Why We Are Here

History

Untold numbers of children are abused and neglected in this country. In 2014, more than 415,000 children were in the foster care system. For too many of these children, their childhoods are unnecessarily sad and often both physically and emotionally damaging.

Child welfare systems, which include protective services and foster care, are the bureaucracies state and local governments have created to protect children. These government social services systems receive reports of maltreatment, abuse, and neglect of children. They are responsible for investigating and taking necessary corrective actions to provide services, where appropriate, and protection where necessary, to ensure the safety and well-being of children.

Often, the families that these systems investigate suffer from an overwhelming lack of resources. They struggle with unemployment, inadequate housing, poor education and lack of vocational skills. As a result, the affected children are not part of an emotionally and functionally intact family unit.

In the last century,  these government systems either ignored children in harm’s way or moved them away from their relatives into chaotic and malignant institutional facilities or orphanages. The children often languished in these facilities, deprived of permanent families. Many fell victim to psychological and physical abuse.

Today, the states, for the most part, no longer house children in large institutions. Statistics show a national reduction in the size of foster care systems. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, the number of children in foster care has dropped  from 513,000 in 2005 to 415,000 in 2014.

These numbers, however, fail to shed light on the abuse and neglect that still permeate various child protective systems. In many states, child welfare systems do not respond to the severe problems of children and families. The state bureaucracies may delay investigations of abuse or neglect allegations or completely ignore them. Some children who wind up in foster care may be discharged quickly back to their families’ care where the cycle of maltreatment or neglect may well continue without the initial problems ever being addressed. Others remain in foster care for unconscionable periods of time, bouncing from one foster family to another.  These children never experience the stability that is crucial for healthy development and a secure childhood. They often are terrorized sexually, physically or emotionally while under the states’ care.  Some children “graduate” to “treatment” facilities and inevitably age out of the system unprepared for the adult world.

Lower child welfare populations may seem to save the taxpayer money. In reality, the statistics mask the states’ failure to provide meaningful social services to  empower healthy and safe family units. Such failures lead to a financial drain on tax dollars as children and families are unprepared to handle life’s challenges independently.  The population statistics also turn a blind eye to the experiences of children, whether in or out of foster care, who still suffer trauma needlessly due to inept, careless and unaccountable child welfare bureaucracies.

A Better Childhood is a watchdog organization that compels change through the power of the courts. We have the experience, commitment, and creativity to ensure that states meet their legal responsibilities to protect children, based on both existing law and innovative legal approaches. Our goal is to achieve a tipping point, past which efficient, compassionate, and effective child welfare systems become the norm and not the exception. Our results prove that if the states, policy makers, legislators, and local legal communities invest the proper resources and attention in their child welfare systems, they will improve the lives of children.