When One Door Closes and Another Doesn’t Open

EKU Online > When One Door Closes and Another Doesn’t Open

A recent survey indicates that there are more than 400,000 children across America living in the foster care system. Many states are facing a significant foster care shortage. For example, as a result of the pandemic Alaska’s licensed foster care homes dropped from nearly 1,100 down to 650 licensed homes with over 3,000 children in need of placement.

Where do homeless children go?

Across the nation, homeless youth are sleeping on the streets, in hotels, living in shelters long term, or spending the night in child welfare offices. Though shelters provide a safe place to sleep, a warm meal, and other basic needs- children continue to long for a family setting. A place to call home, a shoulder to lean on, a dresser to put their clothes in.

A bleak future

A house is not a home. Youth experiencing homelessness are at significantly higher risk of physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health challenges. Youth experiencing short or long-term homelessness are at an increased risk of substance abuse, suicide, and other negative outcomes.

One homeless youth at the shelter experienced twenty-two placements since entering the foster care system at the age of 4. Now, just one month away from his eighteenth birthday the future looks bleak. Many doors have closed but few have opened. One hundred and twenty days of homelessness, returning to the abusive family he left, with no other place to go he made his way on foot to the shelter with only his backpack and the weight of the world on his shoulders.

From the moment a youth enters the door, the clock begins to tick. Homeless youth know the shelter is only a short-term placement, 45 days at most. Every minute that passes, every phone that doesn’t ring, they wait and wonder- what comes next?

Social workers can make a difference

Social workers are well positioned to assist children in the foster care system. They learn through their undergraduate studies how to assess and intervene with youth and their families, whether that be their biological families or foster families. Social workers can also advocate for changes in policy to provide more resources to children who do not have families. A solid undergraduate BSW education is essential to provide you with the knowledge, values and skills to help! Without education in this field, and although intentions might be good, helping could be detrimental. Children need professionals who not only understand their situation but who are also equipped with the skill sets to be effective in reaching solutions. This will ultimately result in children growing up feeling loved and secure in a new setting when their home life has become disrupted.

Are you interested in making a difference in the lives of others?

Earn your online social work degree from a regionally accredited university and online education leader for over 15 years. Complete the form to learn more about how you can earn your bachelor’s, master’s or graduate certificates in social work. Give yourself a competitive edge in the job market and the opportunity to serve vulnerable populations in your community. Contact us and start your journey today.

By: Hailey Hansen, EKU social work student

SAMSHA. (2021). Homelessness resources: youth. High North News. (2022). Foster care crisis in Alaska exacerbated by Covid-19.

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