Often, Foster Children Linger in Anonymity only because their Relatives never Knew
Police personnel often find themselves exposed to the trauma that young teenagers experience in the foster care system. Children who have been abused at home by dysfunctional parents are placed by the authorities with foster parents who are often not so nurturing themselves. It wouldn't be that hard to find foster children who are with their tenth or twelfth foster family in as many years. And so, police departments in some counties in the country, are being roped in for a new government plan for foster care: finding out if any foster children have estranged, extended family members out there somewhere. And then finding out if they will be willing to take in one of their own.
Finding a relative for a teen foster child is not an easy matter. The relatives would be perfect strangers for all practical purposes, and usually, no one wants to take in a child that is so battered with years of trauma. The only thing they would be guaranteed of would be a lot of emotional heartache, and quite a drain on their resources. It is just a shift in the way the government sees the whole foster care issue. The government has begun to pay for full-time investigators, looking hard on the Internet, through the public records, who get flyers distributed, and pound on doors, all with the aim of locating family members, to help take in a child that would otherwise languish in foster care. And they come by quite a bit of success too. In general, the investigators find several relatives for any child they start to investigate, and often many of them express a willingness to take the child in - their long-lost grandchildren, nieces, cousins and so on - ones they have never laid eyes on before. And it is a wonder that the system all these years put these children through so much pain, just because they never thought that the children would be welcome in their relatives' homes.
When they are contacted, many times, the relatives are quite startled to begin with, to have to be reminded of some ugly piece of their family history. But you would be surprised how often, they come through with kindness and strength, able to set aside old rancor they may have felt with the parents, for the good of the blameless child. And foster children for their part, are often deeply, deeply grateful to know and to be in touch with some of their roots. Maybe it is hard to believe this, but most children in foster care feel like outcasts; to have no family often feels like the strangest thing to most people who take a family for granted.
But not all foster home scenarios are like something from Dickens that children would want to run away from. Many foster parents happen to be truly caring people, who raise their foster children like their own. When a relative turns up, the foster parents can be heartbroken at losing a child to the family, whom they have grown deeply attached to over the years. Not infrequently, when children in foster care are informed of how their family members have been located, they say only that they don't need a real family, that their foster family treats them as their own.