May is National Foster Care Month. Did you know that on any given day in the United States, there are approximately 415,000 children in the foster care system? And in 2014 alone, over 650,000 children spent time in the system. And while it is incredibly well-intentioned, many components of the child welfare systems are broken. This means one thing at the end of the day: a huge number of children are at risk of experiencing short and longterm harm as a result.
From being unsettled and never quite knowing when the next uprooting will happen, to being separated from a siblings to being abused in the system that is paradoxically designed to protect them, the problems for foster children are potentially endless. One of the large wide-spread issues is what happens when children in the system turn 18. In 2014, over 22,000 children aged out of the system without being linked to forever families. Being on their own without any support puts these 18-year-olds at a higher likelihood than the general population to experience homelessness, unemployment and incarceration as adults (source).
These shocking data points underscore how important it is to raise awareness around the realities of the foster care system. It really is a system hidden in plain sight - and how we choose to approach dealing with it as a society says a lot about who we are and who we want to be.
It also shows why it is so important to support organizations that have proven that they can provide real impact on improving the foster care system - especially around National Foster Care Month.
One Simple Wish
One of these organizations is One Simple Wish, who aims to make it simple for everyone to support kids in foster care in meaningful, personal ways. They empower everyday citizens to make a direct difference in the life of a foster child or child at-risk one simple wish at a time. Since launching in late 2008, they've granted over 9,000 wishes to kids who've been victims of abuse and neglect. These wishes are things like new bedding, music lessons, skateboarding shoes and baby strollers. Founder Danielle Gletow told us "One Simple Wish tries to put joy back into the lives of foster kids by giving them the experiences that make up a happy childhood. No matter how old they get, or how long they are in care, we are here and will be there for them. That is a type of stability and security that tends to elude them when they are in care and moving from place to place." Sounds like an amazing org to support - and with one simple click you can do it here.
Walking for National Foster Care Month
Foster Care Alumni of America is an amazing org made up of, you guessed it, people who spent time in the foster care system and are dedicated to supporting children currently in the system. They run FosterWalks across the country, and the Seattle chapter is holding their walk on May 15th and looking to raise $50k. You know what to do next.
It's a Human Rights Issue
Human Right Campaign (HRC) is marking National Foster Care Month with their #FosterEquality campaign. Throughout the month, they'll share stories of LGBTQ youth in foster care and agencies that are working to improve their practices with LGBTQ youth. You can also join them in sharing your stories and raising awareness about the needs of LGBTQ foster youth by using the hashtag #FosterEquality.
How Can You Help?
It's important to remember another thing that One Simple Wish founder Danielle Gletow told us, "Foster kids don't ask to be in foster care, and it's so important for people to remember that these kids find themselves in environments and circumstances they did not create. Mostly, they just want to be kids and to know they are loved—just like every other child."
With that in mind, the foster care system is one that can only be improved by adding money, resources and awareness. So whether you donate, fundraise or just start talking to more about what the state of the crucial system is in our country in 2016, it all helps.