Thousands of children across the United States are placed into the foster care system for various reasons. In 2010, about 60,000 children under age 18 in California alone were in foster care, according to a report done by the Public Institute of California.
African American and Latino children make up the largest percentages of foster youth in California, according to the California Department of Social Services.
Kern Sol News youth reporter Fabian Tolan spoke with foster youth about their experiences in the foster care system. He asked them what they believe could improve foster care. Here is a summary of what they had to say.
Jonathan Marquez (19, photographed above) was only seven years old when he was placed into foster care. Although Jonathan says he had an “okay” time while living in a low level group home, he wishes the staff would have allowed him to partake in more activities and keep him off medications that he says made him feel “restless.” When asked what changes he would like to see to the foster care system, Marquez said he would like to see more resources and healthy adult mentors. Marquez said he feels mentors can help keep foster youth occupied in a healthy manner and help them work towards goals. Marquez is now working with a local organization learning job skills.
Adrian Gonzales Rios (22) was 11 years old when placed into care due to being surrounded by drugs and gang violence. When talking to Gonzales Rios about what he feels would have set him up for ultimate success inside the group homes, he said stability and more activities would have helped. He said foster youth should be learning “real-world” skills, such as how to file for taxes, how to drive, and how to properly cook a decent, healthy meal. He also believes the transition programs should be implemented at age 17 in order to survive the real world. Other changes he would like to see include treating foster youth as adults and having adults treat youth with respect. Adrian is now a college student.
Ebony (23) was 10 years old when taken from her mother, who was on drugs at the time. When I asked Ebony about what she thinks could be better about foster care, she said she wishes her social worker would have actually cared and was compassionate towards someone who did nothing to be in the place she was in. Ebony is now a college student studying human resources and would like to be the social worker she never had.
Nesabarra (19) was placed into care at the age of 13 when her cousin shot her six times with a pellet gun and the county deemed the living conditions unhealthy. When asked what she thinks could have been different, she said she wishes the social workers would cared about the youth. She also hopes social workers and youth can have better communication skills. She is now studying criminal justice at Bakersfield College
Cassius Martin (24) was placed into care at the age of 12 when his mom passed away. When I asked Cassius what he feels could have been better while in care, he said there is not enough preparation for a foster youth to succeed after dismissed from group homes and foster homes. Martin also says the foster care system is far from perfect, but it is better than nothing.
Timothy Coburn (24) was placed into care as as a child and moved to multiple group homes. When I asked Coburn what he thought could have been better while in care, he said he wishes he was not forced to take medication. He said he felt like he was a test subject for the new medications that were being put on the market. Timothy believes that all foster care stories are different — some a lot worse then others. He said most foster youth still have parents and loved ones to take care of them after 18, but some have no one. Coburn said he would like to see the county or state take this into consideration and find a way that is fair for everyone in care. Coburn believes with proper guidance, any child can blossom into a great human being.