According to the latest report (published in September 2018) from the Children’s Bureau, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there are nearly 450,000 children in the American foster care system. It’s a troubling number made even more so by the fact that foster care placements have been steadily rising since 2012. The reasons children enter protective services are varied, with both parental and child issues affecting care decisions each year. Take a look at three facts that particularly impact the American foster care system today:
The Opioid Crisis is Destroying Home Safety
While parental neglect is still the number one reason that children enter foster care (increasing from 61% in 2016 to 62% in 2017), the percentage of children specifically removed from homes due to parental drug abuse increased at a faster rate (34% to 36%) than the remaining 13 categories, all of which either remained constant or decreased from estimated FY2016 to FY2017 numbers. Of course, neglect could be a product of parental drug abuse, making the true effects of the drug crisis even more profound. The Children’s Bureau does not identify the type of drug contributing to the removal of a child from a home, but since the U.S. government declared an opioid epidemic in 2017, it seems plausible that opioids are likely the cause in a majority of them.
Declining Interest of Suitable Carers
In addition to the rising numbers of kids entering care, there is a decreasing number of qualified social workers, as well as available and interested carers. Research indicates rural areas in “the western and southern regions of the United States” will experience a severe shortage of social workers that will put added pressure on already vulnerable areas affected by drug abuse and in need of welfare assistance. Couple that with the scarcity of available foster families willing to take in vulnerable kids who often need medical and psychiatric treatment, as well as academic and behavioral support, and you have a system in desperate need of help. Indeed, even if families decide to overlook limited resources and training and the anticipated grief of seeing their foster children leave them and do, in fact, sign up to be carers, they still end up quitting a lot of the time. One study by the National Council for Adoption found “that more than half of foster families quit fostering within the first year, with many states seeing another double-digit percentage decrease in year two.”
Market Research Can Help
It might seem strange to apply market research to what amounts to a human industry, but solid research into the motivations affecting the “sale” of the foster experience can positively affect the way welfare agencies attract and retain carers. A reputable market research agency can design a study that helps identify the areas with the most favorable demographics in which to search for eligible and willing foster parent candidates. Such an agency can also help determine any issues impeding recruitment (such as an anticipated lack of support and financial concerns or misconceptions about adoption versus fostering) so that they can be addressed. In these ways, market research can help government agencies design marketing plans that attract and engage potential foster parents, effectively marketing carer participation in the welfare system.