Every Child
7/21/15 at 04:57 PM 0 Comments

Innovative Approaches Offer Hope to Children in Foster Care

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More than 23,000 children in the United States “age out” of the foster care system every year – meaning they turn 18 and are no longer in their state’s legal care, despite the fact that they have yet to achieve a permanent connection with a forever family. That’s 23,000 kids every year that are forced into adulthood, often long before they’re prepared to take care of themselves.

Those 23,000 children are an indication of a greater problem: a foster system that isn’t completely meeting the demands of vulnerable children in need, even as thousands of dedicated professionals across the country work tirelessly to support such children. In order to properly serve the vast number of children requiring loving, nurturing homes, it’s imperative that we deploy innovative approaches to help them reach their unlimited potential.

Foster care serves a tremendous need in the United States to nurture children that have been separated from their biological families with the aim of eventually reuniting them if possible. Foster care is a prime opportunity to introduce vulnerable children to adults that can provide the care and parenting they desperately need, while also teaching them that others can be depended upon and trusted.

Children in foster care range in age from infants to teenagers and typically remain in foster care for at least a few months. Many return to their biological families, but others cannot return and adoption becomes their goal. But, it can be especially difficult for older children in foster care to find forever families, sometimes spending years in the foster system and bouncing from home to home.

With a grant from the United States government, Bethany Christian Services has implemented a unique new pilot program aimed at uniting older children in foster care with loving families. Called Operation Forever Family, the program employs four former foster youth to serve as lead recruiters, coaches, and mentors to teens that are still in foster care. It empowers children in the foster system to know that they’re not alone, and that others just like them have prevailed through difficult circumstances and gone on to lead successful lives. This is just one of the ways that children in the foster care system can be better served.

The negative outcomes of aging out of the foster care system without having been adopted have been well-documented in recent years. A 2013 study by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative found that taxpayers foot a $300,000 bill for every child that ages out of the foster care system, due to social costs that often result, including public assistance, incarceration, and lost tax dollars over that child’s lifetime.

It’s no secret that we need to do more for children in the foster care system in order to offer them the same shot at a successful future as any other child. The results of not doing so speak for themselves, both in terms of lost potential for today’s youth and fiscal penalties to taxpayers.

Learn more about Bethany’s foster care services and how you can become a foster parent at bethany.org.

Written by Bill Blacquiere, president and CEO of Bethany Christian Services

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