Some Stats You Should Know:
The Kids & Families We Serve
Harvest Family Life Ministries serves vulnerable children and families as primarily identified through the child welfare system. The children may be in foster or kinship care (the care of a non-parent family member) and the families may be under CPS investigation or seeking reunification. We also serve vulnerable children and families identified by local schools and community partners who may not be involved in the child welfare system. These families are most often impoverished and under-resourced. They often live in neighborhoods which are considered food deserts and their cost of living is normally very high. These families are often raising children while facing nearly insurmountable odds. Instead of waiting for the families to come to us for help, we strategically partner with state agencies to not just go to the families with physical aid, but also with wrap-around support steeped in the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is critical that communities seize the opportunities to support the efforts of child interventions so every child can have a safe start in a permanent nurturing family and community. Children who have been abused and neglected, removed from their families and placed in foster care are among the most vulnerable children in America.
There are approximately 424,000 foster youth nationwide.
Despite child welfare’s efforts to prevent the removal of children from their parents, the number of children in foster care has been increasing. Currently, we are at an all time high as the demand for foster parents is far higher than the supply, and factors like parental opioid addiction are forcing more children to be removed from their homes.
The median age of children in foster care is 6 ½ years old.
While many people stereotype foster children as troubled teens, the truth of the matter is that most foster children are just that — children. Their biological parents are taken from them at a very young age, which can have a huge impact on their cognitive and emotional development growing up if they are not cared for properly in their youth.
20,000 youth age out of the foster care system between the ages of 18 – 21 annually.
The exact time a foster youth ages out of the system depends on where they live. Regardless, roughly 20,000 youth are forced to exit the system annually without having found a forever family, leaving them to fend for themselves.
The foster care system underinvests in foster children, contributing less than 50% of what it costs an average American family to raise a child from 0 – 17 years of age.
With this tragic lack of investment, it is not surprising that youth are not adequately prepared for independence. Within four years of aging out, 70% will be on government assistance, 25% will not have completed high school, and less than 12% will ever earn their college degree. Not only is this a tragic loss of potential, but our economy as a whole suffers a cost of $1million per youth we fail because of lost production and the cost of social services.
Within four years of aging out, 50% have no earnings, and those who do make an average annual income of $7,500.
After a foster youth ages out, homelessness and unemployment become a huge issue. Despite there being more than 34 million entry level jobs nationwide, many foster youth aren’t prepared to be independent and don’t have the skills or resources needed to access the opportunities that could launch them into employment.
A child is abused or neglected every 47 seconds in America—1,844 each day. In Texas during fiscal year 2020, 251 children died due to abuse and neglect, according to the state Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS)—a nearly 7 percent increase over 2019. DFPS says most of the increase in 2020 resulted from neglectful supervision, including 28 children who died in vehicle-related incidents, eight of whom were children left in hot cars, and eight youth who died by suicide, even though people around them knew of their concerns yet didn’t offer help.
Sadly, our region ranked among the worst areas in Texas for child abuse and neglect in 2020. Dallas County had the second-highest number of child fatalities in the state, with 24, and Dallas-Fort Worth had the highest number of near child fatalities, with 22.
Throughout the year, 7,145 children were confirmed victims of child abuse and neglect in Dallas County. That’s nearly 20 per day.
Each week 300 children are removed and placed in state care due to unsafe living conditions that cannot be quickly remedied through resources and supportive care.
Oftentimes these children are not immediately placed in foster care due to the unproportional amount of foster parents versus children needing placement.
Years ago there was not a working relationship between the state (DFPS/CPS) and the faith community, but through much prayer and the faithful witness and service of those leaning into this space, there is now an entire Faith-Based program to leverage the compassion and fellowship of the church in the lives of “the least of these.” In this, the Church has been given an incredible opportunity to meet, serve, love, learn from, and share with the most vulnerable ones in our communities.
To date, DFPS has 14 faith-based staff statewide who help faith communities learn various ways they can serve children and families affected by the child welfare system.
As part of their work, DFPS has partnered with CarePortal to facilitate connections between child welfare staff, families, and churches, and streamline the assistance and wraparound process. The department has also partnered with Harvest Family Life to create the Clergy in the Court for Kids program, provide data for local congregations about the needs of children and families in their area, and work with the congregations by being a subject matter expert about the children and families needing help.