Gimme Shelter, a 2013 Christian film, follows a runaway teenager named Apple Bailey as she struggles to escape thedifficult life she has been dealt and create a new and better one for herself and her unborn baby. One horrific event after another begin to take a tole on Apple including what she went through before the movie even begins. While we only get a short glimpse at her hardships, it is obvious that she has been struggling for quite a long time. She has been tossed through the foster care system. This system is extremely flawed and Apple is living proof of how damaging it can be to both a child’s mental and physical health. The foster care system needs reform.
The earliest system in place for foster children in America has been around since the 19th century. Although the idea of the system seems effective and good, the way it operates shows otherwise. The foster care system is extremely unreliable and unstable. Between 33% and 66% of foster care arrangements are disrupted within the first two years. This instability takes a metal and emotional tole on the child. Foster children are more likely to become homeless or incarcerated. (https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125594259) Sometimes the children are even placed back into the care of the very parent they were taken away from. This can be a positive thing if the parent has received help and improved as a person, but it can also be the child’s worst nightmare. In Gimme Shelter, the foster care system places Apple back with her drug addicted mother. The system failed her. She continued to be abused because the system doesn’t work.
Another huge flaw in the system is the amount of crimes are committed through it or surrounding it. A John Hopkins University study found that foster children are around four times more likely to be sexually assaulted and one-third of foster child report being abused at some point.(https://www.focusforhealth.org/sex-abuse-and-the-foster-care-system/) Over half of sex-trafficking victims recovered during 2013 FBI raids had been in foster care at some point. Even Apple herself was repeatedly assaulted by her one of her foster fathers. The man claimed she was lying because she was a troubled kid, and he was never punished. With around 13% of foster children running away from their foster families and 9% leaving to go live with friends, it is obvious these children have an insight that those on the outside cannot see.(http://youthrightsjustice.com/media/3399/foster-care-flawed-system.pdf) Screening processes for foster parents need to be stricter and the rate of prosecution for abuse related crimes committed needs is much too low. These foster children need help and the system needs reform.
Yet another flaw of many in the foster care system is the “aging out” issue. Once a child in the foster care system turns eighteen, they legally “age out” of the system. They are sent out on their own to live in the adult world. Most foster children haven’t been given the proper tools or education to survive on their own. Around 20% of these foster children become instantly homeless. Over 70% of female foster children become pregnant by age 21. (http://www.sharedjustice.org/most-recent/2017/3/30/aging-out-of-foster-care-18-and-on-your-own) Eighteen year old foster children are most likely not prepared to experience the world on their own. With limited contacts, lack of employment training, and lack of access to healthcare, as well as an array of other issues, foster children who have “aged out” do not have an effective way to adapt to the world outside of the system. Had Apple stayed in the foster care system instead of getting help from the women’s shelter, there is no telling what could have happened to her and the other girls in the house if they would’ve aged out of the system. They most likely would become homeless and broke. Children in this system have such a hard time after aging out of their foster homes. They need more resources and access to better housing and healthcare options. (https://youth.gov/youth-briefs/foster-care-youth-brief/challenges)
To conclude, the current U.S. foster care system is severely flawed. Children like Apple are thrown into the foster care system and often disregarded by the state. They have adisproportionately higher chance than children who live with their biological families of being physically, mentally, and sexually abused. They also have a greater chance of being sex trafficked and females have a greater chance of becomingpregnant as teens. Over one tenth of children in the foster care system run away at least once. Even after leaving the system, foster children are still at a greater risk for mental illness, homelessness, incarceration, and behavioral issues. This system is so obviously flawed and is in desperate need of reform. We need stricter screening processes to prevent abusers from becoming foster parents. The justice system also needs to more throughly investigate abuse claims involving foster children. Solutions need to be found, and change needs to happen.
“Challenges.” Challenges | Youth.gov, youth.gov/youth-briefs/foster-care-youth-brief/challenges.
Fessler, Pam. “Report: Foster Kids Face Tough Times After Age 18.” NPR, NPR, 7 Apr. 2010, www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125594259.
Nan Edge February 21st, et al. “Sex Abuse and the Foster Care System.” Focus for Health, 4 Oct. 2019, www.focusforhealth.org/sex-abuse-and-the-foster-care-system/).
Thompson, Katie. “Aging Out of Foster Care: 18 and On Your Own.” Shared Justice, Shared Justice, 30 Mar. 2017, www.sharedjustice.org/most-recent/2017/3/30/aging-out-of-foster-care-18-and-on-your-own.