The theme in my world of foster care recently has been lack of permanency and the devastating effects in both my cases and those around me. I continue to watch several cases around me be extended over and over again with seemingly no end. Though my cases are new to me, they aren't to the kids. They are representative of what happens to kids in the system, especially when courts fight tooth and nail to put kids in kinship care without regard to whether or not that is truly the best, most stable place for them.
I have always advocated for the return of children to family when appropriate. Ideally we can get parents the support they need, quickly, to get them the ability to provide quality care to their children. If that isn't an option or isn't working we can get them to relatives or friends of the family who can provide a quality permanent home to the children. I know at least a few families who received children through kinship placements and can vouch that they do exist though with the caveat that they are not-quite-kinship placements. (In other words, they are long-removed kin, friends of friends who don't actually know the parents but yet still qualify as kin because they were recommended through the family instead of the system and maybe that means they are physically and emotionally removed from the family enough to provide quality care to the children long-term?) Does this make a difference? I'm sure there are good relative kinship placements out there I just haven't seen it. Instead what I've seen is children getting moved from place to place. From foster care to relative to another relative to another relative and eventually back into care at which point, in my experience, they go back to look for more relatives!
Children are in care for more than a year, more than promised before permanency, and it has a huge effect on them! Imagine living with a family over Christmas and saying "next Christmas can we get a Christmas tree again?" and instead of being able to hear "of course!" they hear "well, if you are living with us we'll get another tree but I can't promise you'll be here next year sweetheart". And you hear something like this over and over again for every question you have. As a child, as you're learning about the world from people who are supposed to be able to provide you securely with answers, all you find is "maybe".
Somehow as a foster parent you're least desirable, even if you're willing to adopt, but as an adoptive parent only looking for children who have been put through the wringer and been deemed unadoptable by kin THEN you're amazing and valuable to society.
It's not enough!
I'm not sure what the answer is, honestly. More prayer. More involved foster parents both in court and in policy wherever possible. More visibility into good foster family situations.
More of US standing up in support of these children, everyday.
(If you're looking for ideas on how you can help without being a foster parent, check out THIS POST.)