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“Forever Families” Over Foster Care

Op/Ed By Hon. Sandra L. Frankel, CAP Board Fundraising Chair; Barbara Baer, CAP Board Chair; and Charles Reaves, CAP Executive Director –

cap logo“Hi Mom, hi Dad, I’m home!”

That’s what thousands of older children, sibling groups, and children with special needs in foster care who are waiting to be adopted yearn to say. Some children will be adopted. Many will not.

Although foster care families provide a temporary safe-haven for children, this doesn’t cement the permanent family bonds that children need. Adoption steers children toward success by fulfilling core emotional needs and providing stable foundations.

The costs of not being adopted have a significant human and economic impact.

Many children in foster care have experienced hardships that we cannot imagine, and the damage of not having a permanent home and a mom and/or dad is beyond words. Children need love, safety and constancy to grow to their full potential and become contributing members of society. Without this, their pain is extraordinary, their vulnerability, greater and their future, uncertain.

The economic costs of keeping children in foster care are equally daunting. Children who “age out” of foster care without families frequently end up homeless, or in jail, or lost.

According Nicholas Zill, PhD., in “Adoption from Foster Care: Aiding Children While Saving Public Money,” Brookings (May 19, 2011), “Although children in long-term foster care represent only a small fraction of the total child population of the United States, they represent a much bigger portion of the young people who go on to create serious disciplinary problems in schools, drop out of high school, become unemployed and homeless, bear children as unmarried teenagers, abuse drugs and alcohol, and commit crimes.

“A recent study of a Midwest sample of young adults aged 23 or 24 who had aged out of foster care found that they had extremely high rates of arrest and incarceration:

  • 81 percent of the long-term foster care males had been arrested at some point; 59 percent had been convicted of at least one crime. versus 17 percent of all young men in the U.S. who had been arrested, and 10 percent who had been convicted of a crime.
  • 57 percent of the long-term foster care females had been arrested, and 28 percent had been convicted of a crime, versus 4 percent of all female young adults in the U.S. who had been arrested, and 2 percent, convicted.”

Zill added, “Foster care alumni represented nearly 15 percent of the inmates in state prisons and almost 8 percent of the inmates in federal prisons. The cost of incarcerating former foster youth was approximately $5.1 billion per year.”

In “The Value of Adoption,” (Adoption Quarterly Journal, Vol. 10, 2007, Issue 2), Mary Eschelbach Hansen, PhD., reported, “Recent work shows that the governmental cost of adoption is about half the cost of long-term foster care for children whose birth parents’ rights have been terminated.

“Because adoption is also associated with greater accumulation of human and social capital, the total savings to government in areas such as special education and criminal justice is of the same magnitude as the child welfare savings.

“The private benefit to adopted children in terms of additional income earned over their working lives is similarly large. In all, a dollar spent on the adoption of a child from foster care yields about three dollars in benefits.”

All the economic indicators indicate that adoption lowers public costs and the impact on taxes: less reliance on welfare, food stamps, and the criminal justice system.

Bottom line: One of the most important investments that we as individuals and as a society can make is in our children; they will inherit and shape the future.

Children Awaiting Parents (CAP), a nonprofit that has advocated and acted on behalf of older foster care children for 45 years, recently created the Donald J. Corbett Adoption Agency to expedite the adoption of older foster children into loving homes and to ensure the success of these adoptions. This builds on CAP’s vision and mission, and it is through these efforts that we hope to achieve a brighter future for children who wait in foster care.

CAP’s ten-week fundraising campaign goal is $250,000 by the end of this year, and because of generous donors, the campaign is more than half way there. By increasing the number of children who transition to a “forever family” before they age out of foster care, and by helping families find the best match in an older foster care child, prepare for adoption, and navigate its complexities, the Corbett Agency is enhancing CAP’s critical services.

We thank families who open their hearts and doors to these waiting children, and we appreciate those who support adoption programs through their donation of treasure, talent and time.

For more information, visit, call (585) 232-5110, or stop by The Strong/National Museum of Play to see The Heart Gallery. We want to hear from you.

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