Heritage Foundation on Churches & Foster Care

Washington, D.C.’s top conservative think tank today highlighted the positive impact church communities are having for kids in the U.S. foster system.  The headline of the Heritage Foundation’s weekly newsletter declared, Churches Are Helping More Foster Children Find Families.” Building on a Heritage Foundation report highlighted previously on this blog, the article reads:

A few weeks ago, President Obama declared May to be National Foster Care Month, reminding Americans that “the best path to success we can give [foster children] is the chance to experience a loving home where they can feel secure and thrive.” Thanks to churches and other faith-based organizations, thousands more children are commemorating this year’s Foster Care Month in the comfort and stability of a permanent family.

As the Washington Times recently reported, adoptions out of foster care rose to a record high of 57,000 in 2009, while the average waiting period for adoption dropped from 48 months in 1998 to 35 months in 2009. Legislative reforms and renewed adoption tax credits over the past decade helped to streamline an otherwise complex and inefficient system. Private, faith-based organizations have also helped increase adoptions by encouraging church members to consider adopting foster children. In some states, the “Wait No More” events, sponsored by Focus on the Family, have dramatically reduced the number of eligible children waiting for a loving, permanent family.

Despite the increase in adoptions in recent years, many children still wait years for permanent placement, and many foster youths languish in the system until adulthood. As Thomas Atwood details in a recent Heritage paper, of the 424,000 children currently in the foster care system, roughly one-quarter have been there for more than three years, and a little over 10 percent have been there for more than five. Policymakers can increase the opportunities for children to grow up in loving homes by addressing the lack of state accountability and creating funding incentives to decrease foster care rolls.

American families and the faith community can also have a tremendous impact on providing foster children the opportunity to thrive in loving homes. For every child currently waiting to be adopted, there are 500 married households and three religious congregations in America. Federal, state, and local governments should partner with faith-based organizations to encourage and facilitate adoptions and reduce the number of children in foster care.

Read more about how government and civil society can partner to provide more children with a stable home.