May is National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month

By Sarah Reno Baker

“There are no unwanted children, just unfound families.” ~

Every child deserves a home.  We hear of the wonderful success stories of children in our community and all over the world.  What about the children who no longer have a home?  Foster care is a crucial step to get kids what they deserve when pulled from their parents, homes, and crises.  Foster care helps build a foundation for our children when life is tough so that they can later be successful in their adult lives.
On September 30th, 2014, approximately 400,000 children were in foster care. In the United States a child enters into the foster care system every two minutes. The sex of the foster care children for the approximate 400,000 is fairly even.  The male population is 52% and the female population is 48%. The greatest percentage is with the age group of 5 years and younger at 39%. 6 to 10 year olds, 23%. 11 to 15 year olds, 22%, and 16 to 20 years of age, 16%. The white race is the highest percentage at 42% followed by Black or African American at 24%.  Other races that contribute to percentages are Hispanics 22%, American Indian/Alaskan Native 2%, Asian 1%, Unknown and unable to determine 3%, and two or more races 7%. The breakdown to where foster care children are currently living follows. Foster-Family Homes (Non-relatives) is the highest at 46%.  The second highest is the Foster-Family Home of relatives at 29%. pre-adoptive home 4%, group home 6%, institution 8%, supervised independent living 1%, runaway 1%, and trial home visit 5%.  Clearly, one can see the need for Foster care in communities throughout the United States.

Care Skills needed for being a Foster Parent
First, know your family and your home life. Taking the role of a foster-care family is a big deal, take your time before you make the decision. Each state has different guidelines, so it is necessary to become familiar with your state regulations, and who can and cannot be a foster parent. A person must have the ability to have compassion, the ability to let go, and patience, among numerous other skills. All members of the family should be included in the decision making to become a foster-care family. Second, learning how to be an effective communicator.  Being a foster parent will put you in touch with many different people.  Communication will happen with social workers, teachers, therapists, the birth family, judges, other foster family, your friends and family, and the child. Third, understand that at times, being a foster parent can and will be challenging. Be prepared when your foster child arrives and establish your role as a foster parent. Ask yourself which age, gender, and behavior would be most appropriate for you and your family.  Understand the challenges involved with becoming a foster parent by education on the topic.  Fourth, managing behaviors of challenging children.  It is critical the prospective foster parent understand what can and cannot happen pertaining to discipline to a foster child.  Corporal punishment is not permitted in foster care. “Remember that your job as a foster parent is to build an attachment with the foster child and physical discipline may destroy the bond that you are trying to create.” Fifth, comprehension of the child’s losses is essential, as well as the foster family. We can understand how to meet the needs of the children if we understand the grieving process ourselves.  Considerations for children include, but are not limited to losing their home, trauma, losing their family, abuse, the children’s ages, and the support in which they are subjected to. Finally, a skill needed for foster parenting is to know how to work with others and be a team player.  After all, it is the child that matters and it takes a team of people to get the care needed. As a foster parent you are an advocate for the child, be the best you can be.

If you would like to be an advocate for a child in our community that needs your help and learn more about becoming a foster parent, please contact Humboldt AVA today.

This column is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice or treatment.