Foster care plays a valuable role in society but it can also be very costly. One publication indicates that up to 40 percent of adults in the foster system as children are either in jail or receiving welfare benefits. While 78 percent of children in the general public graduate from high school, only about 50 percent of foster children do. The rate of homelessness for foster children is four or more times that of the general population.
This being said, it is worthwhile to explore why children are placed in foster care. According to a 1998 study of 749 San Francisco area foster children, neglect was the main reason, particularly for children age six or younger. Physical abuse and having no caretaker available were other major factors. Failed adoption placements and sexual abuse cases also caused children to enter the system.
When investigating characteristics held by biological parents, the researchers discovered that 30 percent of the cases involved substance abuse. Nine percent of the situations featured incarceration and in five percent of the cases, psychiatric illness was involved. Fifteen percent of the parents using illegal drugs had been imprisoned, while psychiatric problems plagued four percent.
Many of the younger foster children had medical issues, with 62 percent having multiple problems. For children to age six, upper respiratory illnesses were the most common medical issue. Just over 20 percent had skin problems and nearly 23 percent were developmentally delayed. Close to ten percent were diagnosed anemic and poor vision plagued approximately nine percent.
A very disturbing discovery in the adolescent children was that slightly more than 12 percent tested positive for tuberculosis! In healthy adult populations, the rate is substantially lower. The researchers concluded that the high rate of substance abuse by biological parents increased chances of exposure to adults with at least one tuberculosis risk factor.