More than 13,000 children in Michigan are in foster care in a given year. State of Opportunity's Jennifer Guerra will look into their lives in a special documentary, "Finding Home," which airs Thursday at 3 p.m. on Michigan Radio.
Guerra says initally she didn’t know a lot about the foster care system, but she came across a family that had been foster parents for a decade. Guerra says that this family, the Kleys, had amazing stories and experiences, which led her to wanting to follow them and see what life was like for them.
The Kleys live in Howell, Michigan, and 10 years ago, after reading a newspaper article about foster children, they decided they wanted to foster kids in their home.
Originally, the Kleys took in teenage boys, arguably the hardest youth to foster. Recently, the Kleys adopted younger children – three siblings who were removed from their parents’ home because of domestic violence and placed in foster care. After the parents' rights were terminated, the Kleys eventually adopted the three kids.
Guerra says one of the biggest issues youths in foster care face is trauma, whether it's from the initial abuse or neglect they suffered in their birth home or from moving from home to home once they're in the foster care system. As a result, high numbers of foster care youth experience mental health issues, like post traumatic stress disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, among others.
Another issue is that children who age out of the system without a family face some daunting outcomes: they're less likely to graduate from high school than their peers and more likely to be homeless. More than 90% of former foster youth do not graduate from college. Guerra says Michigan is one of the better states when it comes to helping kids age out of foster care - letting them stay in care until they're 21 years old, providing generous college scholarships - but there’s still a long way to go.
*Listen to Jennifer Guerra discuss her documentary, "Finding Home," above.