We’re happy to share this guest blog post from Youth Villages. Youth Villages and Plummer are both members of the Massachusetts Permanency Practice Alliance, which is dedicated to making sure young people leave the foster care system with families who are committed to them forever. In the meantime, more foster parents are needed. This post is full of great information; if you’re on the fence about fostering, we particularly like this article, also referenced in #7, below.
Foster care is a temporary living situation where children live with adults other than their birth parents. A child may be placed in foster care for any reason in which the parents are unwilling, unfit, or unable to care for the child.
The goal for foster children is either to be reunited with the parents or adopted by another family. The amount of time this requires can differ drastically in each case. Foster parents provide children with a much-needed family during these troublesome times.
According to the National Council for Adoption, the number of children in foster care in the United States has risen every year since 2012. Statistics from 2016 show there are over 400,000 children currently in foster care. The continuing rise in these numbers may be at least partially blamed on the opioid crisis affecting the nation.
Whatever the cause, more children need available foster parents to help them through a traumatic period than ever before. Foster parents willing to give these children the gift of a temporary family are in a unique position. They take in children who suffer from emotional scars, physical disabilities, and past trauma. They help children heal.
Here are a few resources to help foster parents:
1) The National Foster Parent Association
Developed in 1972, the National Foster Parent Association (NFPA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping foster families through education, resources, and the delivery of supplies and support. With a vision to provide children with safe nurtured lasting relationships, the NFPA represents thousands of foster families nationwide.
The NFPA website has developed a useful page of links to resources for foster families. Categories include books, blogs, government agencies, and special needs. This exhaustive list covers many categories for every situation.
2) Recommended Reading
There are many books available to help foster parents on their journey. Authors of these books often have experience as foster parents and write from the unique perspective of their own personal situation. This list includes novels that range from a beginner’s toolbox, to disorders, to dealing with trauma. Authors include foster parents, adoptive parents, and adopted children. Another well-researched list includes five very special books. The titles cover subjects of abuse, advice for beginners and long-term foster parents, and even picture books and workbooks to share with smaller foster children.
3) Youth Villages
This organization serves children and families in 16 states across the country. Youth Villages work to provide a safe environment for children to grow, learn, and heal. The goal is to help children and their families improve relationships so they can thrive together. The majority of children served by this nonprofit organization are between the ages of 12 and 17, which are often the most difficult ages for parent-child relationships. Some services include residential programs, specialized crisis services, and foster care. Over 80 percent of children served by Youth Villages remain at home with their families after treatment.
4) Special Needs and Disabilities
It is not unusual for foster parents to take in children with disabilities. The Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR) developed this page to help foster families care for children with disabilities. With a long list of fact sheets about specific disabilities, CPIR hopes to anticipate questions before they are even asked. CPIR’s website includes a searchable library with links to organizations for other conditions including rare disorders. There are also links for resources related to developmental delays, support groups, and national organizations.
5) Child Welfare Information Gateway
Understanding the laws surrounding the welfare of children and the foster care system can be difficult. The Child Welfare Information Gateway has many links related to advice, state laws, and venues of support for foster families. Whether foster parents are searching for guides and manuals, national organizations, or support groups, there are helpful resources available on this website.
6) The Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private philanthropy working to make grants across the county to help address issues affecting children. This list of resources includes informational fact sheets, blog posts, and even a magazine dedicated to foster care. The website also includes a blog addressing problems facing children.
7) Reasons to Foster
For potential foster parents considering their options, this list can help with that life-altering decision. Of course, there are many reasons families might not consider fostering children. This thoughtful article, written by an adoptive mother, contains 7 reasons a foster parent can impact children’s lives.
Becoming a foster parent is demanding and difficult in many ways. However, it is a richly rewarding experience for children and the parents that make the valuable choice to help. Seeking out the many resources available to foster parents can help eliminate potential issues often seen in the process.
Written by Brittany Waddell, a contributing writer and media specialist for Youth Villages.