The Failure of the Current Foster Care System in the United States

In 2013, the adoption and foster care analysis reported that 402,378 children were currently in the system in the United States. Of these children, 50% of them will not finish high school. (The AFCARS Report) Currently, this system requires the movement of children instead of providing them with a singular, stable home. The failure of the foster care system to reliably provide stable and safe housing for children in the system hurts their academic performance and significantly lowers the chances of the child graduating high school, and that by increasing the educational stability of foster children, academic improvements can be made.

One of the main problems with the foster care system is its inability to provide children with a stable environment. Students in foster care are forced to switch schools once to twice a year on average, and one third of students in foster care experience 5 or more school moves before the time they are eighteen. This lack of educational stability has a massive impact on the academic performance of the student. According to the Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, “… youth in out-of-home care lose approximately 4 to 6 months of academic progress with each change in school placement.” Other studies show that nearly half foster students transferring schools were unable to enroll immediately due to school records being lost or misplaced. This “downtime” between school transfers serves only to impede the academic progress of the foster student and prevents them from graduating.

An example of the foster care system failing to provide a stable environment for the students it serves can be seen in And Still We Rise. A student in the foster care system, Olivia, describes the houses as follows “There’s always a lot of yelling and dissension and fights over stealing. There’s always a lot of craziness. Night and day” (61). Olivia also describes how little she is allowed to own while in the foster care system, here things limited to “a few green plastic garbage bags” (59). This combination of circumstances serves to take away a students power and autonomy, which encourages them to become disconnected and hurts their academic performance. A psychiatric evaluator said of Olivia “[she] was bounced around from place to place so much. She’s built up such a tremendous defense system.”(313). This defense system is built up by many students in the foster care system who are forced to frequently change schools and severely cripples their ability to succeed academically.

Not only does a lack of educational stability hurt the academic performance of foster students, it also severely cripples a foster students chances at graduation. Foster students who had one or fewer school transfers were twice as likely to graduate high school than foster students who had more. (Staub) Also, foster students who frequently change schools are less likely to have completed courses count for graduating, and are more likely to have to repeat courses they had already taken and passed. The constant cycle of retaking classes discourages foster students to continue in school, as constantly having to repeat credits gives a sense.

This academic frustration from a change of environment can be seen during Olivia’s time at juvenile detention. During her time there, she is required to take a multitude of classes. When asked to describe her classes she describes them a joke.

“I can’t believe the can even call what they’ve got in here a school. In English today we had a spelling test… I learned how to spell those words in sixth grade. Last week we were going over what’s a verb and what’s a noun. I knew that in third grade”(311)  It is apparent that by constantly switching schools causes undue stress on students in the foster care system, and can cause them to have a fallout academically.

In conclusion, the foster care system in the United States is not doing a satisfactory job in caring for the academic needs for students in its system. The fact that foster homes do not provide a stable environment for students, and that foster students are frequently forced to move around severely hurt the academic success of those students. However, despite the bleak outlook given, there are many steps that can be taken to improve foster care and make the system more. I encourage people to support some of the new foster care initiatives, and insure that our students have an advantageous environment to succeed.

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The Failure of the Current Foster Care System in the United States. (2022, Dec 05). Retrieved April 19, 2024 , from

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