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Former Foster Youth Perceptions in Foster Care
The survey was entitled “Former Foster Youth Perceptions in Foster Care.” A link to the survey (through Survey Monkey) was shared on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and this blog between the dates of December 27, 2017 and July 31, 2018. In all, there were 37 respondents. Of those, 7 were removed once parameter filters were saved; leaving a total of 30 respondents.
The parameters were that:
- The respondent had to be 18 years old or older.
- The respondent had to have been in the foster care system for at least 1 cumulative year.
- The respondent had to have been in the United State’s Foster Care System.
- The respondent had to have memories from their time in Foster Care due to the nature of the questions.
There were a total of 92 questions and a free-form response. The free-form responses will be posted at the conclusion of this summary. Of the 92 questions, 31 offered an “other” option. There were 59 “other” comments that were taken into consideration and will be shared as they relate. There were 5 questions skipped by 1 respondent and 1 question skipped by 2 respondents; questions 20, 21, 28, 44, 45, and 65. No questions were skipped by more than 2 respondents.
A link to the survey results will be posted at the conclusion of this summary. We encourage you to follow us here at the blog as well as our Facebook page, Twitter account, and on Instagram. Please consider sharing this summary if you believe it to be informative and necessary.
Margin of error calculator (provided by Survey Monkey)
Parameters and Housekeeping
As stated previously, the first 4 questions set the parameters for the survey. Additional housekeeping questions included age, country of origin, education, etc. All respondents were born in the United States of America. No respondents had been previously adopted internationally. The majority of respondents were white (90%, 27). Multiracial (3%, 1) and Other (6%, 2) rounded out the remainder of respondents. Most respondents were born between the decades of 1990-2000 (11, 36%) and 1970-1979 (9, 30%). The majority of respondents answered that they had been in the foster care system from 2001 or after (26%, 8), from 1990-2000 (23%, 7), and from 1970-1979 (20%, 6).
In regards to highest completed level of education, the majority of respondents answered high school diploma/GED with 10 (33%). The remainder in descending order; Bachelor’s Degree 5 (16%), no high school diploma/GED 4 (13%), certification program 4 (13%), Associate’s Degree 4 (13%), Master’s Degree 2 (6%), and Doctorate 1 (3%).
Entrance Into Foster Care
Respondents were asked what their living arrangements were prior to entering foster care and that this living arrangement would be referred to as “Family of Origin” for the remainder of the survey. The majority of respondents answered that prior to entering foster care, they lived with a biological single parent (36%, 11). It was closely followed by living with biological mother and father together (20%, 6), and living with a biological parent and their nonrelative significant other (16%, 5).
Respondents entered the foster care system at a variety of ages. The most noted were between the ages of 1-3 years old (23%, 7), 13 years old or older (23%, 7), and 9-12 years old (20%, 6). There were respondents who answered that they had been separated from their siblings while in foster care (16%, 5). Responses included, “We were placed separately and eventually placed together.” Other responses, “It depended on the home we were in. Some had room for all three of us, some did not” and “There were 6 of us. We were kept in pairs by age.”
There were many reasons given as to why respondents were placed in the foster care system. There were 3 reasons that garnered the majority of responses; neglect (53%, 16), verbal and/or emotional abuse (53%, 16), and physical and/or sexual abuse (50%, 15). Other frequently noted reasons included in descending order: substance abuse (33%, 10), parent/guardian did not want to parent (33%, 10), poverty/financial strain (26%, 8), and false accusation of parent/guardian (20%, 6). One respondent stated, “There were no reasons. Just stolen.” And another said, “I was a chronic runaway and signed over to the state.”
It was asked of respondents what type of plan was made when they entered the foster care system. The majority answered that reunification with their family of origin was the plan (40%, 12). Other plans included adoption (23%, 7), long-term foster care (6%, 2), and emancipation (3%, 1). Respondents commented, “Reunification was the stated goal, it was not followed, which was their true plan all along.” Another said, “None was made they found out i [sic] was legally married and got me out.” The plan was enforced/executed for 53% (16) of respondents.
- 70% (21) of respondents entered foster care by court order
- 46% (14) of respondents got to take personal items with them into foster care
- 56% (17) of respondents were in the foster care system 1-3 years cumulatively
- 56% (17) of respondents had full or half siblings who had also been in the foster care system
- 96% (29) of respondents were placed in a nonrelative foster home at one point
- 40% (12) of respondents were placed in a group home/residential facility at one point
- 50% (15) of respondents answered that their family of origin had court-ordered visitation at some point during their placement
- 23% (7) of respondents answered that their family of origin had been given trial home visits
- 40% (12) of respondents exited and re-entered foster care at some point
There were 19 (63%) respondents who had 3 or more placements during their time in foster care. It was asked what the proximity was of their placements to their family of origin. There were 3 answers that garnered the majority of responses; neighboring town (36% 11), distant county/parish (33% 10), and same town (30% 9). One respondent replied, “Wish I knew. Apparently, I’m “not legally allowed” to know that information.”
- 68% (20) of respondents had interaction with their caseworkers
- 51% (15) of respondents did not have their case plan explained to them
- 63% (19) of respondents wanted to be reunified with their family of origin at the time
Family: Origin, Foster, and Adoptive
Family of Origin
Respondents were asked if they have maintained a relationship with their family of origin as of today, in which 60% (18) responded that they have. There were 21 (70%) respondents who said that they have had feelings of anger towards their family of origin for their time spent in the foster care system.
- 26% (8) of respondents believe they received appropriate support from their foster family/placement(s)
- 60% (18) of respondents said they were looked after well by a foster family/placement
- 50% (15) of respondents said they were physically and/or sexually abused by a foster family/placement
- 63% (19) of respondents said they were verbally and/or emotionally abused by a foster family/placement
- 33% (10) of respondents said they have maintained a relationship with a family that had fostered them as of today
There were 15 respondents who were subsequently adopted out of foster care. Of those, 8 respondents said that they were treated well by their adoptive family. Another 4 responded that they were physically and/or sexually abused in their adoptive home. There were 6 respondents who said they were verbally and/or emotionally abused in their adoptive home. It was asked that if a respondent had been adopted from foster care, was their family of origin spoken of well in their adoptive home. There were 8 respondents who said that they were not. As of today, 10 respondents maintain a relationship with their adoptive families.
Exit from Foster Care
There were 14 respondents who stated that they were adopted out of foster care. Of those, 2 were adopted into kinship adoptions and 12 were adopted into nonrelative adoptions. There were 6 respondents who were adopted by a family that had previously fostered them. An additional respondent was included for summary purposes as “adopted” to make the total 15. The respondent stated “Ended in an illegal adoption by strangers.”
In regards to full or half siblings, 5 respondents were adopted into the same family with their siblings. There were 6 respondents who stated that they were separated from their siblings after their adoption. One respondent said, “My sis went home and I ran away.”
- 17% (5) of respondents were reunified with their family of origin
- 30% (9) of respondents aged out of foster care
- 3% (1) respondent remains in extended foster care as of today
- 46% (14) of respondents considered themselves homeless as minors after their exit from foster care
- 3% (1) respondent has provided for themselves through prostitution
- 0 respondents have been victims of sex-trafficking
- 53% (16) of respondents got to take personal items with them when they exited foster care
The subject of birth certificates was briefly touched on. There were 12 (40%) respondents who said that their original birth certificate was altered after foster care. First and last names were changed for 3 (10%) respondents and there was a last name only change for 9 (30%) respondents. In regards to a child’s legal name being changed, 50% (15) of respondents said that they are in favor depending on the situation. Another 43% (13) said that they are not in favor of a child’s legal name being changed. All respondents (100%) believe that people should have the right to access their original birth certificates.
It was asked of the respondents if they had experienced a teen pregnancy or impregnated another as a teen. There were 6 (20%) respondents who said that they had. Of those who had experienced a teen pregnancy, 2 (6%) responded that they were the primary caretaker and 2 (6%) responded that their child was placed for adoption. There were 9 (30%) respondents who had been previously incarcerated.
The Foster Care System
- 16% (5) of respondents believe their family of origin received appropriate support from the foster care system
- 43% (13) of respondents believe their foster family/placement(s) received appropriate support from the foster care system
- 16% (5) of respondents believe that they personally received appropriate support from the foster care system
- 73% (22) of respondents do not believe the foster care system is effective and/or efficient
- 100% (30) of respondents believe the foster care system is in need of improvement
- 82% (24) of respondents believe that the foster care system needs to be completely overhauled
There were 16 (53%) respondents who received counseling while in foster care. Of those, 7 responded that counseling was beneficial to them. Asked if counseling should be required for children in foster care, 43% (13) responded that it should. Whereas 46% (14) responded that it depended on the situation.
It was asked if respondents would recommend becoming a foster family to others. There were 23% (7) of respondents who responded in the affirmative. An additional 56% (17) responded affirmatively in addition to having either considered fostering or having fostered themselves. It was asked if respondents would consider working for the foster care system. There were 36% (11) of respondents who answered in the affirmative. An additional 13% (4) responded that they do or have worked for the foster care system.
Respondents were asked if they believed that the foster care system provided a “better” life for them. Responses were equally divided between an affirmative response 30% (9), a negative response 30% (9), and those who believed it was impossible to say 26% (8). Comments included, “It was better than the life I had before” and “It was better than living in a life of abuse, but not much better.” Another said, “They provided a different life. I grew up in a life that I’d have just gone a different path. So not better, just different.”
Every survey published by Adoption Surveys asks various questions about the respondents’ mental health. There are general questions asked on every survey and then additional questions are asked specifically for the particular living situation. This section covers foster care specific questions followed by general mental health questions.
There were 7 (23%) respondents who said they were placed in a foster family/placement of a different race. One (3%) respondent was adopted from foster care into a transracial adoption. There were 15 (53%) respondents who said that they believe “racial mirrors” are important to be raised with and/or around. “Racial mirrors” was defined as faces that resemble one’s own.
Respondents were asked if they had ever run away or seriously considered running away while they were in foster care whereas 66% (20) said that they had. Of those who did run away, 3 (10%) responded that they never returned to foster care. There were 66% (20) of respondents who said that being in foster care made school more difficult for them.
It was asked what word would best describe the respondent’s feelings about their experience during and after their time in foster care. While in the foster care system, the most common responses were sadness (20% 6), confusion (20% 6), anger (10% 3), and relief (10% 3). One respondent said, “It has changed since I was a kid, the power they have is out of control and they are scary now.”
Looking back at their time in foster care as an adult, the most common responses were feelings of anger (16% 5), fear (13% 4), sadness (13% 4), and relief (13% 4). Comments included, “No word truly describes it because I hated the first half but loved the 2nd half. Grateful for sure” and “A combination of feelings depending on what was triggered.” Comments showed the vast difference in experience for some respondents. One respondent stated simply “Death.” While another responded, “Grateful for the chance to thrive without fear, it changed my life. All of my own children and 13 grandchildren are happy and healthy and successful and my husband and I are now adopting a teenage girl, foster care was such a blessing for me, my sister went home and he [sic] life turned out sad. My oldest daughter is now a foster mom and I am so very proud of her!!”
As a minor, 33% (10) of respondents said that they were comfortable talking about their experience in foster care. As an adult, 80% (24) of respondents are comfortable talking about their experience in foster care. In relation to the respondent’s experience in foster care, 63% (19) said that they have/had considered attempting suicide. There were 26% (8) of respondents who believe that they were prescribed unnecessary medication while in foster care.
As adults, 66% (20) of respondents said that they think about their time in foster care often. It was asked if respondents look back at their time in foster care with fondness; 30% (9) responded affirmatively and 70% (21) responded negatively.
- 93% (28) of respondents have struggled with abandonment issues
- 80% (24) of respondents have struggled with identity issues
- 46% (14) of respondents have struggled with substance abuse
- 86% (26) of respondents have struggled with depression
- 53% (16) of respondents have struggled with hoarding food and/or other items
- 63% (19) of respondents have struggled with an eating disorder
- 90% (27) of respondents have suffered with a sleep disorder
- 70% (21) of respondents have been diagnosed with a mental disorder and/or mental illness
- 46% (14) of respondents said their sense of self-worth was affected in a negative way if their family of origin was not spoken well of by others
Thank you to all respondents. Your voice is greatly appreciated. It is important to the Adoption Surveys team that respondent voices are elevated and shared. If you found this survey to be adequate and necessary, please consider sharing it on social media. Also, please follow the Adoption Surveys social media pages for upcoming surveys and weekly polls. For further reading, the full survey questions and answers can be found here: Former Foster Youth Perceptions in Foster Care
As with every summary published by Adoption Surveys, there is always a final question asking if the respondent has anything they would like to share about their experience with the topic at hand. The following are free-form responses left by respondents:
It got me out of a bad situation that I now understand and lead me to an adult life of happiness. But those few years were the hardest of my life.
My family was destroyed due to false allegations and I had to Live with strangers who abused me. My mom never abused me.
Those records should never be sealed from the person who was in foster care as a child. All records, (adoption, foster, and birth certificates), should be accessible to the adult
I WANT MY 40 ACRES AND MULE! Yes, there is plenty that I have to say About foster Care And Abduction! You’ll find it to my Book!
Foster care brought me to my family. My birth family could not take care of me; they each had too many issues of their own.
It WAS in my best interest and I should NOT have returned home as much as I did.
I became a foster mother for teenaged girls coming out of reform schools. They all aged out in my home.
It may seem good on the surface but it is about money for the foster parents, please do not ignore this part of foster care. Money is not the answer.
Grateful for the chance to thrive without fear, it changed my life. All of my own children and 9 grandchildren are happy and healthy and successful and my husband and I are now adopting a teenage girl, foster care was such a blessing for me, my sister went home and her life turned out sad. My oldest daughter is now a foster mom and I am so very proud of her!! My mother died sad without knowing her grandkids because of my dad, he never changed. Jehovah witness kids need foster care so badly to get away from that life and abuse… it truly changed my life, my kids life and my grandkids life. I don’t talk to my fparents after mom because helping me run away made her afraid that my dad would find out and hurt her, so I just let her life alone out of respect, my caseworker also helped me get away, and told me how to avoid trouble. Looking back I could have been in real trouble being put on a plane to a strange state, but I must have had angels with me. Times were scary at times but I never quit and life is amazing!
I am indifferent. My parents were total mess ups. The reality is foster care both saved me and broke me. I think a lot of the case workers are crooked as hell. I think the system is incredibly broken. I feel like reunification was pushed way too much. I would have been better off if I were left with a half way decent family. But when I found one they would send me back to my broken parents and I’d never see the foster families again. It was hard and unnecessary.
Horrible homes. Abuse. Neglect. I was in about 10 different foster homes as a kid. I was a good kid. No trouble. I was adopted when I was 11. One lady found out another kid was my full brother. She kept track of us until we were adopted. Once adopted, she told adoptive parents we were brothers.
Nothing thank you for the survey
I do not have fond memories of foster care. I did not receive comfort or security. The families that fostered me were doing it for financial reasons. Not because they cared. One of the homes I was in was abusive.
Foster care can really rip apart a child’s mind. I know it did mine. I feel like it makes a child feel very lost and not knowing what the “truth” is. They devote a minority of their time trying to figure that out.