NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!
It’s not a partisan statement to say our immigration system is broken. Republican presidential candidates from Donald Trump to Ron DeSantis to Will Hurd are calling for major reforms to stem the flood of undocumented immigrants.
And a federal appeals court recently ruled in favor of continuing – at least temporarily – the Biden administration’s restrictions on asylum seekers who enter the country illegally, a policy that mirrors earlier Trump efforts.
Most voters – on both sides of the aisle – understand the need for immigration reform. And nearly all, I believe, want a humane solution to an issue that so clearly affects families fleeing poverty and political instability outside our borders.
But what most Americans don’t understand is the pressure this influx of immigrant minors puts on our already overburdened foster-care system.
While the Biden administration policy of barring migrants from asylum if they don’t request refugee status in another country before entering the U.S. temporarily lowered the number of border crossings by families and unaccompanied children, the numbers are on the rise again and those arriving and those already here are increasingly entering foster care.
As of Aug. 1, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were 7,800 unaccompanied children in HHS’ care and the average length of time an unaccompanied child remained in the HHS’s Office of Refugee Resettlement care was 27 days. That’s substantial progress from April 2021, when the number of unaccompanied children in HHS’s care topped 21,000.
Those overwhelming numbers, mostly unaccompanied minors from Central America, resulted in HHS officials reaching out directly to state-run foster care facilities when so-called Emergency Intake Sites – military bases, convention centers, and other large facilities – had reached capacity.
Not surprisingly, in an already struggling system where more than 400,000 children are in foster care on a given day, there was pushback. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said his state would be “declining [the administration’s] request because we are reserving our resources for serving our kids.” Similar responses came from the governors of Iowa, South Carolina and South Dakota, despite HHS assurances that it would bear “100% of the cost of caring” for unaccompanied children.
Anyone who works in the foster system – as I did for years – can tell you that minors from migrant families are already in the system. Some of them are in fact “unaccompanied minors” who arrived without parents or were separated from them at the border.
Still others have lived most of their lives in the U.S. – some speaking English only – and have ended up in the foster-care system due to the deportation of their parents. According to the HHS, 85% of the minors land in “sponsor homes” with U.S.-based relatives, while 10% wind up in foster care.
This is a symptom of a larger problem: The rush to see foster care as the only alternative for a child in a troubled home. While it’s by no means a cure-all, fixing our “broken” immigration system would help fix our “broken” foster-care system.
What’s most important in both instances is the health and welfare of children too often used as pawns in larger political and economic battles. Unsafe conditions for underage migrants are often compounded by gang activity, human trafficking, and communities that fear going to the authorities. Sadly, those who enter the foster-care system are likely to end up in group homes where similar neglect and abuse is more likely.
With another election looming, here’s a question we should be asking ourselves as well those running for office:
If we can’t take care of the hundreds of thousands of kids already in our foster-care system, how can we take care of the thousands more flooding in because of our broken immigration system?
The post If you want to fix foster care, here’s where to start appeared first on Fox News.