The Cycle of Foster Care
At 15, Crystalanne didn’t have a family. She was living in a residential facility for youth where professionally trained staff cared for her. The four previous years she had spent as a foster youth in Oregon had left her mentally and emotionally strained.
She was confused and angry about her circumstances. At the age of 9, Crystalanne’s father died. Less than two years later, her mother abandoned her at a hospital. Her trust in adults grew thinner as each year passed and adults cycled in and out of her life. Her fear and frustration towards her abandonment was manifested in tantrums and outbursts. She eventually received the label “unadoptable.”
At the age of 15, the turmoil of her childhood left her with the emotional maturity of a 12 year old. In three years, she would be 18 and legally considered an adult. There was little doubt she would struggle in adulthood after some of her most formative years had been spent jumping around foster homes.
Crystalanne is just one of the 8,000 stories from children living in Oregon’s foster care system. This fall, there are 8,000 reasons to support youth in foster care.
An uncertain future
Youth growing up in foster care have more hurdles and roadblocks than almost any other disadvantaged group. Academically, professionally and personally, they have difficulty obtaining and maintaining the degrees, careers and relationships that define adulthood.
Less than 3 percent of children who stay in foster care until adulthood will graduate college. The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning found in a 2014 study that foster youth have roughly the same chance of completing high school as they do becoming homeless or being incarcerated.
The path of many foster children mirrors that of Crystalanne. They went through a traumatic experience and their response to that time often causes them to be labeled “problematic” or “unadoptable.” They were misunderstood and placed into a category that put them on a path for future life struggles.
Former foster youth say what they needed most was a sense of belonging in a home where they felt supported and loved. They say they needed parents.
In situations where foster youth were connected with permanent families, their risk of dropping out of school fell by roughly 30 percent. According to a PBS FRONTLINE report, high school graduates were 63 times less likely to be incarcerated and significantly more employable.
How we help
Boys & Girls Aid connects foster youth with families who will guide them, support them and love them. Each of our programs point towards permanent relationships where children in foster care can grow and thrive. This fall we have 8,000 reasons to work toward building stronger, and more permanent connections for Oregon’s foster children.
When children enter foster care, they should be connected with trained professionals who prepare them for the next step in their lives. Whether that means returning home or growing with a family through adoption, the goal should be that all children exit foster care permanently.
A permanent relationship means one school, one home and one family. It’s our solution to the achievement gap for foster children and it’s a solution we believe will create a better future for all Oregonians.
A happy ending
Crystalanne reached this type of permanent relationship when she came to Boys & Girls Aid. We worked to find what Crystalanne needed in a family while working with her to restore the trust she had lost after so many foster placements. We sought out the family Crystalanne wanted and needed. We connected her with a couple who was ready to be her forever family, a family who would offer her a lifetime of stability and support.
On her 17th birthday, she received the wish she had wanted for so many years. Surrounded by her adoptive parents and siblings in a courtroom, a judge finalized her adoption, ensuring Crystalanne would not age out of foster care. At the end of the ceremony, Crystalanne stood up and shouted "I was told I was unadoptable but I was adopted!"
We are happy Crystalanne’s story ended with a positive, lifelong connection. Together, let’s build 8,000 more.