My First Experience with Foster Care


The following tale is about my first introduction to the horrors of foster care. This took place some 40 years ago, but nothing has changed. The antiquated thought processes are still in place. The workers and judges insist that the child is a possession of the biological parents, no matter what.

REUNIFICATION? Here’s a sad statistic over a period of 3 years? This is from the USD Health and Human Services (HHS) dated 12/01/2001. “The prevailing feature of the reunification process is that the likelihood of exit by reunification is highest at the beginning of a child’s first stay in foster care, and gradually decreases as time in care elapses.”

For all foster care episodes observed in the data, approximately 8 percent ended in reunification during the first month of care, about 30 percent during the first year in care, and about 40 percent during the first three years in care.”

Photo by cottonbro on

This meant that 60% of all children being forced to reunify with biological parents failed the process.  The only other stats that were fairly new came from 2019 from the HHS. It mentions that there were over 400,000 children in foster care, there were 71,300 parental rights terminated, 66,000 adopted and 122,200 children waiting for adoption.

The children have no say in what their lives should be, even when they are old enough to explain the situation in their families. Therefore, the children suffer twice, once from the parental abuse and then again from the people who should be helpful, but are NOT!!!! I’ve decided to call foster care workers and social workers, “Whatevers.”

My foster child, Susan’s ’father had been abusing her and her sister since they were about 6 or 7 years old. They begged their mother to get him to stop and she basically said it never happened.

Because no one believed her, Susan ran away from home at 16. She made it to California, but was picked up and returned home. She ran away again and it was determined that she should be placed in foster care. That’s when she was placed with me.

Kara and Susan 1980

She started to give me trouble, but I sat her down and told her that it was okay to be a kid and I would protect her as much as I could. The social whatevers were not helpful. They insisted she meet with her parents and go back to live with them.

By now, Susan had told me what went on in her home and I didn’t want to let her meet with her parents alone. The social “whatever” said I had to wait outside because it was none of my business. Her father attacked her in the meeting, had her on the floor banging her head over and over on the floor while 2 social “whatevers” just sat there watching. It took a male social worker to pull him off her.

The social “whatevers” had a responsibility to report her dad for physical abuse. He was never held accountable for attacking her in a required meeting. My question has always been, “Why not?”

The staff called me in to take Susan home. Instead, I took her to an emergency room where she was diagnosed with a slight concussion. I had to check on her every 2 hours that night. I called her case worker the next day and told her what happened. She agreed that Susan shouldn’t be forced to meet with her parents again.

The thing that really bothered me about all this was that Susan had told the authorities that her father had been sexually abusing the foster children her parents had been taking in for years. Nobody believed her.

Susan’s father didn’t have any trouble convincing the foster care “whatevers” that he hadn’t done anything to his daughters and his wife, Susan’s mother backed him up.

Then one day a girl placed in Susan’s parent’s home came forward and told the worker just what happened in that home.  Susan was finally vindicated. The state finally closed her parent’s home.

The saddest part of that story is that Susan’s sister was still in the home. The foster care “whatevers” never removed her or their brother, so the abuse continued.

The Foster Care systems have such a difficult time finding families for older children that they will take any family that agrees to foster older children.

I personally know of a situation where two girls ages 15 and 16 were in a home that had been taking teen age girls for several years. When the girls reported the foster dad for sexual abuse, he categorically denied it at first. Then he said the girls were flirting with him and he couldn’t help himself. The state immediately shut them down.

The thing with the above case is that the dad was probably right. The girls found his weakness and manipulated him into a situation that he’d not been in before. He had been drinking, so he was a bit vulnerable to their behaviors.

Most foster parents always live with the possibility of having CPS charges made against them. RAD kids, as anyone with a RAD kid understands, can do incredible damage to a well-meaning family.

The sad thing is nobody really knows how to fix the foster care systems. The turnover in foster care workers has always been a problem in that the higher ups can’t seem to understand what those workers see on a daily basis.

The best thing about my time with Susan is that she continues to give me hope that abused children can and do survive the worst of situations and come out the other side stable and loving.

I believe that there are families out there who would adopt these children if they knew they could do so without dealing with the foster care systems.

Thanks for reading this post. Please email me at with comments or questions.

N. Ann Lamphere, MSW

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