Crack Babies Who Age Out of Foster Care Are Doing Just Fine

Look how great Little Orphan Annie turned out
In San Francisco, the total number of children in foster care is declining. And while that might be good news for the government, is it good news for the kids?

Since April 2008, the number of San Francisco children in foster care has dropped by 11.7 percent from last year, and 23.6 percent from 2008. A portion of that decline is because children born during the crack boom, many of whom were placed in foster care, are now legally adults.

According to a new Controller's report:
During the crack cocaine epidemic of the '80s and '90s, a large wave of children entered and remained in long-term foster care. The tail end of that population is now aging out of care.
Back in the 1980s and '90s -- at the height of America's crack cocaine epidemic -- it seemed logical that society would be concerned about crack babies being sent out into the world once they became legal adults. Back then, newspapers were filled with headlines such as, "Future Bleak for Crack Babies." There was a common fear that prenatal exposure to cocaine would produce a generation of severely damaged children who would subsequently struggle.

If true, that would have been a double whammy for these kids. Research shows that fewer than half of the young adults leaving foster care got jobs by age 24; they were less likely to graduate from high school, and nearly 25 percent ended up homeless. 

But it turns out this hype was wrong. Research -- conducted after that initial round of concern surrounding cocaine's supposed harm to fetuses -- now shows  that damage isn't as significant as once believed. Cocaine's effects on a baby are less severe than alcohol and about on par with tobacco.

Therefore, young San Francisco adults born as part of the hysterically named "crack baby" era are not significantly different than their peers, mentally or physically.

In other words, young adults whose moms took cocaine while pregnant are as likely as anyone to have their wits about them. If they're coming out of foster care, they'll need them.

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