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Do you know how many children die in foster care every year?

There are some wonderful foster parents and child welfare organizations in the US. So what I'm about to tell you is not an indictment on them. It is, however, an indictment on the broken system as a whole and on those people who are not protecting the vulnerable children who have been placed in their care. Something has to change.

Foster care is supposed to be about helping children overcome trauma and the challenges that result from it. But that didn't happen for the 152 children who died in foster care in Los Angeles county alone in 2021.

And the problem is not limited to California. It's in every state. Illinois State Representative Tom Weber reported that an average of 112 foster children died every year in Illinois between 2010 and 2021. The tiny state of Maine reported the deaths of 25 children in foster care 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. The shocking number of children who die in foster care every year are a tragic reminder of the truth that not all child welfare is safe. Some children die in foster care through no fault of their caregivers. Some are born with addictions or other health problems or complications at birth. Some die as a result of the severe abuse they suffered before entering foster care. But the deaths of children in foster care that resulted from mistreatment are completely unacceptable. These children suffered and died needlessly. THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT WE KNOW HOW TO IDENTIFY THE GOOD FOSTER FAMILIES There are many good child welfare organizations and good foster families throughout the US. I know because I worked with many of them over my 25+ years of protecting and defending the good people and organizations that care for children who have been abused. Over the years, we were able to identify the specific commonalities that existed in those places where there were no serious injuries, allegations of wrongdoing, or deaths of children. Many of these providers cared for thousands of foster children over decades without a single tragedy!

The data I gathered over the years is confidential and could not be shared, so Love Is Action Community Initiative partner ACCA (Association of Christian Childcare Administrators), Baylor University Institute For The Studies of Religion, and William Wubbenhorst, MBA, former Associate Commissioner for the Family and Youth Services Bureau, did a study to see if their findings support my postulation. The results of their preliminary study are here:


Other studies have been done to measure the outcomes of foster children. They look at levels of education, employment and annual income, living arrangements, and many other "independent living" indicators. The most widely known study is commonly referred to as The Midwest Study, which is a longitudinal study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago that has been following a group of over 700 former foster kids across three states in the midwest since they were 17-18 years old. But the ACCA / Baylor University study is the very first study that measures the safety of children while in foster care. The Baylor University preliminary study reviewed five years of certified insurance claims information for participating members of the Association of Christian Childcare Administrators that cared for an estimated 1500 children over that time period. The good news is that there were no deaths of children who were in the care of the study participants. The bad news is that over that same time period, other children in foster care across the country were suffering and dying. I hope that Successful Survivors Foundation and ACCA are able to raise the money necessary to fund a broader study of good foster care providers. Because when we know what works to keep kids safe and to help them thrive, we can measure all foster care providers by those standards and thereby save the lives of children who have already suffered too much.

How many more children have to die before something changes?


Rhonda Sciortino remembers only one conversation with her foster father who said, "young lady, you were put here on this earth for a reason, and you better be about finding out what it is." She's been striving to find and fulfill her purpose ever since. Rhonda is the founder of Successful Survivors Foundation, a non profit organization that exists to help survivors of childhood trauma create good lives.


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