Did you know that 424,000 children - CHILDREN - are in foster care right now (according to fostercaremonth.org)? That averages out to over 8400 per state (if all the states had equal numbers, which they don't).
South Carolina has over 5400 children in foster care (in 2008). The average age was 10.4 years old. Think about a ten-year-old you know, or think back to when you were ten. Can you imagine being ripped from your family, regardless of how bad the situation was, then being given to complete strangers and being left in their care?
Neither can I.
Do you know how many licensed foster homes are in South Carolina? In 2008 the number was 1889. Just under 1900 homes for 5400 children. South Carolina has one of the highest "group home" rates in the country. A "group home" is a PC term for "orphanage."
In SC, the average length of time in foster care is just under 2.5 years. 45% of those 5400 children were reunited with their families. The rest either age out or are adopted (however, only about 9% were adopted).
Speaking of adoption, in 2008 515 children were adopted in South Carolina (you can get info from other states at http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/socwork/nrcfcpp/info_services/fact-sheets.html).
Just to compare -
- In Georgia there are approx. 13500 children in foster care, they average 8.8 years old. There are just under 3500 licensed foster homes for those 13500 children.
- In 2010, 27300 children were in foster care in Texas. 27,300. The average stay in foster care is 3.5 years and only 29% were reunified with their family. There are just under 9100 foster homes (that's 3 foster children per home, if they're all in a private home). 4800 children were adopted.
- 8750 children were in foster care in Colorado in 2003. They were in 3600 homes. 58% went back to their families. Of those adopted, 58% were adopted by non-relatives and 31% were adopted by relatives.
One of the numbers that gets to me the most is the ratio of children to available homes. Especially in South Carolina. We need more homes!
But I think one of the main bottom lines is this: each year, more than 30,000 children age out of foster care without a family to call their own. Without parents to guide them and without a home to return to. None of which was their fault. Every child deserves a home.
Even if you read this and think, "I'm not cut out to be a foster parent," you can still help. Maybe offer to do respite care (weekends or overnights with foster children). Help a foster family in their day-to-day chores (washing laundry, cooking meals). If you have a local "group home" near you, take over toys, games, food - call and see what they need. And most of all pray for these children to find loving homes or return to a safe home.
If you do think foster care might be in your future, check out www.fostercaremonth.org for more info.