By the age of 24, nearly 40 percent of young adults who came out of the foster care system have experienced homelessness. Less than half are employed. Up to 85 percent struggle with mental health issues, between 20 and 25 percent end up incarcerated and, although most want to go to college, only 3 percent earn four-year degrees.
The lives of children coming out of the foster care system are bleak. The Children’s Advocacy Institute, at USD School of Law, works tirelessly to improve the child welfare system at three stages: before children enter the system, by ensuring child welfare agencies have the resources to respond appropriately to reports of suspected abuse or neglect; once children are in the system, by ensuring they’re placed appropriately and that foster parents receive the support and assistance necessary to meet the children’s needs; and after children age out of the system, by improving services and programs to prepare them for life on their own.
The institute tells heart-breaking stories about times the system has failed, ways things can be improved and why it advocates so strongly for change. There’s the story of a foster child who is sexually abused by a foster parent, who had been certified despite the fact that he didn’t complete the necessary training. Then there’s the story of a 3-year-old child with a history of multiple injuries from violent blows. She lived with her mom and her mom’s boyfriend — who had a long record of violent assaults. Reports were made to a child welfare agency, but the agency took no action. In the end, the child was murdered by the boyfriend.
Established in 1989, the Children’s Advocacy Institute is one of the nation’s premiere academic, research, and child advocacy organizations. With offices in San Diego, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C., it represents children in the legislatures, in the courts, before administrative agencies and through public education programs. The goal is to ensure that children’s interests are effectively represented whenever and wherever government makes policy and budget decisions that affect them.
Through its academic program, the institute also trains USD law students and practicing attorneys to represent foster children in dependency proceedings and to be effective advocates on behalf of children and youth.
We need your support to continue our work. You can help by: making a tax-dedutible donation to the Institute; registering your support for the institute’s legislative priorities; joining the Children’s Advocates Roundtable; or purchasing a California Kids’ Plate, a special license plate that features one of four special symbols, including a star, a hand, a plus sign or a heart. Proceeds from these plates support local and statewide programs to prevent child injury and abuse or promote the health and safety of children.