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America’s foster system got its biggest overhaul in 40 years. Here's what's changed.

The foster care system in the U.S. is complex, and until recently, it was largely still acting under the original law — passed in 1974.

Over 400,000 children are placed in foster care each year in the United States, and the stories they each have to tell can be staggering. Articles online can detail child abuse and neglect, and there are stories after stories of people who have been through the system on both sides.

The issues of child abuse and neglect are complicated problems with no simple solutions. Keeping kids safe is the first priority, and sometimes removing them from families and placing them in foster care is necessary. However, that's not always the ideal method. There are many awesome foster care families, but the system can be traumatic for kids who go through it — and just like any family, some foster families have their own issues.

While there is an ongoing debate over what is best for kids in abusive or neglectful households, much of the available research shows that kids who remain with their families, even dysfunctional ones, tend to have better outcomes than kids placed in foster care.



But what if we could do more to help at-risk families create a safe and healthy home environment and funnel fewer kids through the foster care system?


Congress has passed a law that could change everything for the next generation of potential foster kids.

Tucked quietly into a massive spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the president in February, the Family First Prevention Services Act is the biggest overhaul of the foster system in four decades. It changes the way that states can spend their federal funds in certain areas. The biggest change? Funneling funds toward preventative programs to keep kids from having to enter the foster system in the first place.

Making families safer for at-risk kids isn't a new idea. The 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) required agencies to make reasonable efforts to help parents remedy safety concerns as a first step. However, only a small percent of federal funding went toward prevention programs, so the majority of support occurred after a child had already been removed from the home.

With this new law, priority is given to providing parenting classes, mental health services, substance abuse recovery, and other prevention programs aimed at creating a healthier home environment. It’s the first time that evidence-based prevention services will be funded as an entitlement, like Medicaid.

Upworthy Presents: Superman Foster Dad

He wants to make sure no other child in the foster care system has an experience like the one he did.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The hope is that increasing prevention services will help keep kids from having to enter the foster care system by giving families the resources to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Most child advocates say this law is a big step forward. However, there are a few issues of concern.

While there’s a lot of good stuff in this law, there are also a few things that are raising eyebrows in the child advocate community. Kinship care — grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other extended family caring for a child when parents are unable to — is not covered by foster care payments. Research shows that kinship care leads to better outcomes than foster care, so funneling funds toward those family members seems like it would be a good idea.

Also, there’s a bit of a conflict with the funding for group homes. While group homes are the least desirable option for a child, sometimes they are necessary. This bill severely limits funding for group homes.

Again, there are no simple solutions and no unlimited sources of funding, so clearly something has to give. And since research backs up the importance of keeping families together if possible, it makes sense to push resources in that direction.

The most striking thing about this law is that it humanizes people who might desire to be good parents but who don’t have the tools or resources to do so.

No doubt some people are never going to get themselves together and be able to raise a child, so the foster system remains a necessary way to keep kids safe. But there are many parents who simply need help to overcome their own upbringing, manage mental health issues, recover from addiction, or learn healthy ways to parent in order to create a safe environment for their kids. Giving those parents whatever resources they need to be good parents and keep their kids is essential to success — for everyone.

Another thing this law does is it removes the requirement that states only offer prevention services to extremely poor families. “That’s significant,” said Karen Howard, vice president of early childhood policy at First Focus. “Because abuse happens in rich homes, middle-class homes, poor homes. This is a game-changer.”

So often, abusive or neglectful parents are demonized as monsters. While some undoubtedly truly are incapable of raising children, many simply need assistance, education, and support. This law recognizes that helping those parents and keeping families together is often the best option for everyone in the long run. If we can help a family be healthy and strong enough to be safe for a child, that's where we should be placing our resources.

Image from YouTube video.

An emotional and strong Matt Diaz.


Matt Diaz has worked extremely hard to lose 270 pounds over the past six years.

But his proudest moment came in March 2015 when he decided to film himself with his shirt off to prove an important point about body positivity and self-love.

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Community

Man uses social media to teach others ASL so kids don't experience what he did as a child

Every child should be able to communicate in a way that works best for them.

Man teaches people ASL so no child experiences what he did

People start communicating from the moment they enter the world usually through cries, faces, grunts and squeals. Once infants move into the toddler phase the combine all of their previous communication skills with pointing and saying a few frequently used words like "milk," "mama," "dada" and "eat."

Children who are born without the ability to hear often still go through those same stages with the exception of their frequently used words being in sign language. But not all hearing parents know sign language, which can stunt the language skills of their non-hearing child. Ronnie McKenzie is an American Sign Language advocate that uses social media to teach others how to sign so deaf and nonverbal kids don't feel left out.

"But seriously i felt so isolated 50% of my life especially being outside of school i had NONE to sign ASL with. Imagine being restricted from your own language," McKenzie writes in his caption.

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Family

Wife says husband's last name is so awful she can't give it to her kids. Is she right?

"I totally get we can’t shield kids from everything, and I understand the whole family ties thing, but c’mon."

A wife pleads with her husband to change their child's name.

Even though it’s 2023 and schools are much more concerned with protecting children from bullying than in the past, parents still have to be aware that kids will be kids, and having a child with a funny name is bound to cause them trouble.

A mother on Reddit is concerned that her future children will have the unfortunate last name of “Butt,” so she asked people on the namenerds forum to help her convince her husband to name their child something different.

(Note: We’re assuming that the person who wrote the post is a woman because their husband is interested in perpetuating the family name, and if it were a same-sex relationship, a husband probably wouldn’t automatically make that assumption.)

"My husband’s last name is Butt. Can someone please help me illuminate to him why this last name is less than ideal,” she asked the forum. “I totally get we can’t shield kids from everything and I understand the whole family ties thing, but c'mon. Am I being unreasonable by suggesting our future kid either take my name, a hybrid, or a new one altogether?"

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Joy

Bus driver comes to the rescue for boy who didn't have an outfit for school's Pajamas Day

“It hurt me so bad…I wanted him to have a good day. No child should have to miss out on something as small as pajama day.”

Representative Image from Canva

One thoughtful act can completely turn someone's day around.

On the morning just before Valentine’s Day, school bus driver Larry Farrish Jr. noticed something amiss with Levi, one of his first grade passengers, on route to Engelhard Elementary, part of Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) in Louisville, Kentucky.

On any other day, the boy would greet Farrish with a smile and a wave. But today, nothing. Levi sat down by himself, eyes downcast, no shining grin to be seen. Farrish knew something was up, and decided to inquire.

With a “face full of tears,” as described on the JCPS website, Levi told Farrish that today was “Pajama Day” at school, but he didn’t have any pajamas to wear for the special occasion.
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via Imgur

Memories of testing like this gets people fired up.

It doesn't take much to cause everyone on the internet to go a little crazy, so it's not completely surprising that an incorrect answer on a child's math test is the latest event to get people fired up.

The test in question asked kids to solve "5 x 3" using repeated addition. Under this method, the correct answer is "5 groups of 3," not "3 groups of 5." The question is typical of Common Core but has many questioning this type of standardized testing and how it affects learning.

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Joy

There are over 30 years between these amazing before-and-after photos.

"It's important for me for my photography to make people smile."

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

Before and after photos separated by 30 years.


Chris Porsz was tired of studying sociology.

As a university student in the 1970s, he found the talk of economics and statistics completely mind-numbing. So instead, he says, he roamed the streets of his hometown of Peterborough, England, with a camera in hand, snapping pictures of the people he met and listening to their stories. To him, it was a far better way to understand the world.

He always looked for the most eccentric people he could find, anyone who stood out from the crowd. Sometimes he'd snap a single picture of that person and walk away. Other times he'd have lengthy conversations with these strangers.

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