The murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers has sparked an unprecedented wave of public demonstration across our country. Decades of biased policing, systemic racism, inequitable access to resources, mass incarceration and an unjust healthcare system have had deadly consequences for the Black community. The reaction that we’re seeing now is understandable and long overdue.
As an organization, the National Foster Youth Institute stands in solidarity with the protestors who are demanding justice. We stand with those who are ready to make bold, transformational change. We stand with the people and organizations that are ready to move beyond talk to take meaningful action. Lives depend on it.
Particularly the lives of current and former foster youth. What happened in Minneapolis — what has happened in countless other cities — has further thrown into stark relief the disparities that stem from the criminalization of race and poverty in our country. Black children in the child welfare system are placed in foster care at twice the rate of white children. Children from poor families are also more likely to be placed into foster care. And the foster care-to-prison pipeline means young adults who have been in care are more vulnerable to unfair treatment in the justice system. The impact of these disparities follows foster youth into adulthood.
Many young adults face blatant discrimination as they leave care and scramble to find housing, educational resources, food, healthcare and work. And those who are aging out during the coronavirus pandemic are having a particularly difficult time and are at serious risk. We must come together to support these children first and foremost as the tensions of racial strife build on an already untenable situation for foster youth.
The horror of the video that captured the end of George Floyd’s life and the protests that followed must serve as a tragic wakeup call that we cannot ignore. Structural racism has cost our country more than we’ll ever know. Too many lives have been lost. Too many stars have never gotten a chance to shine. NFYI is committed to being part of the work it will take to bring about real, lasting change by dismantling biased systems in the child welfare system and across our country. To that end we will lead by example by continuing and intensifying our on-going review of our organization to ensure how we operate is always through a lens of racial justice and equity. We encourage all of our partners to do the same and look forward to joining them in conversation and action.
This statement was developed and reviewed by the staff of the National Foster Youth Institute. We are a diverse group of organizers committed to transforming the child welfare system and improving outcomes for foster youth by empowering young adults and their families. The majority of us are former foster youth. Our experiences in care have made us acutely aware of the importance and urgency of this movement and we wholeheartedly believe that ending structural racism is integral to our work.