May is Foster Care month
COVID-19 has brought some elements of the foster care system to a halt: not only are placements on hold, but home visits from social workers and visits by kids in the system with their parents are also difficult to accomplish. With courthouses closed, cases stay in limbo as the foster parents waiting to adopt kids who will not be returning to their original families wait to finalize the adoption and give the children permanency.
Currently, it’s estimated there are 440,000 children in foster care. Each year over 30,000 children age out of foster care without the opportunity for permanence. They’re no longer wards of the state and out on their own with no one to call about checking out a first car, apartment, a lead on a new job, to help with further education. This is part of what has fueled over 30 years of foster care month – the fact that older kids need families, too.
More than half of foster children will reunite with their parent. Foster Club is an organization that assists foster children in empowering themselves. Kids in Foster Club said, “Entering foster care can be traumatic for a child. Many families could be provided support before a child enters the foster care system. Since most children will reunify with a parent, efforts should be focused on providing support to families that can be safely provided service and supports while keeping the child in their home.
Kinship care: nearly 30% of foster children are placed with a relative. Living with a relative can reduce trauma for a child in foster care, increase normalcy, and lead to establishing permanence. But relatives need support when stepping up to take in a family member.
Over 70% of 17-year-old foster youth surveyed said they aspire to go to college.
As they age out of state care, they sometimes must leave behind their big dreams as the odds are stacked against them, as they would be for any young person who must make it on their own at such an early age.
As in 2019, the National Foster Care Month website at childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth has chosen “Foster Care as a support to families, not a substitute for parents” as its theme.
Because over half of foster care youth return to a parent, and others to a relative, becoming a foster parent means accepting the reality that a child may not be free for adoption.
President Trump signed a proclamation for National Foster Care month focusing on a bill he signed that provided more resources to reunify families: “A focus of my Administration has been to keep families together by working to prevent the situations that necessitate children being removed from their homes. In 2018, I enacted the Family First Prevention Services Act to enhance the ability of American families to keep their children safe at home whenever possible. It provides funding for community-based treatment and intervention services that have been proven to curtail abuse and neglect and to help families address the issues that might require separation.”
With the issues facing our society, foster care is an integral part of child welfare, though in our newsroom, we hope the community can come together to make the need for foster care, and certainly for the termination of parental rights rare and reserved for those cases in which only adoption serves the best interest of the child.