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Letters to the Editor

One of the lucky ones

| Saturday, Sept. 1, 2007

There are more than 500,000 children living in foster care at any given time. For 12 years I was one of these children.

When I was 8 years old, I was removed from my biological family because of domestic violence and alcohol abuse. Although I was never adopted, I was placed with a foster mom in Austin, who wholeheartedly embraced me. Her home became my permanent home and the place I go back to today.

I was one of the lucky ones. Although foster care was intended to be a temporary place for children to stay when they experience abuse and neglect and can no longer safely live with their families, most children entering foster care linger in the system for months if not years.

Because I was fortunate to live in a safe, loving and secure home, I had the support and confidence to pursue scholarships for college and graduate school. Today I serve as a program manager for youth services at the Child Welfare League of America in Washington, D.C. I work to make the opportunities I had growing up a reality for more foster youth.

Currently, most federal dollars dedicated for child protection can only be used when children are removed from their homes and placed in the foster care system.

This means that some children are entering foster care when preventive services (such as child care or mental health services) may have kept them safely at home with their families. Many other children are waiting too long to return home or to find permanent, loving families.

Congress needs to provide flexible funding so that states can have more resources to prevent abuse and create and support permanent families for children in care.

Unless Congress changes the federal financing system, others won't be as lucky as me.

Vanessa Jones

Arlington, Va.

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