At this very moment, there are over 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, with the highest percentage (50,000) being 16 and 17 years old. But at any age, the life of a foster child is often a heartbreaking one, moving from home to home, with all belongings carried in a trash bag.
By their teenage years, many of these kids are simply lost; and it’s a painful reality one foster mom named Sarah knows all too well. The Georgia woman recently wrote a viral Facebook post about the pain of watching a child stand in court and hear the judge declare that “no one wants him” — a heartbreaking reality that so many foster children face.
In the post, which was shared on the Facebook page Foster Your Heart Out, Sarah says she was shaking in court as she watched a boy with tears roll down his face. “Does anyone want the child?” the judge asked the court. “Are you sure? Nobody? Ok, we will be back in a few weeks and finish paperwork.”
By definition, foster care is “a system by which a certified, stand-in ‘parent(s)’ cares for minor children or young people who have been removed from their birth parents or other custodial adults by state authority.” Put in place as a means to protect kids who are facing harm or neglect, it often does just that. Ideally, it’s a temporary solution, with the main goal being that the child is permanently returned to his parents or adopted by a new family. But the reality is, many kids who are placed into the foster care system never actually leave it. They spend their entire childhoods drifting from temporary home to temporary home, with no solid attachments or bonds created, and often without ever truly feeling loved.
And Sarah knows first-hand how this lack of stability, love, and support often leads to behavioral issues:
“We ask them to act like respectful members of society,” she writes in her post. “But we drop them off at strangers homes with everything they own in trash bags. They have to hear nobody wants them or the few people that might are not fit. Then we drop them off at school to handle these emotions. And shake our heads when they are expelled again. We tell them to stay out of trouble and label them as bad kids for outbursts of anger and frustration.”
She ends her post with one powerful statement: “Why are our juvenile jails full? Because our custody court rooms are empty.”
There is quite a bit about the foster care system that Sarah clearly believes in, or she wouldn’t be there, in court, sitting next to this child. A child who may enter another home next week, holding his garbage bag. A child who may get in trouble again at his new school. A child who knows that he might never have a forever family. Sarah tells Babble that up until last night, she was his foster parent; but now, just like so many foster kids, his future is uncertain.
Sarah also shares that most foster parents are doing their best with the resources they’ve been given; but it isn’t easy. The purpose of her post, she says, is to spread the message that these kids deserve someone fighting for them.
“They don’t need a perfect mom,” Sarah says. “They just need a mama that will love them and never give up.”
One silver lining to this heartbreaking story is that this child does have one person in his life who cares. She’s the one who sat next to him in court, as hot tears fell down his face. Hopefully, he felt her presence and love as he heard the judge’s words. For that may be all he has to hold on to as he falls asleep tonight, and finds the strength to face tomorrow.