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Kids Need Family

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Institutions can provide housing for parent-less children. But they can’t provide a home with a family. Katarina Kabick has been in the foster system and learned its lessons. Here’s her Perspective.

The system has no arteries
The system has no veins
And then we wonder why
The system causes pain

I remember years at a time where I was never referred to by name; just “resident”, “client,” or “you”. I don’t think they even knew my name. For most of my life, where I slept was just “a placement” tied to a case plan and usually a wait-list. Maybe that’s why I have a hard time finding home. These are just a couple of insights about what happens when institutions raise foster children. Group homes, treatment facilities, detention centers, and shelters are no place for children, no replacement for the families we were promised.

In 2015, the state of California passed “Continuum of Care Reform” with the goal of moving most children out of “congregate care.” I wonder what happens to the kids who came of age before these sweeping reforms, like me. I wonder if the new model of congregate care has room for the love children deserve. But I think I mostly wonder why we still justify institutions for children who likely need love from family the most.

I am still waiting on the study that shows the disparity in hugs. Where I grew up, love was against the rules. I learned relationships in the context of liability, boundaries, and toxic turnover. Then I was punished for following the only example I knew.


The system teaches foster youth that we have to earn all of the good things. We earn stability because if our behavior is “out of line” our placement changes. We earn dignity because even though our whole world is constantly falling apart we are expected to follow business as usual. We earn love and even family because group home placements are associated with our own behavior labeled “not ready for family”.

We deserve family whether or not the system is ready to give us one.

Uncle Sam doesn’t count.

With a Perspective, this is Katarina Kabick.

Katarina Kabick is a youth advocate dedicated to the stability, dreams and freedom of foster youth.

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