foster care, foster care facts, zoe removed
Image via Nathaniel Matanick

A clip from "ReMoved Part Two"

This article originally appeared on 07.17.15


Zoe's story, "Removed," has been seen by millions of people.

It was previously shared by my amazing Upworthy colleague Laura Willard. We got just a tiny taste of what it was like for kids in foster care, right after being removed. Specifically, a little girl named Zoe and her little brother Benaiah.

My wife and I, foster parents for the past year, even shared the original with our adoption worker, who passed it along to the entire agency and, then, it took off like wildfire among those people as well.

This is part 2 of that story, and it hits hard.

(Yes, the video's on the long side at about 20 minutes. But it's worth the watch to the end.)

She describes her life as a cycle, interrupted by a tornado. She's a foster child. I don't think I need to say any more.


So ... let's accompany that with 9 uncomfortable — but enlightening — facts below. There are only nine bolded, but within those headers, there are several more facts.

1. There are an estimated 400,000 kids in foster care right now.

Some are awaiting adoption. Some will go back to their parents. Others will age out or, sometimes, run away.

2. Foster kids can suffer from PTSD at almost two times the rate of returning veterans.

And PTSD can mimic a lot of other mental illnesses, and it can manifest as nightmares, flashbacks, fight-or-flee responses, anger outbursts, and hyper-vigilance (being on "red alert" at all times), among other symptoms.

Image via Nathaniel Matanick.


3. The average age of a foster child is 9 years old.

They're just on that edge of childhood, and chances are, it's been a pretty messed up childhood at that. Trauma does that.

4. About half of all foster kids are in non-relative foster homes.

8% are in institutions, 6% are in group homes, and only 4% are in pre-adoptive homes. Read that again — only 4% are in pre-adoptive homes.

5. Some of foster children experience multiple placements. In some cases, eight or more.

That's eight homes that they move into — and out of. And just consider ... that means they lose not just adults and other kids with whom they are establishing a bond, but friends, schoolmates, pets.

Clip via Nathaniel Matanick


6. The average foster child remains in the system for almost two years before being reunited with their biological parents, adopted, aging out, or other outcomes.

8% of them remain in foster care for over five years. Of the 238,000 foster kids who left the system in 2013, about half were reunited with parents or primary caregivers, 21% were adopted, 15% went to live with a relative or other guardian, and 10% were emancipated (aged out).

7. In 2013, more than 23,000 young people aged out of foster care with no permanent family to end up with.

And if you add that up, year after year, hundreds of thousands of foster youth will have aged out of the system. What does that look like? "You're 18. You've got no place to live and no family. Good luck — buh-bye now!" One-quarter of former foster kids experience homelessness within four years of exiting the system.

8. Foster "alumni" (those who have been in foster homes and either adopted, returned to parents, or aged out) are likely to suffer serious mental health consequences.

They are four-five times more likely to be hospitalized for attempting suicide and five-eight times more likely to be hospitalized for serious psychiatric disorders in their teens.

Based on that set of statistics alone, it's in the public's interest (ignoring, for a second, the interests of those kids) to help them through their lot in life and spend resources making it all work much better for everybody before it gets to that point. Right?

So there's a lot to be angry about in this whole messed up situation. But this next thing? My blood boils.

What's one of the biggest risk factors in families whose children are placed in foster care?

Your guess?

Cruelty?

Drugs?

Sexual abuse?

Neglect?

The answer is ...

9. Poverty

Together with homelessness and unemployment, it's a main contributing factor. It happens all the time. The fact that it's far easier for a parent to be accused and investigated for neglect or abuse because of simple things like lack of access to a vehicle, or a working refrigerator, or the ability to get a kid to a doctor's appointment — that has a lot to do with this. Tie that to the link between drug abuse and poverty and between poverty and child abuse ... well, you can see where this is going.

And in a country where one-third of children are living in poverty (hint: the good ol' U.S. of A.), imagine how that affects the number of kids being removed and placed into foster care.

I'll end this with a bit of hope through my story.

My kids went through something a lot like the kids in the clip above before they came to live with us. We've been through the ringer in ways that we're going to have to talk about one day because it's not just that the kids have been challenging — they have — it's that the system itself has been more challenging.

The entire system — from agencies to government entities to social workers to even the schools — seems like it's designed to fail these kids and the families who are attempting to help. It's almost designed not to work. There, I said it.

But that doesn't mean we won't fight to make it better for everybody. We most definitely will.

Image from a photo by my wife, Robin.

As for us, we're just a few weeks away from becoming the legal parents to these kids, and we're extremely happy to be right here, making it happen. And they seem quite happy to be our kids. Along the way, we fell in love with them, and we can't imagine life without them.

But to be totally honest ... if we'd have known how hard it was going to be when we started this journey, and if we could somehow turn back the clock and NOT do it ... well, would we have actually gone forward with the process?

I take that back. I won't be totally honest here. I will simply let you decide.

Here are some places to help, if you're so inclined.

        • AdoptUsKids.org is a place to start if you're considering fostering or adopting.
        • My Stuff Bags is a really cool and inexpensive way to help foster kids by gifting them actual luggage, duffel bags, and more, so that they don't travel from home to home with garbage bags for their belongings — or nothing at all.
        • CASA for Children offers legal help and advocates for foster kids through a network of volunteers.

        True

        It takes a special type of person to become a nurse. The job requires a combination of energy, empathy, clear mind, oftentimes a strong stomach, and a cheerful attitude. And while people typically think of nursing in a clinical setting, some nurses are driven to work with the people that feel forgotten by society.

        Keep Reading Show less

        Prior to baby formula, breastfeeding was the norm, but that doesn't mean it always worked.

        As if the past handful of years weren't challenging enough, the U.S. is currently dealing with a baby formula crisis.

        Due to a perfect storm of supply chain issues, product recalls, labor shortages and inflation, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with formula demand and retailers are rationing supplies. As a result, families that rely on formula are scrambling to ensure that their babies get the food they need.

        Naturally, people are weighing in on the crisis, with some throwing out simplistic advice like, "Why don't you just do what people did before baby formula was invented and just breastfeed?"

        That might seem logical, unless you understand how breastfeeding works and know a bit about infant mortality throughout human history.

        Keep Reading Show less

        Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

        True

        The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

        Keep Reading Show less
        via Pexels

        Your cat knows you better than you think.

        Cats are often seen as being aloof or standoffish, even with their owners. Of course, that differs based on who that cat lives with and their lifetime of experience with humans. But when compared to man’s best friend, cats usually seem less interested in those around them, regardless of species.

        However, a new study out of Japan has found that cats may be paying more attention to their fellow felines and human friends than most people thought. In fact, they could be listening to human conversations.

        "What we discovered is astonishing," Saho Takagi, a research fellow specializing in animal science at Azabu University in Kanagawa Prefecture, told The Asahi Shimbun. "I want people to know the truth. Felines do not appear to listen to people's conversations, but as a matter of fact, they do."

        How do we know they’re listening? Because the study shows that household cats often know the names of their human and feline friends.

        Keep Reading Show less

        Emily Calandrelli was stopped by TSA agents when she tried to bring her ice packs for pumped milk through airport security.

        Traveling without your baby for the first time can be tough. And if you're breastfeeding, it can be even tougher, as you have to pump milk every few hours to keep your body producing enough, to avoid an enormous amount of discomfort and to prevent risk of infection.

        But for Emily Calandrelli, taking a recent work trip away from her 10-week-old son was far more challenging than it needed to be.

        Calandrelli is a mom of two, an aerospace engineer and the host of the Netflix kids' science show "Emily's Wonder Lab." She was recently taking her first work trip since welcoming her second child, which included a five-hour flight from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Calandrelli is breastfeeding her son and had planned to pump just before boarding the plane. She brought ice packs to keep the milk from spoiling during the flight, but when she tried to go through airport security, the TSA agents refused to let her take some of her supplies.

        Keep Reading Show less