the foster care system, for whatever period of time, puts a child at high risk of developing medical, behavioral, and/or emotional problems. 

According to the Institute for Family Studies, “The truth is that there is a shortage of good foster homes, public and private caseworkers are overworked and undertrained, and many foster parents are viewed as glorified babysitters.” They say that government funding is needed to help take care of the caseload, hire more qualified caseworkers, and assist foster parents.   

What can you do? According to Dr. DeGarmo, you can be more aware of the situation and advocate for foster children. You could consider becoming a foster parent, loving on a child who may never have experienced love before. You can be an encourager of teachers who have foster children in their classes or consider helping foster children who have aged out of the system as they attempt to begin life on their own. Birth parents and biological family members, often unprepared for a child, are often part of the cycle of abuse and neglect, and they need help. Churches and faith-based organizations are seeing the weaknesses of the system and are beginning to help. A program known as CASA, or Court Appointed Special advocates, trains volunteers to work with foster children, giving direct help to the child one-on-one. 

Be in prayer for the children in foster care, their biological families, the foster parents, the caseworkers, and the child advocates, remembering admonitions in Scripture to care for God’s little ones. “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15) is God’s promise to those children. 

How then should we pray? 

  • For children who are in foster care and for healing of the trauma they endure. 
  • For assistance for biological parents who, for a variety of reasons, have had their children placed in the foster care system, to be able to comply with state requirements for their children to be returned. 
  • For caseworkers dealing with the overwhelming numbers of foster children, and for government agency officials, legislators, governors, and those who can ensure that there are adequate funds for foster care programs. 
  • For volunteers who advocate for the foster child, and those who come alongside to simply love on them. 
  • That God would reach the hearts of foster children, directly or through His people, so that they are introduced to Jesus and learn of the never-failing love of the Lord. 

See previous Pray 7 daily featured readings.

Back to top