When you read about the child welfare system today, it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that it is broken. Foster parent retention is very low and caseloads are very high. Outcomes for former foster youth, though they have improved over the years, remain poor across the board — high rates of homelessness and incarceration, lower rates of high school graduation.
Despite major reform efforts over the years, foster children and youth continue to experience a great deal of transition. The young people engaged in the Mockingbird Youth Network participate in an annual survey, and they report an average of seven placements over their time in foster care. About half the time, a change in homes results in a change in schools as well. Research shows that each time a child changes schools, they lose about 4-6 months of academic progress. Social and emotional impacts are clearly significant, as children require stability in order to thrive. As a parent who has agonized over decisions about whether to move or change my child’s school a few times over the course of her childhood, I am heartbroken to learn how often our kids in foster care are displaced and forced to adapt to a completely new environment, often without any input from or amount of control by the young person impacted by the decision.
children and youth to be
successful is a key to building healthy,
safe communities we all want to live in.”
Our community can do better to care for our children and to adequately support those who are doing their best to foster our kids, shelter those who are homeless and in other ways lend a hand. Of course, this is precisely why The Mockingbird Society exists. I’m proud to be here working with an excellent staff to promote change and innovation in the systems that address child welfare and youth homelessness. I am inspired by meeting with young people who are determined to raise their voices as advocates for change, and with policymakers who care deeply about these issues and are working to find in-roads to change an entrenched system.
I’m inspired by our Mockingbird Family Model constellations — groups of foster families working together to provide mutual support, parenting advice and respite so that the job of fostering children is easier and more sustainable.
Since many people do not have first-hand experience with the system, we need to continue to educate the public about the challenges and invite them to help us hold ourselves as a community accountable to these children. Helping our most vulnerable children and youth to be successful is a key to building the healthy, safe communities we all want to live in. I’m grateful that you care enough to read The Mockingbird Times to learn more. If you also want to hear in person from youth and young adults who have experienced foster care and homelessness, please join me at The Mockingbird Society Annual Luncheon on September 29. This fundraising event is an opportunity to learn together and affirm our commitment to all our children.
Interim Executive Director