When I was 8 years old, I was removed from my biological family due
to domestic violence and alcohol abuse. Although I was never
adopted, I was placed with a foster mom who wholeheartedly embraced
me. Her home became my permanent home and the place I go back to
today. She still celebrates my birthday every year and is even
helping me pay for my upcoming wedding. She truly is my family.
was one of the lucky ones. Although foster care was intended to be a
temporary place for children to stay when they experience abuse and
neglect and can no longer safely live with their families, most
children entering foster care linger in the system for months, if
Separated from friends and family and bounced around foster homes
and schools, these children live in a constant state of uncertainty.
On average, children in foster care will spend at least two
birthdays in the system. Sometimes these birthdays are not
celebrated, or even acknowledged.
Because I was fortunate to live in a safe, loving and secure
home, I had the support and confidence to pursue scholarships for
college and graduate school.
I decided to earn my master's degree in social work because I
want to give back to a system that has worked in my favor. Today I
serve as a program manager for youth services at the Child Welfare
League of America in Washington, D.C. I work to make the
opportunities I had while growing up a reality for more foster
As a former foster youth, I am also active in coalitions of
current and former foster youth. I am currently part of "Kids Are
Waiting," a Pew Charitable Trusts project urging Congress to change
the way it funds foster care.
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Currently, most federal dollars dedicated for child protection
can be used only when children are removed from their homes and
placed in the foster care system.
This means that, right now, some children are entering foster
care when preventive services (such as child care or mental health
services) may have kept them safely at home with their families.
Many other children are waiting too long to return home or to find
permanent, loving families. Far too often, these children never find
a family they can call home.
Congress needs to provide flexible funding so that states can
have more resources to prevent abuse and create and support
permanent families for children in care.
Unless Congress changes the federal financing system, others
won't be as lucky as I was.
[Text from file received from
American Forum; article by
Vanessa Jones, who grew up in Austin, Texas, as a foster child, is the program
manager of youth services for the Child Welfare League of America.
May is National Foster Care Month, a time to focus on the children
who are in foster care waiting for permanent homes.
by the American Forum
The American Forum, a
nonprofit, nonpartisan, educational organization, provides the media
with the views of state experts on major public concerns in order to
stimulate informed discussion.
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