Experts agree that family is the most critical influence in a child’s life. From the moment of birth to the age of 18 and beyond, children need their families to safeguard and supply them with their needs. Family is the infrastructure where a young child learns everything to know about surviving in the world. It is a place for children to acquire emotional, spiritual, and material support. It is also the first setting where relationships are formed.
Unfortunately, many people did not come from loving or supportive families. Abuse and neglect can impact a growing child for the rest of their life. Other children never even experienced the standard family situation to begin with. Foster children go through an array of unique challenges. Improving and supporting the foster care system is crucial to ensure each child’s success. That’s why federal agencies designate May as National Foster Care Awareness Month.
What is National Foster Care Awareness Month?
The Children’s Bureau is an organization that promotes and leads the National Foster Care Month Initiative. The Children’s Bureau is an agency within the federal government whose sole purpose is to improve the lives of children and parents. They offer a series of programs to minimize and eliminate abuse and neglect, and to expand the number of adoptions.
National Foster Care Awareness Month acknowledges all of the foster parents and volunteers throughout the United States who help to optimize the foster care system. This also includes any mentors, congressmen and women, social workers, or other child welfare professionals. With more than 672,000 children in foster care across the U.S., these individuals deserve the proper resources so they continue to make a difference.
Statistics on Foster Care Children and Parents
· On average, children are in the foster care system for about a year and a half
· 5% of foster care children remain in the state system for more than 5 years
· The average age of a child in foster care is 8
· 1/3 of children who enter the foster care system are people of color
· 10% of foster care children live in group homes
· Foster youth are 7 times more likely to suffer from anxiety, depression, and trauma
· 54% of all former foster youth who are adopted have parents under the age of 50
· 70% of children adopted out of foster care have married adopted parents, and 55% did not know their adopted parents beforehand
· 86% of foster care parents adopted a child because they wanted to provide a permanent home
· 60% of parents adopted a foster child instead of an infant because it was less expensive
What Skills Do Foster Parents Need?
Being a foster parent is not an easy task. Many children come from volatile situations and they need special attention. If there are biological or other adopted children at the home, it can make the process even more complicated. Not everyone has what it takes to be a good foster parent. Prospective parents should consider the following -
· Ensure Everyone is on Board – Family members need to be supportive and on board with a potential new family member.
· Research Regulations and Laws – Prospective parents should review state laws and follow all guidelines to ensure eligibility and maintain compliance.
· Assess Communication Skills – Foster parents must be prepared to communicate with a variety of people, including social workers, doctors, judges, teachers, the birth family, and other foster parents.
· Ability to Embrace the Challenge – Fostering is a rewarding yet difficult decision. Prospective parents should consider all of the challenges before deciding.
· Proper Discipline and Compassion – Foster children are usually struggling with trauma. They need a compassionate, yet firm parent who can provide a loving and structured home life.
Resources for Prospective and Current Foster Parents
Entering the foster system can be overwhelming and complicated. National Foster Care Awareness month hopes to ease this process by providing valuable resources and information. Here are some resources for prospective and current parents –
· National Foster Parent Association – Supports foster parents by helping them provide safe and permanent homes. Please visit nfpaonline.org for more information.
· Resources Especially for Foster or Adoptive Families - Resource center to help parents who adopt children with and without disabilities. Both for state agencies and those who work with private organizations. Please visit parentcenterhub.org for more information.
· National Foster Care and Adoption Directory Search – Provides information and links to state foster care and adoption support groups by state. Please visit childwelfare.gov for more information.
· North American Council on Adoptable Children – Provides resources for foster care parents and youth group leaders. Please visit nacac.org for more information.
Have you recently fostered a child or are you someone who went through the foster care system? Do you struggle with anxiety, depression, or other concerns? If so, please contact Straight Talk Counseling at 714-828-2000 or visit our website at straighttalkcounseling.org. One of our professional counselors would be happy to speak with you.