Why a free pass for international foster care?

Several weeks ago, yet another scathing indictment of a major US state’s foster care system emerged–this time, a report on New York’s child welfare practice, by the group Children’s Rights. See their homepage at


This site, in fact, is full of important information about the disaster that is American foster care. It uses the right language–blunt, honest and horrifying. Children enter state foster care and are subject to horrific treatment–not in every foster care situation, of course–though some of them are likely to be truly awful–but rather due to the inherent impermanency and contingent status of foster care as an institution.

Oddly and perversely, in a world that cannot face up to the issue of parental rights, child abandonment and families made from other than blood ties, “foster care” has become the new clarion call for “children’s rights” in countries around the world. If one compares foster care to the old state institutions, maybe there is a case to be made. But the idea that placing young children who are very unlikely to be reunited with original families in foster care is consistent with their “rights” is a travesty.

I made a related point forcefully in an article I published a couple of years ago, in which I drafted a protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to the effect that states must account for their social orphans and children at risk of living out of family care, and ensure them permanency instead of the absurd “compromise” supposedly represented by foster care.

If the US government does ever get around to advocating for international standards of child permanency, it will have to take on this widespread illusion that foster care achieves anything like what a genuine, permanent, committed family can.


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