foster care

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio


What does it feel like to be removed from you parents’ home? From the ones who were supposed to protect you and keep you safe?


I want to introduce you to a set of siblings. Let’s start with the oldest one Andrew. He’s an intense little guy who’s 9 years old and very much into superheroes.

ANDREW: My favorite Marvel superhero is Spiderman.

AUDREY: Want to see my best friend?

That’s Audrey, his little sister, she is <<FIVE!>> and adorably shy.

And finally, there’s Braden, the ham of the family.

BRADY: Let it Go! Let it Go! Can’t hold it back anymore

Christian Guthier / Flickr

State of Opportunity will air a documentary on foster care on Thursday, October 30. In the lead-up to Thursday we're publishing a series of articles that explore specific aspects of the foster care system or challenges kids within that system face.

Andrew, a superhero-loving nine-year-old boy you’ll soon meet in our newest documentary Finding Home, told us regretfully that his Paper Jamz – a toy guitar he loved – didn't make it into the bag he used for his belongings as he bounced from place to place.

Jenny Downing / Flickr

State of Opportunity will air a documentary on foster care on Thursday, October 30. In the lead-up to Thursday, we're publishing a series of articles that explore specific aspects of the foster care system, and some of the challenges kids within that system face.

For many young adults who have aged out of the foster care system, myself included, the hardest part isn’t actually being in care.

The hardest part is leaving care.

Gina / Flickr

Earlier this week, President Obama signed a bill that could lead to major changes in the child welfare system.

Arguably the most important part of the Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act is its acknowledgment of something we don't like to think about but is nevertheless true: the strong connection between foster care and human trafficking. 

If you missed the show, it's definitely worth your time. 

You can listen on an intimate but really informative conversation on young people heading toward or already on the fringes of society. They're not working, not in school and definitely not set up for a successful adulthood.

user Meggy / flickr

"It kind of makes you feel disposable, and that’s not a good feeling at all." 

That's how 22-year-old Jerry Caster describes his time in Michigan's foster care system. Caster bounced around from foster home to foster home starting when he was just 5 years old. He eventually "aged out" of the system when he was 19, and since then he's been alternately homeless or in jail. He wouldn't share with me why he was taken from his parents at the tender age of 5, except to say he suffered some serious trauma and as a result lives with mental illness. 

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Rosslyn Bliss leads the way across a boardwalk on a five-acre piece of land on the north side of Grand Rapids to a one-story light-brown building. This building is an emergency shelter for kids who’ve been removed from their home by the state. 

"We serve ... medically fragile children, we serve children with developmental disabilities, whatever they're struggling with, whatever child comes to our door, whatever their current state is, we take care of them," says Bliss. 

This campus is run by D.A. Blodgett - St. John's in Grand Rapids.

This building is exclusively for kids who’ve been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect and have nowhere else to go.

Matt Katzenberger / flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled a practice by the state's child welfare system is unconstitutional. 

Yesterday the State Supreme Court struck down a 12-year-old rule they said violated the constitution because it allowed the state to punish both parents for abuse or neglect of a child for whom only one parent was responsible, even when parents were not living together.

A person's right to raise their child without interference from the state – their "parental rights –" is constitutionally protected.

"Before, the state could put a child in foster care for what just one parent did," says Vivek Sankaran, who argued the case against the state. "Now the state has to make findings against both parents before it can take a child away and put them in foster care."

Movie review: Short Term 12

Feb 25, 2014
#shortterm12project / Instagram

Destin Daniel Cretton's film Short Term 12 (2013) brings to light a number of issues around kids in foster care. We've written here in the State of Opportunity blog about teens who are aging out of foster care and the challenges they face moving into adulthood with a tenuous support system. But, Short Term 12 does a great job of delving into the issues of trust, confidentiality, and uncertainty children face when removed from parental care and entrusted to other adults. Those adults may or may not be fully capable of caring for themselves, much less the needs of at-risk kids.  

graffiti of a quadratic equation on a concrete barrier
lanqui / flickr

My most recent radio story focused on some of the adults in the child welfare system. These adults, like the children involved, can feel lost and powerless.

Right after hitting the "publish" button on the post, I took a look at a link my colleague Dustin Dwyer had sent me on the other side of the coin, the kids stuck in the system. We've brought you some of these stories, but with more than 13,000 kids  in Michigan's foster care system, we should continue to tell more.

The piece is written by Thomas Rios, a freelance journalist who is also an alumnus of the foster care system. It's definitely an opinion piece.