There is a national foster care crisis: more and more at-risk children are being placed in the foster care system, and there aren’t enough families to care for them.
Every year, thousands of children are removed from their homes because of neglect, trauma, abuse, or drug exposure. In recent years, the number of children who have entered the foster care system nationwide has only increased, due in large part to the growing opioid crisis. These children need safe, loving homes, but there is a shortage of foster families able to care for them. That shortage means that too many of these children—ranging from newborn to eighteen years old—spend days, months, or years in overcrowded group homes and temporary shelters. These kids are already fighting an uphill battle for necessities, and the lack of a safe, loving home only makes it worse. The foster care crisis can’t be fixed overnight. But one practical way to help is to increase the number of families who can care for these children. To do that we need more foster and adoption agencies recruiting and supporting more foster families.
PUTTING CHILDREN FIRST:
Finding Homes for Foster Kids in Need
Every child deserves a loving, secure home. Faced with staggering numbers of kids in need, states’ child protective services rely on foster and adoption agencies—both public and private—to do the crucial work of supporting foster and adoptive parents as they care for children in need.
Faith-based agencies do vital work. Faith-based agencies play a unique role in recruiting potential adoptive parents and supporting the foster and adoptive families who have chosen to work with them because of their faith values. With 30 to 60 percent of foster parents dropping out of the system each year, agencies with a proven record of retention and support are more vital than ever.
A vital resource for new families. Once a child is placed in a foster home or adopted, the journey has just begun for new parents. Families rely on their agencies for crucial resources and support in providing a home for the children in their care—sometimes around the clock.
Top Foster and Adoption Agencies Are Targeted
This vital work is at risk. Eliminating successful faith-based foster agencies would mean fewer chances for kids to find homes, and it would cut off crucial support to families and kids in need.
Faith-based agencies put kids first. The people trying to shut them down can’t say the same.
Faith-based agencies like St. Vincent Catholic Charities are especially successful at placing older children, sibling groups, minority children, and kids with special needs in loving homes. But in 2019 the Attorney General of Michigan signed an agreement with the ACLU attempting to end its partnership with St. Vincent and other faith-based agencies because of their religious beliefs about marriage. But St. Vincent’s religious beliefs have never prevented a single family from adopting or a single child from being placed in a loving home. In fact, children in foster homes overseen by St. Vincent can still be adopted by families working with any other adoption agency in the state. Because of the ACLU and the Attorney General’s actions, it will be even harder for kids in need to find a loving home.
In March 2018, the City of Philadelphia put out an urgent call for 300 more foster parents to help the hundreds of kids waiting for homes. But just weeks later, the city abruptly suspended all referrals to Catholic Social Services, one of the city’s most successful foster agencies—just because of its longstanding beliefs on marriage. No one has ever filed a complaint against Catholic Social Services, and the agency has never prevented anyone from becoming a foster parent. Now dozens of homes sit empty because the city won’t allow Catholic Social Services to place kids with loving, already-approved and available families.
FAMILIES ARE FIGHTING BACK
“For the last 25 years, I have sheltered and loved more than 40 children, helping them piece their lives together and move on from hurt-filled pasts.”
“There is no book, no pamphlet, no course in life that can prepare you for the reality that is going from marriage, to infertility, to saying yes to adopting three children at once who have suffered severe emotional and physical trauma.”
Keep Effective Agencies Open
We need more foster care agencies—not less. Kids in the foster care system need all hands on deck. More agencies means more potential families and more kids placed in loving homes. States should be free to partner with successful organizations, including faith-based organizations, to ensure all couples who wish to adopt can do so and all children in need find a home.
Closing faith-based foster agencies takes away options for parents, making it harder for children to be placed into loving homes. Foster care and adoption agencies screen potential foster and adoptive families, and then help and support those families through their journey. Foster parents should be free to work with faith-based agencies—which include Christian, Jewish, and Muslim agencies—that align with their faith. If one faith-based agency were to close, the dozens of families it supported would be left with the difficult choice of searching for a new agency to provide the support they need, or giving up fostering completely. Many families only come into the system through religious agencies.
Foster and adoption agencies commonly refer potential families to other agencies for a variety of reasons, such as agencies that specialize in special needs children, or serving families with a particular language background, or serving families in a particular geographic area. And faith-based agencies will always make sure that any family who wants to foster or adopt will be able to do so, whether the agency works with them directly or refers them to a nearby agency.
Faith-based agencies have the right to operate according to their mission—just like other private foster agencies. Foster and adoption agencies all have the same goal: to find loving homes for children in need. However, specific agency missions vary, like finding parents for Native American children, older children, sibling groups or children with special needs. If a couple approaches an agency with a request outside the scope of their services, the agency refers them to an agency that can better accommodate the couple’s or individual’s needs.
When it comes to helping children in the foster care system, the work done by faith-based organizations is indispensable and irreplaceable. That’s why Becket stepped in. Becket is representing St. Vincent Catholic Charities in Michigan and Catholic Social Services in Pennsylvania, along with foster and adoptive parents who depend on those agencies for help and support.