The System Is A Lousy Parent


I had a long conversation with a colleague (with new found foster care knowledge) about why the foster care system fails so many youth. I explained that the foster care system is a lousy parent because a system is not a parent. Entry into the system is warranted by imminent danger, trauma or crisis. The foster care system is meant to be a temporary arrangement to ensure a child’s safety. I acknowledge that many lives have been saved by the foster care system, however, the system was not created as a long-term solution to abuse, neglect, or abandonment.


My sentiment was echoed from the stage at ‘Foster The City’ on November 2, as a national foster care expert proclaimed “the government does not make a good parent”.


System = a coordinated body of methods or a scheme or plan of procedure

REMEMBER – November is National Adoption Month


All human beings need love, support, and stability in order to thrive yet a system provides protocol not human interaction. No two children are exactly alike so a successful parent doesn’t implement a one size fits all approach. A system is made up of an array of human beings with different ideas, values, experiences, training, and opportunities but with a finite number of roles and responsibilities. A human parent can change their mind freely or admit mistakes when they occur. A system must follow a specific process before change can take place. Loved ones teach and serve. The numerous moving parts of the foster care system coupled with the uncertainty of the job market open the door for brief and impersonal interactions, miscommunication, and low quality service delivery.


I could go on and on but I won’t. I would, however, love to hear from YOU. Feel free to leave a comment below about why you feel the foster care system is a lousy parent. In fact, let me know if you disagree with me.


You Might Also Want To Read: Reflections Of a Foster Child

foster care heart puzzle



Nicki Sanders, MSW, Chief Visionary Officer
The Teen Toolbox utilizes youth portfolio development and civic engagement and academic empowerment strategies to help teens set goals for life after high school and create a road map to reach those goals through its PACKAGED FOR SUCCESS™ Programs. We are committed to supporting and raising awareness about the needs and potential of teenagers in the foster care system.

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Comments 2

  • Hi Ms. Nicki,

    To be blunt, I think the system sucks, but probably for different reasons. Over the summer, my 19-yr-old cousin had a baby. She was under DCF’s (New Jersey) supervision because during a doctor’s visit at 6 months, they found weed in her system. After the baby was born, DCF kept the baby in foster care. My cousin immediately said she wanted me to raise the baby when it was suggested to her by another family member. Two weeks later, she decided to keep the baby because her boyfriend (who after a DNA test found out he was not the father) pushed her to keep it. Fast forward, three months later, my cousin now has custody, but she’s still not ready to grow up.

    My cousin had a rough childhood and while family tried to reach out, she wanted to hang around the wrong crowds and continue to get into trouble with boys since she was very young. I’m not judging her on past decisions, but I am trying to encourage her to give a lot of old habits up because she’s a mother, but she seems to be getting worse. She continues to put the baby in danger with these habits.

    DCF stinks because they are aware of all these issues, but they turn deaf, dumb and blind to what’s best for the baby. They keep giving her chances, but my cousin just uses them, as well as the baby, for any benefits she can get. She loves the baby, but she’s still in young-and-dumb mode. Meanwhile, the baby has been hospitalized a few times, and now has bronchitis.

    Sorry for such a long post, but the title definitely resonated with me!

    • Hi Aliyah,

      Thank you for sharing your heart.

      I definitely understand your situation and have seen various instances where children remained in unsafe environments far too long. I do not oppose intervention and family preservation . I believe we should keep families in tact when it is safe to do so. The system is a system and it definitely doesn’t always work in the best interest of the child.

      Please try to stay encouraged and engaged with your cousin for the sake and safety of the infant. As you and I will connect offline, I hope other blog readers will have suggestions or encouragement for you as well.

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