In Focus: No Place to Call Home

Children's Rights

“You never get to feel safe. You never get to make friends. You are always anxious, because you never know when something is going to go wrong.”

That is how Mackenzie — who remembers being moved 26 times during nearly a decade in state care — said it felt being shuffled through a series of foster families, group homes, hospitals and residential treatment centers while child welfare workers struggled to find her a home that could meet her needs.

Once, when “CPS didn’t have anywhere else to put me,” her caseworker sent her to an unlicensed home, where she slept in the same bed as the parents. She was 15, she told Children’s Rights, and “clothing was optional.” Another time, she said, workers could not find room in a treatment center with high-level mental health care, so she spent “almost a whole month” in a hospital that was only supposed to keep her for three to five days. Later, she lived in a bedbug-infested group home with “holes in the walls.”

According to a recent LA Times article, “demand for foster beds exceeds supply by more than 30% nationally.” That means experiences like Mackenzie’s — though alarming — are unfortunately all too common for the 640,000 kids who spend time in U.S. foster care every year. Throughout the nation, kids are bounced between homes, sent far from their support systems, separated from their siblings and put in restrictive institutions simply because states do not have enough foster care placements.

“Imagine suddenly being stripped of every person you ever knew or loved, then moving over and over again and never finding somewhere that felt like home,” said Sandy Santana, interim executive director of Children’s Rights. “Foster care systems are putting thousands of our children through this right now. As a country, we should be outraged.”

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