If running away from your foster home isn’t a crime, why is the State of Washington jailing kids for it? That’s what we, Robert and Kathleen Raskin of Las Vegas, would like to know.
Unlike other runaways, when foster kids run away they are often simply trying to return to their normal lives. It is not uncommon for friends and family members to agree to harbor them until they age out of the system. Wherever these kids end up, there can be consequences for them, those who harbor them, and for the lawmakers and caseworkers who consistently fail them.
Inside many group home facilities there is simply no semblance of normal life, leaving these kids without access to the things they were used to being able to do, like watching TV when they wanted, hanging out with friends, or even simply being able to go outdoors. One foster child said she ran away because she knew wasting away in a group home was going to prevent her from ever meeting an adoptive family. There’s got to be a better alternative than that.
What these kids are running from:
- Abusive foster parents
- Loneliness and the loss of their support systems
- A system that may penalize them or their loved ones
What these kids are running to:
- The communities and connections they came from
- Their schools and educational opportunities
- “street parents” and communities of their own choosing
- Sex traffickers
- Predatory older “boyfriends”
Many foster kids are exposed to deplorable conditions while they are at the most vulnerable point of their lives and already suffering. Children report everything from being kept in shackles to being forced to sleep on bloodstained mattresses while in group homes. Many of the foster youth who run away have done so multiple times. In one study only one in eight children had run away a single time. Half had run away over ten times.
When children leave state care and refuse to return, it’s difficult to predict what the consequences may be. If you are a foster child who has run away, remember that you have rights. Call a lawyer and find out exactly what those rights are. You can contact that Foster Care Alumni Association at (703) 299-6767 for help with your situation.
For the rest of us, it’s time to contact your legislators to demand improvements that will help these kids.
Learn more about why children choose to run away from foster care.
Just one of many reasons we need to find real solutions to this problem, and fast!