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The Neglected ISM: Fosterism

Growing up in state sponsored fostercare, often when a child either has parents who are dead or determined to be unfit by the state, has dire consequences.  Foster care in the United States is one of the most isolating and challenging of circumstances and neglected by sociologies of difference. We all know that there is something very ,very wrong in the U.S.'s foster care system.  When we talk about intersectionality and axes of difference, of how socially constructed differences like race, class, sexuality, gender, ability harm and separate people, young people in foster care are left out.  It is not that someone who does not have parents, an "orphan," is necessarily a form of institutionalized discrimination, but the institutionalized organization of fostercare sure is. I call the discrimination against orphans in the fostercare system fosterism, putting the onus on those who have organized such a system, those who have "foster," not to point the finger at everyday people stepping up to foster parents. But I wanted to avoid "fostered" which implies the youth.

             Youth in this system often are moved multiple times a year, even from families where they are doing well. They are separated from each other and often from their siblings. Youth in foster care have extraordinarily high rates of experiencing child abuse, after being removed from homes where there was child abuse, repeating their worst fears. Abusing the victim as a child, during their especially formative years without a social network that will follow them into adulthood.  

             While the data is there that this particular circumstance has the most heinous results of homelessness, substance abuse, mental illness, health problems, teen age pregnancy, suicide, incarceration, human trafficking, disappearance and learning disabilities, it has been neglected by sociologists who use study the connect between social organization, social problems and the social construction of difference. 

This is a call for sociologists and social workers studying institutionalized forms of abuse, to add "fosterism" and more closely investigate it.


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