Statistics show the future bodes poorly for many of the children in the foster care system, a top official with Arrow Child and Family Ministries said. Arrow, an international child-placement agency, claims the statistics describe a “national foster care crisis.”
As of April, there were 349 children from Randall and Potter counties in foster care.
According to national statistics provided by Arrow, 40 to 50 percent of those children will never complete high school. Sixty-six percent of them will be homeless, go to jail or die within one year of leaving the foster care system at 18.
Arrow also said 80 percent of the prison population once was in foster care, and that girls in foster care are 600 percent more likely than the general population to become pregnant before the age of 21.
Keith Howard, state director of Arrow Child and Family Ministries in the Texas Panhandle, said the numbers show that the foster care system has failed children.
“A lot of it is cyclical stuff that we see, so when we never engage that child and break the cycle, we in turn empower that cycle,” Howard said.
Shawn Flores of Amarillo had been in foster care since age 10 and was living at Arrow when he left the system at 18.
Like many in his position, he was nervous about what lay ahead, but unlike most of his peers he decided to pursue higher education.
“Honestly, that’s just me knowing that in order for me to be successful I have to go to school,” he said. “Just the fact that I would have that degree.”
Flores is attending South Plains College in Lubbock for physical therapy after his caseworker and Arrow staff helped set him up in an independent-living program.
Howard said it’s important for young adults who age out of foster care to have a support system they can count on to help them during times of need.
“The ones that do age out with that family structure, that person behind them, they do have greater success,” Howard said.
Flores said his brother, Anthony, also has offered him support and is the person he feels he can fall back on, if needed.
“Just having that knowledge that someone is there that loves them and cares about them, that stabilizing force of knowing there’s someone who cares and is going to be there,” he said.
Marie Carter, who is foster parenting three teenagers with husband Derrick, said that although it’s worth it in the end, it isn’t always easy being a foster parent.
Three siblings, Danny, 15, Deshan, 14, and Kalija, 13, came to live with the Carters six years ago, and each had their own set of behavioral issues.
Carter noticed that the teens, who were on medication for hyperactivity and depression, were clingy and anxious.
But Carter said the children - with a lot of love and guidance - have come a long way.
“I think it’s made a big difference, them being here versus being at a foster care agency,” she said. “They’ve grown so much as far as being secure.”
They’ve also been weaned off much of the medication, she said.
Recently, Carter bought them notebooks and prompted them to journal about their past experiences and work up to writing about their futures.
“I think finally they’re coming out of the shell of thinking they can’t be whoever they want to be because of us talking about who they want to be,” she said. “They definitely dream about their futures.”
Howard said many people are turned off by foster parenting because they burden themselves with the responsibility of “saving” the children placed in their homes.
“I think the mindset people have to take is that they are not the child’s savior, they’re not their hero; they’re there to help them through this time in their life,” he said.
The children in the system come from broken families and need help, Howard said.
“I think the statistics that 80 percent of the people in prison were in foster care creates a myth that these kids are bad kids and they’re not,” he said.
“What the statistics speak to me personally is this: You’re either going to take care of this kid or this teenager now, when you have the opportunity to make lifelong change, or you’re going to take care of this kid when they’re 22 or 23 and they’re homeless or they’re in the prison system,” Howard said.
That’s why he thinks people should get involved in foster parenting.
“Why don’t we just stand up now and create positive adults, instead of letting some of these cycles continue?” he said.
“We are a strong, caring community.” Howard said. “There’s 349 kids who are in foster care today who need us adults in our society to step up and become that stability, or else we’ll see the same statistics perpetuate themselves in our community, and there’s no need for that.”
Source : https://www.amarillo.com/news/local-news/2012-06-24/what-comes-next