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The Petition

We, the undersigned, hereby petition our federal, state and local governments to stop the placement of vulnerable children for commercial profit. Our government regularly places our most vulnerable youth in for- profit facilities designed to make money by warehousing them. With 430,000 children in foster care and 43,000 children placed through the youth justice system, too many children live under ‘care’ systems run for profit. These children have no lobby. Currently, twenty-eight states allow for-profit contracting of foster care services. Equally concerning, almost every state allows for-profit companies to provide care and services to youth in the justice system. These children cannot march, don’t vote, and have no money. Once our government removes them from their families, these vulnerable and often traumatized youth people are our legal and moral responsibility. The record clearly shows frequent systemic abuses by the for-profit foster care industry. Children deserve to be placed with personal foster parents, through supervised 501(c)(3) or public entities. Foster care and youth justice services should not be run by for-profit companies under dubious contracts with governments that benefit stockholders at the expense of children’s best interests. President Biden has determined that adult Federal prisons run for profit are unacceptable. Why do 28 states permit profit-making on the heads of innocent children, and why does the Federal taxpayer fund the majority? Please stop it now.
www.fixfostercare.org

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When children are abused or neglected, the government, yours and ours, often intervenes. 430,000 American children now live in foster care, removed from their families. They are our responsibility, legally and morally. Sometimes they are placed with caring and responsible foster parents. Too often they live in bad placements and institutional care.

AMONG THE WORST PLACEMENTS ARE THOSE RUN FOR PROFIT. SENATE RESEARCH SHOWS POOR QUALITY CARE, WORSE OUTCOMES AND LESS STABILITY WHEN THE PROFIT MOTIVE GUIDES CARE, RATHER THAN EACH CHILD’S BEST INTEREST.

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What is wrong with Foster Care run for profit? A LOT.

Experts Explain

A young person’s experiences

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The Facts on For-Profit Foster Care

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The foster care crisis in America: profiting from the lives of children

American children are in the foster care system at any one time.

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“President Biden has determined Federal prisons run for profit are unacceptable. Why do 28 states permit profit-making on the heads of innocent foster children, and why does the Federal taxpayer fund the majority?”

- Jay Paul Deratany, Esq. Children's Advocate, Chicago, IL

“The very agencies charged with and paid to keep foster children safe too often failed to provide even the most basic protections, or to take steps to prevent the occurrence of tragedies.”

US SENATE COMMITTEE ON FINANCE

The abuses of for-profit foster care system are not imaginary – a system within which foster children have been abused, neglected, and denied services, according to a 2017 investigation by the US Senate Committee on Finance. In their words: “The very agencies charged with and paid to keep foster children safe too often failed to provide even the most basic protections, or to take steps to prevent the occurrence of tragedies.” 

Foster care run for profit is permitted in the majority of the states reporting. We seeks to throw light on the outrages of this little-known system – and create momentum for urgent corrective action by communities, states, and the federal government.

It is well-documented that young adults formerly in foster care suffer unemployment, homelessness, and incarceration to a degree far exceeding that of young adults generally. Our call to action is to care deeply about these children on the margins of our daily lives, to lend our support to efforts to ease their burden today, and to better equip them for secure and fulfilling lives beyond foster care.

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“In some homes, there was sexual, physical, or psychological abuse; in others, love… But it almost didn’t matter, because nothing ever lasted.

Even when we found a good foster home, we didn’t know how to love them or let them love us, and we were never given enough time to learn. We were never taught that we deserve to be cared for and protected and we should have been able to expect at least that.”

Tiller, First Star survey of foster youth

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FAQs

Foster care is the temporary placement of a child into a new home because of concerns for their safety. In this system, a minor becomes a ward and is placed in an institution, a group home (typically including six or more foster children), or a private home with a certified caregiver known as a “foster parent.” Caregivers are compensated for child-related expenses. The placement of the child is normally arranged by the government or a social service agency.

A child enters foster care when the state determines there are concerns for the child’s safety because of abandonment, abuse and/or neglect (neglect is the reason in 70% of cases). Contrary to popular belief, children in foster care are rarely delinquents and in virtually every case the child is removed from their original home through no fault of their own. In rare instances, children are placed in foster care following the deaths of their legal guardians when there is no extended family to care for them.

The average foster child is seven years old at entry and nine years old at exit, contrary to the common perception that foster children are very young.

Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSRs) are periodic reviews of state child welfare systems. The Children’s Bureau, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, conducts these reviews to ensure federal regulations are being met, assist states in enhancing their ability to help children and assess the relationships in foster homes between kids and families. The review process is considered insufficiently stringent by some children’s rights advocates.

As children get older, their prospects of finding a permanent home grow slimmer. Approximately 26,000 “age out” of the system every year when they turn 18 (or 21 in some states) despite lacking the skills and support they need to survive on their own. Children who age out of foster care (“transition age youth” or TAY) face enormous challenges. Consider that within four years of aging out, 60% of girls are pregnant, 51% of foster youth are unemployed, 40% are on public assistance, 25% become homeless, and 20% will be incarcerated. A mere 4% go on to earn a four- year college degree versus 36% of the general population.

Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSRs) are periodic reviews of state child welfare systems. The Children’s Bureau, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, conducts these reviews to ensure federal regulations are being met, assist states in enhancing their ability to help children and assess the relationships in foster homes between kids and families. The review process is considered insufficiently stringent by some children’s rights advocates. 

The ultimate goal of foster care is usually reunification with the birth family, but may be changed to adoption if viewed as in the child’s best interest. When a child is removed from their home, many states require that known relatives are notified and given an opportunity to take in the child.

On a given day there are approximately 437,000 children in foster care in the U.S.

In 2015, primarily because of the demographics of poverty and its impact on abuse and neglect, more than half of the children who entered foster care were people of color. Approximately 60% of children in foster care were placed in care because of parental neglect. Generational repetition of abuse and neglect varies between 30% and 70% of perpetrators, depending on the category. Fewer than 3% of foster youth earn a college degree, though programs like First Star achieve a 91% conversion to college with foster youth in its 12 university-based Academies.

In state-administered systems, the state provides all foster care services to the children directly; in county- administered systems, the state remains responsible for the safety and well-being of the children and the counties provide the services. Further adding to the system’s complexity, some state- and county-administered programs often contract with private agencies for the delivery of foster care services. Foster home licensing requirements are usually overseen by each state’s Department of Child Protective Services or Human Services. Each state’s services are monitored by the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Suffice to say, the quality of foster care administration and oversight ranges widely from state to state.

The foster parent licensing process is similar to the adoption licensing process. It mandates preparatory classes as well as an application for vetting. The application varies by state/county but generally requires a minimum age, a minimum income, a criminal record check to insure no prior record of child abuse, a reference from a doctor to ensure the household is disease free and references from employers/friends to verify temperament.

More expansive child welfare programs and social services would be very beneficial in keeping children who don’t belong in foster care out of the system. The need for better processes, more resources, and more services for families under stress is paramount.

Foster care began in the mid-19th century through the efforts of Charles Loring Brace, who took some 30,000 neglected children off of the streets of New York City and placed them with families across the country. This became the foundation for the Children’s Aid Society and ultimately the modern foster care system. In the early 1900s, the government began state inspections of foster homes and social agencies began to pay and supervise foster parents. Historically, the placement of kids in foster care has been managed by some combination of public and private resources. Over the past few decades, the privatization of foster care and more specifically for-profit foster care has been a growing trend.

The average stay in foster care is two years; however, 6% of kids in foster care have been there for five or more years. In 2015, more than 60,000 children whose parents’ parental rights had been legally terminated were waiting for adoption.

There are 2,200 separate foster care jurisdictions in the U.S. Title IV-E of the Social Security Act is an important funding stream for foster care costs. It provides for federal reimbursement for a portion of the maintenance and administrative costs of foster care for children who meet specified federal eligibility requirements. Though all states must comply with federal foster care regulations to earn federal Title IV-E and other funding, each state decides how services are provided to children in foster care. Not only does each state have its own system for providing foster care services, but these systems often vary within the state.

Children are greatly affected by separation from their family and this often manifests itself in their behavior. Abuse and neglect can affect brain development, which often prevents them from having healthy attachments to adults. Foster children all too often suffer from developmental delays, low academic performance, poor hygiene, low self-esteem and depression – and can lack the general preparedness and confidence necessary to navigate the real-world post- adolescence. Further illustrating these challenges, 25% of aged-out foster children suffer the direct effects of post-traumatic stress syndrome and 20% will become instantly homeless upon aging out.

Having a foster care child does not provide parents with true additional income as is often believed. States provide foster parents with a monthly amount of money for each foster child within the home. This foster care subsidy is intended to cover the foster child’s needs although parents often claim it isn’t sufficient. A foster parent cannot list this subsidy money as income on a loan application.

The motion picture Foster Boy, released in 2020, and presented by Shaquille O’Neal, focuses on four aspects of the lives of Foster Children: abuses in the for-profit foster care industry, right to counsel, the nature of PTSD and the presence of both good and bad foster placements. The screenplay was written by Chicago children’s lawyer Jay Paul Deratany, and is based on truth, on his own experiences. Foster Boy stars Matthew Modine, Shane Paul McGhie, Louis Gossett, Jr. and Amy Brenneman. It is directed by Youssef Delara and was produced by Deratany, Peter Samuelson, Andrew Sugerman and Anne-Marie Mackay. www.fosterboy.com

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The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, now in partnership with The New York Foundling, was founded in 1986 and is a nonprofit, national organization focused on meeting the needs of professionals engaged in all aspects of services for maltreated children and their families. Especially important to APSAC is the dissemination of state-of-the-art practice in all professional disciplines related to child abuse and neglect.

Children’s Rights, a national watchdog organization, fights to protect and defend the rights of young people and holds state governments accountable to America’s most vulnerable children through strategic advocacy and legal action.

Give Something Back (Give Back) provides college scholarships and mentoring to students who have faced economic hardship and other adversities such as foster care or the incarceration of a parent.

Tiller is an award-winning strategic marketing and communications consultancy that specializes in the development of corporate responsibility platforms and programs, issues-focused thought leadership, and cause marketing campaigns. 

Children’s Advocacy Institute, University of San Diego, California’s premier academic, research, and advocacy organization, seeks to improve the lives of children and youth, with special emphasis on improving the child protection and foster care systems and enhancing resources available to youth aging out of foster care.

First Star, a national non-profit, improves the lives of foster youth by partnering with child welfare agencies, universities, and school districts to ensure foster youth have the academic, life skills, and adult supports needed to transition to higher education and adulthood successfully. We pursue our mission through innovative, university-based college-preparatory programs, providing technical assistance to stakeholders, and advocating for policy change.

iFoster is a national non-profit with over 40,000 members across all 50 states, Guam and Puerto Rico. An estimated 500 new members join iFoster every month. iFoster’s mission is to ensure that every child growing up outside of their biological home has the resources and opportunities they need to become successful, independent adults.

Through education, community-building and leadership development, the National Juvenile Justice Network enhances the capacity of juvenile justice coalitions and organizations in 44 states and the District of Columbia to press for state and federal laws, policies and practices that are fair, equitable and developmentally appropriate for all children, youth and families involved in, or at risk of becoming involved in, the criminal legal system. We know from data and youth stories, that the child welfare, foster care, and youth legal systems are inextricably linked. To fully disrupt this pipeline, we must address practices in all child serving systems.

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Sources

1.   The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) Report, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, available at http://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport21.pdf (September 30, 2013).

2.  National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics: 2012 (table 8), available at http:// nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d12/tables/dt12_008.asp?referrer=report (2012).

3.  Foster Care by the Numbers, Casey Family Programs, Sept. 2011, available at http://www.casey.org/media/ MediaKit_FosterCareByTheNumbers.pdf

4.  U.S. Census Bureau. Detailed Years of School Completed by People 25 Years and Over by Sex, Age Groups, Race and Hispanic Origin; 2014. Current Population Survey. 2014 Annual Social and Economic Supplement. Calculated by dividing estimated number of inmates, 231, by the confined population of 100,000. See Todd D. Minton, Jail Inmates at Midyear 2013 – Statistical Tables, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, May 2014, available at http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/jim13st.pdf.

5.  Courtney, M., Dworsky, A., Brown, A., Cary, C., Love, K., Vorhies, V. (2011). Midwest evaluation of the adult functioning of former foster youth: Outcomes at age 26. Chicago, IL: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

6. Calculated by dividing the estimated homeless population of the U.S. over the course of a year (1.3 – 2.3 million) by the estimated total population in the U.S. (312,152,633). See Nan P. Roman & Phyllis Wolfe, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Web of Failure: The Relationship Between Foster Care and Homelessness 4 (1995); The Urban Institute, Millions Still Face Homelessness in a Booming Economy, http://www.urban.org/publications/900050.html (2000) (last revised in 2010); U.S. PopClock Projection, http://www.census.gov/popclock/ (last visited Aug. 5, 2014).

7. Calculated by finding average of unemployed former foster youth males (60%) and females (62%) at age 19. See Hook, J. L. & Courtney, M. E. (2010). Employment of Former Foster Youth as Young Adults: Evidence from the Midwest Study. Chicago: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago.

8.  Calculated by finding average of unemployed former foster youth males (54%) and females (53%) at age 24. See Hook, J. L. & Courtney, M. E., Employment of Former Foster Youth as Young Adults: Evidence from the Midwest Study. Chicago: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago (2010).

9 Fostering Success in Education. National Factsheet on the Educational Outcomes of Children in Foster care. (January 2014).

10. Calculated by finding average of unemployed former foster youth males (54%) and females (53%) at the age 24. See Hook, J. L. & Courtney, M. E., Employment of Former Foster Youth as Young Adults: Evidence from the Midwest Study. Chicago: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago (2010).