Monday, May 29, 2006

ABC Examines The Crisis Of The Foster Care System

A Call To Action: Saving Our Children

Diane Sawyer Takes on Foster Care, on PRIMETIME, Thursday, June 1

ABC News Investigates America′s Foster Care Crisis, June 1, 2 and 3

In an unparalleled call to action, Diane Sawyer and the resources of ABC News look at the crisis of the foster care system and at ways children can be saved. Sawyer casts a light on young fractured lives, as she takes a rare look at foster care across the country. With unprecedented access -- bringing cameras where they have never been before - she explores a system many consider broken, but one that is struggling to change. CALLING ALL ANGELS, a PRIMETIME report, airs on Thursday, June 1 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. As part of a News-division wide call to action, additional reports on foster care will air on GOOD MORNING AMERICA, WORLD NEWS TONIGHT, NIGHTLINE and 20/20 throughout Thursday, June 1, Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3.

According to the latest statistics, just over 800,000 children pass through the system every year, more than 500,000 of whom are taken into foster care. For them, the average length of stay is 31 months. A third are in the system for more than three years; 17 percent are in foster care for five or more years; and foster children have on average three different placements. There are currently more than 100,000 foster children available for adoption.

Beyond the statistics and headlines about abuses, Sawyer reveals the human stories - the sagas of endurance, of hope, of unforgettable children wise beyond their years. Her in-depth report looks at the issue from several perspectives, including the effects on children being moved from home to home; what life is like for social workers; the effects of substance-abusing parents; and how the system′s failures can result in the neglect and even death of children. And with each problem and challenge, there are seeds of hope exposed - discovering innovative approaches to real solutions that are working for children and families across the country. Following is an overview of next week′s PRIMETIME:

First: Sawyer looks at the children who are in the system, and those who have made it out. They tell her their stories of being bounced around from home to home, and how they would fix the system. Sawyer then goes home to Louisville, KY, and visits a unique state-funded institution called Maryhurst that tries to save some of the most vulnerable and damaged girls. There she sits down with young girls whose gripping stories provide rare insight into the disturbing effects on kids when they′ve been moved from home to home, and into abuses they have suffered. Sawyer discovers that having one loving and stable adult in a damaged child′s life can make all the difference.

Then: Often foster care placement is due to substance abuse, making kids the collateral damage of their parents′ addiction. An epidemic of methamphetamine use has translated to a flood of children into the foster system from parents who cannot parent. In Oregon, the number of foster care children has increased by nearly 50 percent over the past three years. PRIMETIME accompanies police and child welfare workers from Salem as they remove children from parents suspected of using meth, and discovers the alarming conditions kids are found in. According to Jason Walling, head of Child Protection Services in Marion County, "It [meth] has led to the most devastating crisis that our community has ever seen... children are ripped from their families. The impact is immense." But solutions arise as well, when -- due to shortage of foster homes -- local leaders call upon the religious community to provide foster homes.

And: Back in Louisville, Sawyer follows a veteran social worker, Sky Tanghe, to get a true sense of what a day in her life is like. Her daily decisions range from deciding whether parents are lying about hitting their child to whether a child needs to be removed from her home and put in a strange place. Tanghe gives everything she can to the 19 families she serves, and goes to bed every night hoping that the deisions she made that day have kept a child out of harm's way. Constantly on the run, she wonders how social workers in some states can possibly handle the 50 to 60 cases on their plates. Also: From New York to California -- the stories of abuse, neglect and even death that can happen when the system fails to protect kids. Sawyer reports on a story in Los Angeles of Sarah Chavez, a girl who was thriving in the care of two foster mothers, but was returned to the biological family - and was dead a few months later. The outraged foster mothers talk exclusively to Sawyer, as does the girl′s biological mother.

In addition to PRIMETIME, ABC News programs will be reporting on the foster care. Programming is scheduled to include the following:

* GOOD MORNING AMERICA features Chris Cuomo′s exclusive interview with Tre′shawn Mitchell, formerly Keith Mitchell, one of four brothers found emaciated and allegedly beaten by adoptive parents in New Jersey. The morning show also reports on solutions, success stories and how people can foster or adopt.

* WORLD NEWS TONIGHT reports on a program in Pittsburgh that focuses on an alternative to foster care and the trend to internet adoption.

* NIGHTLINE′s Cynthia McFadden follows young people who are aging out of foster care, with nowhere to go and few resources.

* 20/20 takes a second look at a thriving program to help get foster children placed for adoption by having professionals photograph them.

* reports further on the foster care with results from an ABC News/Time Magazine poll on foster care.