The children usually arrived in the dead of night, silent and terrified.

For two years, Daniel Derkacs and Ashley Keiler-Green, foster parents in Albuquerque, New Mexico, regularly took in kids whose parents were suspected of abusing or neglecting them. Sometimes, as the couple scrambled to find pajamas for their latest house guest, they couldn’t help but wonder if they’d just met a child who would be with them for years to come.

But they rarely had time to get acquainted. Of the 50 children who were placed in their care from 2017 to 2019, more than three-quarters were returned to their own families within days, they said. For Keiler-Green, a doctor, the churn felt a lot like working in the E.R.

This story was published in partnership with Searchlight New Mexico.
“You get to know this vulnerable person intimately, on the worst day of their life,” she said. “You patch them up a bit, you fall in love a bit. And then, poof—you have no idea what happens to them after that.”

When most Americans think of foster care, they think of children waiting years in homes or institutions to return to their families or to be placed for adoption. But every year, an average of nearly 17,000 children are removed from their families’ custody and placed in foster care only to be reunited within 10 days, according to a Marshall Project analysis of federal Department of Health and Human Services records dating back a decade.

Read the full article about short stays in foster care by Eli Hager at The Marshall Project.