Despite Decrease in Foster Youth, Same Struggles Remain

Despite Decrease in Foster Youth, Same Struggles Remain

Simone Biles, the most decorated female gymnast in history, went through the foster care system as a child. (Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil via Wikimedia)

Simone Biles recently made history by becoming the most decorated female gymnast of all time and winning her fourth all-around world title. She is also a former foster kid.

Last year, she told People Magazine, “I was so young, I didn’t quite understand what was going on. But I recall some of the kids coming to the foster home with only the clothes on their back and a backpack.”

Eventually, Biles was taken out of the foster care system, when her grandparents adopted her. Sadly, not all foster youth have such lucky twists of fate. As November is National Adoption Awareness Month, let’s turn our attention to the struggles other foster children—and foster families—face.

According to a new study by the Chronicle of Social Change, the number of kids in foster care in America has decreased as a whole. There are almost 4,000 fewer foster children projected to be in the system in 2018 compared to a year ago. 

However, there isn’t reason to celebrate yet.

While the number of kids in the system has dropped, so has the number of homes available to foster youth that are outside of those children’s families. In particular, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Rhode Island have lost about a third of their non-relative foster homes. Even states where the number of foster homes stayed stable continue to feel the burden. For instance, California has 53,000 children in foster care in 2018. There were only about 14,000 non-relative homes available to them.  

With the lack of non-relative homes, the system increasingly places youth in the homes of family members, without adequate compensation. Almost every state saw an increase in family placements.

The number of family placements will most likely increase with the passage of the Family First Prevention Services Act, which limits the funds for group homes, and redirects money for mental health counseling and substance abuse treatment.

Biles is aware of the incredible financial hardship that foster families face. She told People, “It’s hard going into the system with hardly anything, because even though foster parents may receive a stipend, sometimes it’s not enough to cover all the necessities.”