'Primetime' Message About Foster Care Series

We have been impressed by both the volume and the passion of the e-mail messages and responses on the "Primetime" message board, and we, the producers of the ABC News divisionwide series "A Call to Action," have been busy reading your comments. For information on how to help, to mentor or to adopt, please check our Web site. We will work to make information about some of the foster care and adoption experts available to you.

We have received feedback that we didn't do enough to tell the positive stories of foster parents, and we certainly hope to address that. We profiled a few foster parents but perhaps didn't do enough to portray the true nature of the love and compassion involved in trying to reshape damaged young lives. One e-mail about falsely accused parents has generated more than 100 responses. This is obviously an important and largely untold story that bears more scrutiny.

Now, a little background on the series: Foster care is a subject many of us, in particular Diane Sawyer, care passionately about. She has reported on the issue for many years. A year ago, she came to "Primetime" and asked us to think about a series on one of the most important and underreported stories in America -- the plight of the half million children who pass through the foster care system every year. How is it, she kept asking, that children can keep bouncing around from placement to placement? Are there no laws on the books governing how many homes a child can be placed in? The sad answer, we found from talking to dozens of experts, is no, there are no set rules.

Foster care isn't an easy or simple subject to cover, because despite its significance, often the traditional avenues for reporting are closed to us in the visual medium of television. Of course, we all jump in when there is a particularly horrific story of abuse, such as the case of NixMary Brown, the little girl in New York who died after being beaten and starved this past winter. We knew we had to go behind the headlines to explain and understand foster care in a new way. So we decided to go to the front lines to get inside the system with cameras in ways that had not been done before.

We decided we would tell the personal stories of children in the system, of a social worker on the front lines, of the impact of methamphetamine, of what happens to children who age out with few resources, and of how one particular institution in Louisville, Ky., deals with the most troubled children. And we decided to look for what many consider the best current solutions, solutions that respect the deep ties children have to biological parents, that provide services to families from social workers, therapists and other professionals. When children are removed from the home and placed in foster care, the foster homes would be based in the neighborhood, and the parents part of the equation.

In our research, we learned from the social scientists who have studied the issue that there is a direct correlation between the number of placements (the average is about three for a foster child) and troubles later in life. Mental health problems, homelessness, incarceration, educational disadvantage (only 3 percent of former foster children graduate from college) can be directly linked to foster care.

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