May 26 2016
Today, in honor of National Foster Care Month, we offer five things you might not know about the foster care system and six things you can do to help.
1. On average, children in foster care move seven times.
Many people believe a child enters foster care and stays in the same home until their case is resolved. In reality, children move placements an average of seven times while in a CPS case. This means not just new homes and new caregivers but also new schools and new communities. Finding a new foster home can take kids across the state or the country. The older a child is, the more placements they are likely to have. One of our supervisors advocates for a child who has moved homes 48 times.
2. There are not enough foster homes.
Right now we have a major shortage of foster homes in Travis County, meaning kids are being placed in far away communities or kept in shelters and group homes until high quality placements open up. When we do have foster homes for kids, they aren't always good options, sometimes with seven or more kids and not enough care to support them.
3. Foster parents are paid for the kids they take in... but not much.
Foster parents receive a stipend from the state to help provide normalcy for children, to help provide them with clothes or to send them to camps or on trips like other children. The stipend is small, starting around $22 a day and increasing for children who need more intense care, so most foster parents supplement with their own income.
4. Young adults aging out of the foster care system have few resources at their disposal.
There is not enough support to prepare teens for adulthood or to help them when they age out of the system without having found a permanent home. One in five kids who age out spend time homeless, one in four are incarcerated and more than a third end up living below the poverty line. The state will pay for public university, but only half of all children who age out graduate high school, only ten percent attend college and only three percent graduate with a degree.
5. Most kids in foster care return to their parents.
There is a misconception that once a child enters the foster care system, they don't see their parents again, but this is not the case. While a CPS case is open, the courts work with parents to help prepare them for their children to come home and if they are able to prove they can keep children safe, parental rights are restored. Last year, 53 percent of the cases we closed at CASA ended in family reunification.
Donate money to CASA or other organizations that support foster youth. Gift cards to help children with their needs are also important.
2. Become a CASA volunteer.
Trained CASA volunteers advocate for children in our community who’ve been abused or neglected, speaking up for them in the court system and helping them reach a safe and loving home. There are not enough CASA volunteers in Travis County to advocate for every child in care. More than 700 children still needed a CASA volunteer last year. Learn more on the volunteer page of our website.
3. Become a foster parent.
There is no one profile for foster parents. Some are single, others married; some extremely affluent, others live paycheck to paycheck. Foster parents are every age (over 21), every gender, every sexual orientation and every race and ethnicity. The only common denominator is a desire to make a better life for kids in the system.
4. Spread awareness.
In order for things to get better for kids in foster care, we need to spread awareness about the issues facing the foster care system and about the resources in the community. Talk with a friend or neighbor, or arrange a meeting with your child's school or your neighborhood association.
5. Get involved on a legislative level.
Next year, Texas will have another legislative session and legislators will debate a number of issues that affect foster youth. Contact your legislators to make sure children in foster care remain a priority.
6. Make children in foster care feel welcome.
If you happen to be in contact with children in foster care, whether you are a teacher, a friend to a foster parent, or some other form of caregiver, make children in foster care feel welcome. Children in foster care move around a lot which can make them feel distant and separated from the communities where they live, so ensuring the community is welcoming to them and they have the same opportunities as other children is extremely beneficial. This helps restore a sense of normalcy that is often lacking in children’s lives while they are in this system.
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