Foster parents are amazing people doing important work. And, they deserve good training and support.
We’re happy to share the following blog post from the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC), an organization committed to making sure every child has a permanent, loving, and culturally competent family.
With more than 400,000 children in foster care, the U.S. child welfare system touches everything: our economy, our neighbors, and our future. Often, the success of this system is defined by the quality and quantity of supportive foster parents caring for children who, for the time being, cannot remain safely at home.
Sadly, state policy and practices often fail to recognize those who open their homes to children who need a chance to heal, learn, and grow before they can return to their birth family or find permanency in an adoptive or kinship family. As it stands, foster parents are too rarely viewed as partners in decisions about the children in their care and there are limited supports in place to help foster parents struggling to meet their child’s needs.
With such far-reaching impact, it is clear that reforms in these areas are essential. But why now? What’s the big deal, anyway? And how does any of this affect you?
There are three major reasons why you should join the fight for better foster care support:
1. Quality foster parenting can change lives. In early years of development, disruptive experiences like being removed from a birth family or experiencing abuse and neglect can mean a lifetime of challenges related to brain development, relationship-building abilities, and physical and mental health. By providing children in foster care with trauma-informed support, patience, love, and stability, foster parents give these children opportunities to properly heal from past trauma before reuniting with birth families or achieving permanency with adoptive or kinship families. Whether the goal is reunification with a birth family, placement with relatives, or adoption, a stable, high-quality foster home increases a child’s chances of achieving permanency and helps to combat the behavioral and mental health challenges that arise after trauma or multiple placements.
Foster parent Syriah knows this better than anyone. In caring for teens who have experienced trauma, loss, and more, Syriah has seen youth involved in gang activity and struggling with rage transform into thoughtful adults because of her guidance and care. “Family settings for my children helped to give them a sense of self-worth…and the freedom and flexibility to make mistakes and learn from them in a safe environment,” Syriah says.Foster parents don’t just help children in need – they help the birth parents, too. Often, foster parents open their homes to birth parents, developing in-depth plans to increase a birth family’s involvement in a child’s life and provide them with an example of healthy, effective parenting. These efforts can lead a child to be able to return to their original home permanently.
2. There is an urgent need. Increasing numbers of children are coming into foster care each year as a result of parental chemical dependence, specifically opioid addiction. In fact, one third of the 270,000 children who entered foster care in 2016 were placed there because one or both of their birth parents struggled with substance abuse. The current number of foster families cannot meet the needs of this influx of children. This means that many children without a home are left in group homes, shelters, hotels, and even child welfare offices. With improved support and training, those considering becoming foster parents can receive the encouragement and resources they need to open their doors for years to come.
3. It saves you money. These reforms are more than morally right — they’re fiscally responsible too. With better supported foster parents, children will move less frequently in care and we’ll need fewer high cost residential placements. For families like Syriah’s, the knowledge, patience, and love offered by these well trained, well supported foster parents can help children address trauma and become caring adults, resulting in a reduced long-term need for mental health and public services. Additionally, policy options to better support foster parents have no or low costs.
Because foster parents often work behind the scenes and demand little to no recognition, many fail to realize the impact of high quality foster parenting across the country. Foster parents have the power to make a lasting difference not only in a child’s life, but in the world. In partnership with Children Need AMazing Parents (CHAMPS), we are committed to fighting for real change in policies and practice to protect these unrecognized heroes. Together, we aim to forge a new partnership between foster parents and state agencies responsible for foster care programs.
To learn more about how you can support these life-saving changemakers, visit fosteringCHAMPS.org and get involved by signing the CHAMPS pledge!
Also, consider becoming a foster parent with Plummer Youth Promise. We’ll be with you every step of the way. To learn more, visit www.plummeryouthpromise.org/our-programs/foster-care.