The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) shared great news earlier this week that the number of children in foster care across the United States has dropped for the sixth straight year. New figures show there were 400,540 children in foster care as of September 30 compared to 406,412 a year earlier.
The year-to-year decrease may not seem like a substantial dip, but it continues the dramatic shift we’ve seen for more than a decade—according to the DHHS, there were approximately 523,000 children in foster care as recently as 2002. While many factors can be attributed to the decrease, I think one of the primary reasons is the focus and commitment of the Christian community to orphan care through the creation of orphan care ministries at local churches and the recruitment of families to open their homes to vulnerable children. For these efforts, and many more, I am grateful.
While the continued decrease of children in foster care is fantastic, not all of the news in this week’s reports was positive. Specifically, the number of children who “aged out” of the foster care system, without ties to their own parents or with any other home, was at 26,286. That means 26,286 young adults will not have a family to turn to—no one to love and support them.
Children age out of foster care at 18 years old. Though progress is being made with regard to foster care and older child adoption, we must make greater strides in the near future in hopes of keeping older children with their biological parents or in placing them with loving families who can give them the care and affection they so desperately require.
We must work collectively to: create programs offering counseling and support to troubled families, recruit greater numbers of churches and faith-based organizations to make family preservation a primary commitment, educate the public on available services, and raise awareness to how the difference we make in the lives of the most vulnerable can ultimately impact the quality of our own lives.
We certainly have come a long way in finding families for children in foster care over the past decade and for that we are extremely grateful. However, the future welfare of our nation is dependent on successfully raising children who are prepared to contribute meaningfully to society. The day will come when we will depend on their leadership—social, industrial, and political. Some may say this is not our problem, but we cannot be content with less than 100 percent of these children having a safe, loving family. As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, we should be able to care for those who have little to no control over the world into which they were born.
To find out how you can be part of the solution, visit www.Bethany.org.