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Foster Children Do Better At Home

Aug 18, 2007
If you love a child in need of care, you should take note of a new study on the long term results of foster care.

Many foster families provide excellent care. Nonetheless, a new study concludes that children on the margins of needing intervention tend to have better outcomes when they remain at home, especially for older children. Children who are removed from their homes face higher delinquency rates, teen birth rates and lower earnings.

These results add credence to recent efforts to keep children in their own families. Even when their families are marginal, their children fare better in their own home instead of in foster homes.

Over 2 million children are investigated for abuse and neglect in the United States each year. About half of those are found to have been abused. Approximately 10 percent of the abused children are removed from their families.

Currently over 500,000 children reside in foster homes. About 60 percent of those return home; 15 percent are adopted; and the remainder age out of the system when they turn 18. The average amount of time spent in foster care is about two years.

Abused children are three times more likely to die in childhood, with about 1,400 child deaths each year attributed to child abuse. Children withdrawn from their families are more likely to commit crimes, drop out of school, join welfare, abuse drugs and alcohol, and become homeless.

Nearly 20 percent of young prison inmates and 28 percent of homeless individuals spent some of their youth in the foster system. Of children who turn 18 years old while in the system, two thirds of the boys and half of the girls had a history of delinquency.

Federal and state laws encourage preserving children in their own families. Before removing a child from a family home, the state must prove that reasonable efforts to prevent the removal were tried and failed. They also must prove that leaving the child in the family's home would be contrary to the child's welfare.

However, in practice many children are removed from their family homes anyway.

The research by MIT economics professor Joseph J. Doyle studied 15,000 children who had been reported for abuse and neglect. The study did not include children who were subject to drug use or severe physical or sexual abuse. Those children would have required removal from their families regardless of its trauma. For the remainder of the children, the ones who stayed in their own families did better in their adult lives than the children placed in foster care.

We help our clients recover their children from foster care by lobbying the social service agencies before we get to court. We have found that intense out of court advocacy succeeds better than courtroom tactics alone. Combining sophisticated advocacy both in and out of court helps children avoid the long term negatives associated with the child welfare system.

We have also found success in preventing foster care in the first place by using guardianships and other private actions.

If you need to rescue a child from foster care, you need to act promptly. Contact an attorney licensed in the court that has jurisdiction over custody of your child.

Copyright 2007 Scott Wasserman
About the Author
Scott Wasserman is a graduate of Harvard Law School with more than 22 years of legal experience. His law practice focuses entirely on the rights of children and the adults who love them. He may be reached through his web site at www.yourchild1st.com .
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