Foster Care

Turning a Profit at the Expense of Our Children's Futures

Elisabeth Balistreri
November 10, 2022

The state-sanctioned system of greed that's destroying our children in foster care and what can be done about it.

When most people think of the relationship between money and foster care, they think of abusive families taking in kids simply for financial gain. I can’t speak to how often that happens, but I can say it only scratches the surface of the damage greed does to our children in foster care.

There is an entire industry that thrives off of neglecting our most vulnerable children.

Residential institutions are group foster homes where children in need of a higher level of care can have their needs met in a way that brings the stability and healing necessary to reintegrate back into traditional family placements.

Or at least that’s how they’re supposed to work.

28 states allow for-profit contracting of foster care services, creating an environment where greed thrives at the direct expense of the children in their care.

According to MDHHS, licensed foster parents receive only about $17-$20 a day for a child in their care, but residential institutions receive between $130-$400 a day per child in their care. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the amount of money these institutions receive--they’re a vital part of the foster care system, and the infrastructure and staff required to run these facilities in a manner worthy of the precious cargo they hold is expensive.

However there is something inherently wrong with the motives of those in charge at many of these facilities--and often, those funds go to fostering wallets rather than the well-being of the children in their care

Instead of serving our children in excellence and providing the best they can offer, those in power at these facilities are cutting costs wherever possible to pad their pockets. Cutting costs on food quality, clothing, facility maintenance, therapy, education, staffing, oversight, leadership…

This industry thrives in states like Utah, where light regulations allow for things like chemical restraints and solitary confinement--practices that are rightfully illegal in many other states. Nearly 100 institutions dot the state, accommodating hundreds of children that overflow from other states--states where these facilities have less self-serving incentive to open.

In one case, a child with an intellectual and developmental disability from Oregon was placed in a Utah facility. She was rescued after a 3 month stay during which she was pinned down by staff nearly 30 times, beat up by her peers 4 times, and injected with sedatives 17 times.

In a Michigan facility, a 16 year old boy named Cornelius Fredericks died after being restrained by 6 staff members because he threw a sandwich in the cafeteria.

The parent company of that same facility, Sequel, has facilities all across the country, some of which have been investigated for child abuse, with kids reporting over and over that they “don’t feel safe.”

These are the kinds of things that happen when kids without advocates have a price-tag.

These facilities are meant to be safe havens for our most battered, most vulnerable, and most traumatized children in foster care--for those whose fear driven behaviors are too much for the average foster family to work through, or whose suicidal desires have become too dangerous to leave unattended.

But many only serve to further traumatize them by treating them more like criminals living in max security prisons than hurting children who need help.

It’s not an understatement to say children in these facilities are suffering. It’s clear in their outcomes. Compared to their peers in foster care, kids placed in institutions experience higher rates of physical abuse, are dramatically less likely to finish high school, are 2.5x more likely to enter the criminal justice system, and have a much lower chance of connecting with a stable adult mentor. Finally, they are more likely to age out of foster care with no support and experience homelessness, exploitation, and languishing of the harshest kinds.

On the other hand, for children who do find their forever family, the struggle often doesn’t end-- especially those coming out of institutions that look nothing like family life. Adoptees are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than non-adoptees. It is often very difficult for them to successfully reintegrate back into a healthy family setting due to unaddressed trauma and attachment disorders, and the vast majority of institutions are simply not providing what these children need to heal.

But what happens when you put people with hearts absolutely burdened for these children in charge of these facilities? What happens when the focus shifts from profits to providing the best possible care to these little ones?

You find places like House of Providence. Places where healing actually happens, where children are loved with the unconditional love of a family, made to feel safe and valued, where they have life spoken over them. Places where children are prepared to absolutely thrive in their forever family. Places where they take piano lessons, and play basketball with their friends, where they make slime and goofy pancakes and have cupcake decorating competitions.

You find places where every cent of the money they’re given, and a lot of personal sacrifice, come together to pull these little ones out of the wreckage and into hope, healing, and permanent families. Places where kids get the best life has to offer, never the bare minimum.

At House of Providence, we place the children in our care at the center of every move we make, and we see them stabilize and heal in ways the status quo in foster care would say is impossible. Through our family simulation model, we prevent children from aging out, while also preparing them to thrive in their forever families by repairing attachment disorders, supporting healing, and mimicking organic family living, and we see nearly 100% of the children who complete our program leave the foster care system permanently through their forever families.

In December of 2020, we received our national accreditation, and we are urgently compelled to bring our model to kids nationwide to raise the standard in institutional foster care, prevent kids from aging out, improve quality of life for adoptees, and radically change the outcomes children in foster care are faced with--Until Every Child Has A Home.

It's time to raise the standard in institutional foster care.

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