Washtenaw County currently has about 300 children in foster care and a desperate shortage of foster homes. Our licensing workers call us semi-regularly asking for names of anyone we know who might be interested in fostering, anyone at all.
When a child or children cannot be placed in a home several things happen. First the caseworkers start calling homes that are less and less ideal for that child. An ill-fitted placement is better than no placement at all. Sibling groups have to be separated. Kids are put in homes that will take them temporarily and then will be moved multiple times as a long term placement is located.
While these things are bad, two are worse. The first is this: Kids who can’t be placed, even young ones, will be sent to a homeless shelter overnight and a placement will be sought again the next day. The second is this: Many, many teenagers are being placed in group homes, essentially modern day orphanages. In the words of a Navigator I spoke with in November, “If they weren’t already damaged, the group home will damage them real quick.”
When the subject of foster home shortages came up at a recent foster parent training I asked why they thought that …