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Fostering the most vital safety net: the problems, and potential fixes, of L.A.’s foster care system

Too many children too easily fall through the cracks of society—unwanted or uncared for by parents who are either unwilling or unable to provide care. Foster youths are among the most vulnerable members of society and arguably the most in need of a solid social safety net. And while controversial deaths of children in L.A. County’s foster care system get publicity, thousands of foster youths each year find themselves without shelter, an education or job prospects and many of them are left to their own devices once they turn 18. Los Angeles, with the highest number of kids in foster care in the country, had 22,291 children in the foster care system in 2008, which actually shows years of progress in reducing the numbers. Even as the number of kids in the system comes down, these youths find themselves facing long odds at success: less than 4% of children in the foster care system nationwide graduate from a 4-year college. This is the first part of a series of segments where Patt talks to current and former foster youth in-and-out of L.A.'s massive foster care system and the policy makers who are feverishly working to provide the best possible safety net.

Hear stories from former foster care youth