The foster care system is designed to take care of children until they can be reunified with their own families. Sadly, many foster kids don’t get homes and families. Every year more than 24,000 kids age out of the system and are left to fend for themselves. Fortunately, adoption is one solution that each year gives thousands of foster children a new forever family.
Many children cannot be sent back to their parents or guardians. In more cases than people can imagine or want to believe, other relatives can’t or won’t step up to take in a child that, by blood, is part of their family. Other children are placed in foster care because they were abandoned and have no family at all. Millions upon millions of tax dollars are spent on the well-being of the foster kids who don’t have the good fortune to end up back with their family. For these thousands of children, adoption can often mean a new life.
Most people cheer, laugh, and/or cry when they read a story about a little boy or girl who has been adopted. The article will often have a photo of the child dressed in their Sunday best and holding a chalk board that states the number of days they have been in foster care. Everyone likes a happy ending – but even adoption has an ugly underside. Despite what seems like a loving, altruistic step to provide these children with a forever home, shockingly for thousands of adopted children, this is actually the first step of an ongoing story that still finds them ending up neglected and abandoned. The reason? Money.
Financial assistance is often available for people who adopt a child from the foster care system. Thousands of adults step up each year to give a foster child a forever home. The majority of these adoptive parents do so with love in their hearts and a desire to give a foster child a better future with a family.
However, there have been unfortunate cases of people taking advantage of these children, adopting them only for the financial benefit. In his article, “Discarded Children Still Bring In Subsidy Checks for the Adoptive Parents who Tossed Them Aside,” Dareh Gregorian reveals how millions of dollars that should be going toward the well-being of adoptive children are instead being siphoned off by unscrupulous adults. Because of a lack of oversight in the foster care system, these people often continue to receive these financial benefits even when the child is no longer living with the family. In New York City, for example, adoptive parents can receive up to $1,700 dollars a month per child until the child is 21. However, some adoptive parents will kick a child out of their homes before that time. As a result, these kids end up back in foster care or on the streets. Gregorian discovered that many of these adoptive parents fail to contact New York City’s social services of the change of status, so they continue to receive monthly payments.
One of Gregorian’s examples of this terrible theft of moneys is twenty-one year old Jahad Ritchens, who was kicked out of his adoptive family when he was fifteen. His adoptive mother, however, continued to receive payments that should have gone to Jahad for food, clothing, medical care, and other needs. As Jahad stated for the article,
"It’s crazy. I'm living out here on the street and she's getting all this money. It's like I don't matter to no one."
Because of ongoing mismanagement of resources, little or no priority has been placed on tracking children who are no longer in foster care. There is no defined process or metrics to track the families that receive these payments to make sure that the children are actually receiving the needed care. If adoptive parents are no longer caring for the child, they have to voluntarily terminate their parental rights or notify Children’s Services. Without doing so, these parents continue to receiving checks with no oversight.
Additionally, there is no requirement that adoptive parents spend a certain amount of the subsidy they receive on the care of the child. The federal government doesn’t allow states or cities to set these kinds of requirements. Some people send their adoptive children to live elsewhere without sharing this subsidy with them or with the people who are actually caring for them. Even when these children are given back directly to social services and foster care, their former adoptive parent will often still receive a monthly check.
While millions of dollars are being mismanaged and paid out for no services, programs such as Family Finding continue to be underfunded in many parts of the U.S. Whenever possible, Family Finding results in relatives, including absent parents and extended family, being located and notified. This process often nets enough adult family members so that someone will step up and take in the foster child.
In one case we completed this year for a Southern California non-profit, we located a little foster boy’s uncle. He couldn’t care for his nephew and gave the contact information for the boy’s godmother in northern California. She not only took in the boy but has since adopted him. This story exemplifies the power of Family Finding and why it is so obscene for people take advantage of the adoption system for their personal financial gain. Not only does the system lose money, but these vulnerable children are denied proper care and a stable family situation.
Adoptive children should actually receive the government support that is provided. Clearly, more regulation is necessary to make sure that these subsidies are used as intended and, most importantly, ensuring that children are cared for properly. It’s time for the public to demand more fiscal accountability from foster care agencies. Good-hearted adoptive parents should be outraged as well. It’s odd that people will eagerly sign a petition for a person to be thrown in prison for harming an animal, but many are ambivalent at best about millions of dollars being stolen from children. Foster and adoptive children depend on us to be their voice. They deserve so much better from all of us.
Richard Villasana, founder of Forever Homes for Foster Kids, is a leading international authority on immigration issues and foster families. A proud Navy veteran, Richard has been featured on CNN International, AP News, ABC TV, Univision, Costco Connections, Washington Post, and EFE, the world’s largest Spanish language media company. He is an international speaker and has also translated for the United Nations. For 25 years, his non-profit has worked with government agencies across the country to find families for immigrant and foster children to create a permanent home. Go to www.facebook.com/familyfindingmx for more and to help a child.