PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - Currently in the state of California, there are more homeless foster children on the street than homeless veterans. It's a staggering statistic that's left local advocates searching for answers. The problem may only get larger with the continued immigration crisis in our state. "The foster system is broke," said Deborah Sutton-Weiss, the CEO of the Riverside County branch of Court Appointed Foster Children (CASA). Sutton-Weiss and her organization work to help seriously abused foster children get back on track and keep them from ending up on the streets. "We have more homeless children on the streets now than we have vets and that's a big deal," said Sutton-Weiss.
She says the foster system's broken because there's not enough professionals to keep up with the about 4,000 foster kids in Riverside County, 1500 in the Coachella Valley. The advocates get assigned to one child and help them navigate the court system. But, there's not enough people volunteering to become advocates and that can leave these children to fend for themselves in tough situations. "What does happen to them is that they either end up homeless, prostituting, in jail or dead," said Sutton-Weiss.
She says the already overtaxed foster care system will get even worse with the influx of migrant children entering the U.S. illegally from Central America. Many are on their own after getting processed and released. "We're gearing up not knowing what this is going to look like yet, but we do realize this is going to be a huge issue," said Sutton-Weiss.
An issue that only brings more attention to the many problems foster children face. Problems Deborah says can begin to get fixed if people step up and give these kids a chance. "They need somebody to go into court, to speak on their behalf, because the system is very overburdened," said Sutton-Weiss.
If you want information on how to become an advocate, you can go to www.casaforchildren.com.