Kids launch initiative to shed light on the foster care housing crisis.
CDS Students Advocate for Safe Housing for Foster Kids on Capitol Hill
November 17th – November 19th
Children sleeping in dirty clothes or under desks with little to no supervision, overdosing on medication, and many others trafficked into the sex industry. The housing crisis for foster kids is a silent 9-1-1 situation. Even before the news broke in Pinellas County, FL of the sad situation with Eckerd Connects, students in Tampa were already at work to help inform the public and advocate for safe, stable housing for foster care children. The initiative is called See Us Now.
On November 17th, a team of middle and high school students from Tampa Bay representing See Us Now headed to Washington DC to fight for foster kids. Their goal is to rally support for the “Ensuring Medicaid continuity for Children in Foster Care Act of 2021.” This bill will help cover the cost of housing at qualified residential treatment centers. If the bill passes, the law is crucial to help create a more stable, safe environment for kids, particularly those who suffer from trauma, mental illness, or a learning disorder. This bill opens more beds for kids and mandates that qualified residential staff must be provided for their care.
“I can’t imagine not knowing where or if I’ll go to school each day or not knowing where I’m going to sleep or eat,” says See Us Now participant Bryce W. (7th grade). “These kids have no consistency in their life. No stable mentors or a place to call home” says See Us Now group leader Kari Wagner. “The statistics are overwhelming. There are more than 400,000 foster kids in the U-S. 60% of trafficked kids are from the foster care system. 50% won’t finish high school, 50% will suffer from mental illness, and a large number will have run-ins with law enforcement,” Wagner continued.
“Our goal is to persuade lawmakers to take the first step in fixing this broken system by passing this bill,” Brooke B. (9th grade). “These kids need our help, and we want everyone to know what they are dealing with.”
See Us Now kids met with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor last week to propose a “Blue Out Tampa Bay” to help raise awareness. With the Mayor’s support, the campaign will launch on Saturday, November 20th, Adoption Awareness Day. They are lighting the Florida Capitol Blue as well as the Skyway Bridge, Bayshore Blvd. (the longest sidewalk in America), landmarks, and parks around the area. The idea is to bring awareness to the foster housing crisis.
Back in D-C, the “See Us Now” team is meeting with more than a dozen Senators and Congressmen from across America. They will be discussing the financial and social costs of the housing crisis if left unaddressed….as well as the horrors children suffer on a daily basis. The group will be presenting to Sen. Burr (NC), Sen. Scott (FL), Sen. Wyden (OR), Sen. Grassley (IA), Sen. Rubio (FL), Sen. Crapo (ID), Sen. Cornyn (TX), Sen. Warren (MA), Cong. Bilirakis (FL), Cong. Guthrie (KY), Cong. Bucshon (IN), Cong. Moore (AL), and Cong. McKinley (WV). This is a National Crisis and the impact is dramatic.
See Us Now teens are kids of action, having completed dozens of community service projects each year. Working with the BGold foundation, they have fed and supplied thousands in numerous states after natural disasters and launched a global kindness initiative called THE BIG HUG. That effort sparked thousands of hugs worldwide and was featured on the Today Show. These same activists have also comforted shooting and terrorist attack victims with messages of comfort and support.
The public can help support by following See Us Now on Instagram @See.Us.Now and post pics of themselves wearing blue to their social accounts using the hashtags #fosterkids and #seeusnow.
“See Us Now” volunteers will be installing hundreds of balloons on Bayshore Blvd. in Tampa on Saturday from 10-11am. The group will be in D.C. in several meetings all this week.
For more information on the students or See Us Now, please go to www.bgoldnow.org.
Family First Act:
Since the Family First Act passed in 2018, states have been denied federal dollars to place foster kids in cottage group homes. This has made an already crisis situation worse. Now, thousands of kids nationwide are sleeping in hotels (younger than the age of 10), offices, tents, and shipped out of their home states due to a lack of homes. This is particularly bad for kids who suffer from trauma, mental illness, or abuse due to the foster parents not wanting to deal with these issues. The answer so far has been to leave kids in unsafe homes or put them in rental beds (that’s when people rent their beds for $600 a night but do not feed or take the child to school). These kids are constantly moved, don’t attend the same school, and have no stability. This makes them highly susceptible to trafficking because no one can keep track of them.
Florida Foster Crisis Facts:
- Florida has 22,000 foster kids.
- 80% of trafficked children in FL are foster kids.
Foster Kids Facts Courtesy of Foundationforfosterkids.org:
- There are more than 400,000 kids in foster care in the U.S.
- 60% of trafficked children are foster kids.
- 75% of all female foster kids will rely on government assistance to survive, and nearly half will suffer from PTSD or a serious mental illness
- 71% of foster kids become pregnant by age 21
- only 58% will graduate high school by age 19
- only half of the 400,000 kids will be employed by age 24
- 1 in 5 foster kids will become homeless
- 1 in 4 foster kids will be involved with the justice system