Foster Youth

The Invisible Class

“We are sending more foster kids to prison than to college”--Brent Kent, Indiana foster youth advocate 

In late 2019, the Kansas City Star published "Throwaway Kids," a six-part series on foster youth, written by Laura Bauer and Judy L. Thomas. "Taken from an unstable home," Bauer and Thomas write. "Terrified by their first contact with the state. Emotionally and cognitively damaged in care as they are moved from home  to home. Robbed of an education equal to their peers."

As part of its investigation, The Star surveyed nearly six thousand inmates in twelve states. One in four said they were the product of foster care.

The investigation also found that: * Many kids are moved dozens of times from one foster home to another--a few as many as 100 times--over several years. Foster children are diagnosed with PTSD at a rate greater than Iraq war veterans. * Since the 1980s, nearly three dozen states have faced lawsuits asserting that they were further harming children they were supposed to protect. * In Oregon, just 35 percent of foster kids earned a high school diploma in 2017 compared to 77 percent of their peers. Nationwide, less than 3 percent of foster youth will get a bachelor’s degree.

One who did is Stephanie Serrano, who grew up in foster care without a real family. When she was pushed out of foster care at age eighteen, she became homeless. Ultimately, she managed to go to college and is now a case worker for foster youth in Los Angeles and runs Seeds of Peace, which conducts special programs for foster youth in several high schools. She calls foster youth "the invisible class."

That's hard to argue with. Most people not directly involved with foster youth know nothing about these young victims and may not even know that they exist (even though there were 442,995 kids in foster care nationwide as of 2017). And it's not as if foster youth are trying to make themselves seen or heard. "I think people like myself who have experienced these things," Stephanie Serrano told me, "we've learned to just survive and move forward so we don't talk about it."

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Lee Ballinger, CounterPunch’s music columnist, is co-editor of Rock and Rap Confidential author of the forthcoming book Love and War: My First Thirty Years of Writing, interviewed Honkala for CounterPunch. RRRC is now available for free by emailing Ballinger at: rockrap@aol.com.

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