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Michael Reagan / May 18, 2021

What Really Killed Ma’Khia Bryant?

The failed foster care system turned her into a raging young woman with a knife in her hand.

Most of the country has seen video of the tragic death of Ma'Khia Bryant.

She’s the 16-year-old girl from Columbus, Ohio, who was shot four times on April 20 by a police officer as she was about to stab another young woman with a kitchen knife.

Many people blame the cop for Ma'Khia’s death.

Many people blame Ma'Khia’s parents or Ma'Khia herself.

But you know what really killed her?

Foster care. That’s the failed system that turned her into a raging young woman with a knife in her hand.

Foster care in our country has been a scandalous failure for decades.

Though it’s supposed to save children from the neglect or abuse of their birth parents by placing them with state-certified foster parents or relatives, it often becomes a cruel form of child abuse itself.

The raw statistics are appalling.

Right now there are about 435,000 American children in foster care. Their median age is 6½ — which means there are as many kids under that age as there are above it.

About 20,000 foster kids will turn 17 or 18 and “age out” of foster care this year. Within two years many of them will be jobless.

Within four years, a quarter of the system’s annual “graduates” — 5,000 kids — will become involved in the criminal justice system.

Thousands of other angry, unloved and unskilled young adults each year end up homeless or are funneled into the sex trafficking business. And it’s estimated that half of the country’s homeless population has spent part of their lives in foster care.

Statistics say that foster children who are placed in five or more homes have a 90 percent chance of becoming involved in the criminal justice system. Ma'Khia, who entered the system as a teenager, was in five homes in two years.

Most people have no idea how the foster care system works or understand the damage it can do to young children when they are separated from the parents.

At age three or four, children have no way of knowing they are being abused. They can even confuse abuse with being loved.

When the county youth services people come and pull them out of their beds in the middle of the night, put them in the back of a car and take them to a strange home, they don’t know what’s going on.

They don’t know that they’re being helped or protected. They just know they’ve been taken away from everyone they love and everything they know.

Many children who get trapped in foster care when they are very young can end up being shuttled around to as many as 15 foster homes before they enter the adult world.

People look at Ma'Khia and say it was her own fault she died. But who really put that knife in her hand?

She wasn’t born angry. It was her parents and the foster care system that teamed up to create a girl so mad she wanted to kill someone.

Copyright 2021 Michael Reagan

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