Effects of the Foster Care System

By Diksha Chavan ('22)


Photo courtesy of Wix

There are obvious, detrimental effects on children who are placed in the foster system.


The foster system is a government-run program that places children in different families, after being removed from their previous homes. They could be removed if Child Protective Services deems the home unsafe, abuse or neglect, domestic violence, and a variety of other reasons. Being in the foster system is supposed to be temporary, but many stay in the system for years on end.


When any child is removed from the home, it is traumatic to the child, even if the removal is necessary. They are being lifted up from their surroundings and placed in a completely new area, where they are forced to adapt at an already difficult time. They may face bullying, teasing, loss of friends, loss of sibling(s), and a change in school.


Psychologist Nilesh Chavan said, “When a foster child faces multiple moves, they are being taken out of their surroundings and being forced to adapt to the new changes constantly. This can make them closed off, or even [cause them] resort to unhealthy habits to make friends.”


All of these effects of being placed in foster care, can create a distraught child that is emotionally and physically fragile.


First off, many children have severe mental trauma from their previous homes and have serious mental illnesses when they are in their new family. Almost 80 percent of foster youth have a mental illness, and according to many organizations such as The American Academy of Pediatrics say that mental health care is the issue that is the least met.


Their mental health is an issue that will affect them now, as well as in the future. A study shows that those who age out of the foster system, after the age of 18, have a higher chance of getting/retaining a mental illness. 54% of those who age out have some sort of mental illness.


Many suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), depression and eating disorders and these factors can affect every aspect of their life. This includes, friends, relationships, getting a job, and their education too.


Many children’s physical health is also at risk while they are in the foster system. Compared to the general population, kids in foster care are three times as likely to have a hearing and/or vision problem and twice as likely to suffer from asthma and speech problems.


In addition, since they tend to be placed in poorer homes, kids in the foster care system are more likely to have a medical diagnosis that went unreported because they had not seen a physician.


When they finally leave the foster care system, it has been discovered that there is: a 54% chance of significant mental health problems, a 30% chance of some kind of medical issues, a 19%-37% chance of being unemployed, and a 22%-36% chance of being homeless only a short time after leaving the system.


The foster system is setting up these children for failure, and the kids are suffering. Rather than protecting these children, they are sacrificing their health for nothing.


Dr. Chavan said, “The point of the foster system is to protect, not harm. If America does not change this system, these children will not be as successful as they possibly can.”

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