Foster care is supposed help children stay safe, overcome trauma, and grow up to create successful lives for themselves. But that didn't happen for the 152 children who died in foster care in 2021 in Los Angeles county alone*.
And the problem is not limited to California. Illinois State Representative Tom Weber reported that an average of 112 foster children died every year in Illinois between 2010 and 2021*. In the small state of Maine, 25 foster children died in 2021*. We could go down the list of states and their reported foster care fatalities, but the point here is that when children are removed from their families as a result of neglect or abuse, it should go without saying that, at the very least, they should be kept safe.
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia published a study in 2020 that found that children in foster care were 42% more likely to die than children in the general population*. These shocking deaths of foster children don't even take into consideration the emotional, sexual and physical mistreatment of children in our nation's child welfare system.
Some children die in foster care through no fault of the caregivers. Some were born with addictions, health problems or delivery complications. Some die as a result of the severe abuse they suffered before entering foster care. But the deaths of children that were as a result of mistreatment in foster care are completely unacceptable. These children suffered and died needlessly, and the worst part is that the suffering and death continues every day in the US.
Successful Survivors Foundation was founded to help survivors of childhood trauma create successful lives. Before we can fulfill the purpose of our organization, we must first do all we can to help children live through foster care. To that end, we have identified many good child caring providers who are not only keeping kids safe, but helping them heal and thrive.
Through the decades-long experience of working with child welfare providers, our founder, Rhonda Sciortino, has identified specific types of providers that have cared for thousands of foster children over decades without a single tragedy. Armed with that information, we worked with our Love Is Action Community Initiative partner, the Association of Christian Childcare Administrators (ACCA), Baylor University Institute For The Studies of Religion, and William Wubbenhorst, MBA, former Associate Commissioner for the Family and Youth Services Bureau, to help facilitate the preliminary study you will find below.
NO OTHER STUDY OF OUTCOMES OF FOSTER CHILDREN HAS INCLUDED DEATH IN FOSTER CARE.
Five years of certified insurance claims information for participating members of ACCA (representing approximately 1500 children over that time period) was reviewed. The good news is that there were no deaths of children who were in the care of the study participants, while at the same time children were dying in foster care across the country.
A broader study is needed to understand the specific practices implemented by good, safe child welfare organizations, because when we know what works to keep kids safe and to help them thrive, we can measure all child welfare organizations and foster care providers by those standards and thereby save the lives of children who have already suffered too much.
It costs about $30,000 to conduct the in-depth study that could help change the quality of life for foster children throughout the US, which means keeping children safe and giving them a chance to create successful lives.
Will you help us do the study that will help save the lives of children in foster care?
Rhonda Sciortino spent the first 16 years of her life in the child welfare system. She has spent her adult life advocating for children who cannot speak for themselves. Rhonda is the founder of Successful Survivors Foundation and the national champion of the Love Is Action Community Initiative.