A Picture, a Sister, and American Foster Care

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The picture went viral, but it was the article that got me. Michelle Burton, a police officer in Birmingham, AL, was pictured cuddling a sleeping infant after both of the child’s parents overdosed (one fatally). In a later article, the infant’s three older siblings were mentioned: a two-year-old boy, a three-year-old boy, and a seven-year-old girl.

As Burton held the sleeping baby, someone loaned the two little boys their flashlights and they began running around, playing. It was the seven-year-old sister who was quieter. When asked if she needed anything she had just one request: someone to sign her homework.

“‘I did my work,’” Burton remembers the little girl saying. She wanted to turn it in at school the next day.

In what world is a seven-year-old doing homework while her parents do drugs? In what dimension is school a child’s only consistency, their safe place?

According to a 2014 study, there are over 415,000 children in foster care in America, spending an average of 19 months in care. In 2014, children entered the foster care system at the rate of one every two minutes.

The statistics are powerful, but they don’t show the whole story. They don’t show the seven-year-old waiting for someone to sign her homework.

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