Lara, Micky, and Kevin are siblings who entered foster care in 1995 at the ages of 5, 2 and 2 months. Their mother, Tania was young and although bright with a disarming sense of confidence, she succumbed to substance abuse and became addicted to crack cocaine. Lara aged out of foster care after 13 years of struggling with the anger and hurt of her abandonment; she is not doing well. Micky turned 18 in January three years later. He is polite and respectful, with a good heart; a future-focused young man who cares about family and understands the importance of education. Graduation day had a double meaning for him.
On that day he left his foster home with his few belongings and nowhere to live. Kevin had a rocky road throughout his eighteen years in care. His diagnosis of depression stems from the unresolved trauma he lives with. He self-medicates with marijuana and is in trouble with the law.
These children represent over 9,600 children in California alone who have spent more than five years in foster care, a system designed to provide temporary care until children reunify with parents, or when that is not possible, join a new family through adoption or legal guardianship. Without changes to our system their chances of achieving the permanent family they need are slim.
Much has changed in the child welfare system over the last decade. Because stronger supports are in place for birth families to help them overcome barriers to meeting their children’s needs, fewer children are entering foster care. Of those that do, a much higher percent successfully reunify with their birth parents.
While the overall number of California children in care has gone down, the number who age-out of the system without a permanent family remains constant – approximately 4,000 every year in California alone. Within two years 50% will be homeless, in prison, victimized, or dead.
Families NOW improves permanency outcomes for children and youth in foster care by addressing and shifting mindsets, removing legal and policy barriers, and facilitating development and implementation of effective fiscal and programmatic strategies.