I heard once that if the world were a village of 100 people that only 30 would have enough to eat, only one would have a college degree, and only 68 would breathe clean air. On the other hand, one would be dying of starvation, 12 are unable to read, 43 live without basic sanitation, and 20 have no clean or safe water to drink. I think the point was that we should appreciate what we have and do our best to work towards a better future for those around the world that have less than we do.
It makes a statement, sure. It makes me think about my place in this huge world and how lucky I am to have been born when and where and to whom I was. It wasn’t my choices or anything that I’ve done that allowed me the privileges that I have and honestly so often take for granted. Looking at the entire world, all 7.7 billion people in it, as if it were our own small town is powerful, yes; thinking of our global neighbors as if they lived right outside our own backyard. But, we actually have the ability to see our communities up close, to live in them, work in them, and we don’t have to compare ourselves to 7.7 billion other people to realize that we are as the popular (or at least once popular) saying goes, #blessed.
In our own backyards there are real people, real families, real children struggling with challenges and hardships, addictions, habits, and hangups. We know that there is a foster care crisis in our country. In our states, in our counties, in our very own backyards. It blows my mind all that I was missing before I stepped into foster parenting. And you don’t have to be a foster parent to learn the realities and see the pain-points that exist in the system. Once you know what is happening, really see the impact, there is so much that you can do without fostering to make a difference- mentor, tutor, advocate.
There are more children aging out of foster care that will eventually go to prison than go to college. These youth face a disproportionate rate of incarceration through no fault of their own. These children, these young people with so much potential, did nothing to deserve the hand they’ve been dealt.
In my small county today, there are 40 children in the foster care system. In the Upstate of South Carolina, within 100 miles of my home, there are over 1000 children in foster care. Right now in the state that I live in, there are 4791 children living in foster care according to recent data from the Department of Social Services (November 2019). And only 2825 foster families. That means there is a gap between kids in care and homes to welcome them. It’s a problem that can be solved. And it is not solved by the 7.7 billion people in the world looking at the global problem. It is solved by you and me in our own communities, looking at our neighbors and saying “there is no such thing as other people’s children.” This is our home. This is our state. We will not stand for kids not having a place to go tonight.
How do you start to understand what the foster care crisis looks like in your own backyard? It seems so big. So impossible. The numbers change daily as kids come into care or are reunified with their family. Where do you even find reliable data? Luckily, there is a new tool to help. Director of SC DSS, Mike Leach, has released a public tool called “Foster Care Services” that updates daily the number of children in foster care in each South Carolina County. It breaks down the demographics of who is in care, for how long, and where they are living. It gives you real up-to-date information about your community, your own backyard. Knowledge is power! It is also inspiring.
I would encourage you to share this tool on social media or when people ask you about why you’re involved with foster care when it seems so heartbreaking and hard. Help your friends and family and neighbors understand why foster care is something to care about. And if you’re not in SC, search your state for data or resources and demand answers from your public leaders. We have to be honest about the problems that exist before we can step forward in finding a long-term solution.
Want to do more? Host a group of friends at your house, speak about fostering in your church, or ask your workplace about presenting the need at a meeting. After you’ve scheduled your event, request a #SHAREfostering Packet to take with you.
You’ll also receive a Sign Up Sheet for anyone who is interested in learning more about fostering. After your event, mail the Sign Up Sheet to Care2Foster, and we’ll send your FREE t-shirt to you as our thank you! The Care2Foster staff will personally follow up with anyone that wants more information about fostering or getting involved.
There is so much that we can do to make a difference in our own backyards. Foster care is one crisis in the sea of many that we hear about on the news. I know I have personally experienced compassion fatigue, overwhelmed by all the things I’m supposed to care about. The more we know about the realities of what is going on in our communities, and the tools and resources already available to us to make a difference, the easier it becomes to take one first step towards caring, towards serving, towards being part of the solution. If the world really were a village of 100 people, I hope that I would be one who would be willing to get to know the other 99 and do my best to make a positive change. I’m not a hero. I’m certainly not a saint. I don’t always want to say “yes” to the hard of fostering. But now that I know I have a role to play in solving this crisis in my own community, I can’t help but raise my feeble voice again and again and say “yes, I will play my part.”