Runaway children in shootout with Florida deputies highlights challenges in foster care system

U.S. and World

(NewsNation Now) — This week two youth in foster care ran away from a group home and were involved in a shooting with Florida deputies. The story has brought the realities and challenges of foster care children in the U.S. to the forefront.

“Our young people that live in group homes are there by no fault of their own,” said Lyndsey Collins-Wilson, CEO of First Star, an organization dedicated to empowering the lives of foster youth.

Collins-Wilson says youth are placed in the child welfare system as a result of abuse and neglect.

A 14-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy left the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home near Deltona on Tuesday and broke into a house where they found guns and ammunition. The pair began firing on Volusia County Sheriff’s deputies who were searching for them. Deputies shot and wounded the girl, who was reported to be in critical but stable condition after surgery, said Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood.

Collins-Wilson says the actions of the youth correlate to the problems within the foster care system.

“What played out in Florida was two young people in a desperate situation,” Collins-Wilson said. “They have carried out very negative actions, but a lot of it is placed on what brought them into the child welfare system.”

She says the system is expected to nurture parentless youth.

“The system is expected to be their mother and their father but the system is not a person. It is a building. It is a technical environment. they are required to provide a placement for the young person and they are required to ensure the sustainability of that young person but not the ability for them to thrive.”

Collins-Wilson says society should support young people who have experienced “the most tragedy in our society and that is being abandoned by their parents.”

“It’s a system that really needs to be dismantled and started from the ground up,” Collins-Wilson said.

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