Orefield, March 22, 2010
For local children who have lost their homes, being without a caring family for even a short time can seem like an eternity.
Now imagine what’s it’s like to be alone – not for weeks, not for months…but for years.
Fact is, half of the 500,000 children in the foster care system nationwide are 12 or older and they need homes, help, and love just as much as younger kids – maybe more, because they’ve been waiting so much longer.
“When most people think about taking in a foster child, they have this image of a toddler who has just lost her home and needs temporary help,” says Bryan Hoffstetter, family resource specialist for the local children’s crisis charity KidsPeace. “The truth is only one in five foster kids fits that description. Today’s reality is even more poignant – we’re seeing many older youngsters who have been overlooked for years and have had no stable family to love and guide them. The stories could break your heart.”
With 130,000 children entering the foster care system each year – many of them 12 or older – KidsPeace is calling on those with room in their homes and in their hearts to consider taking in an older foster child.
The challenges are bigger in some ways, say KidsPeace officials, but the rewards are also greater. Older children have been through more, and sometimes have suffered more, requiring more attention. To help foster parents, KidsPeace goes through a rigorous process to ensure a good match between child and family, and supplies free training, 24/7 professional support to help handle issues if they arise, and a financial stipend.
Local Campaign Launched
Experts say efforts need to be made to help change people’s mindsets about what a foster child looks like, and to unlock the same kind of sympathy and concern for a 13-year-old than they would have for a two-year-old. To do this, two new public service campaigns are being launched on radio stations throughout our area. Created by KidsPeace through a generous grant from the American Legion Child Welfare Foundation, the spots ask good-hearted citizens to recall “What Do You Remember About Being 13?” and to better understand “What Teens Hope For.”
KidsPeace Seeking Foster Families
“Americans truly do have big hearts and we are hoping we can help them see the joys of connecting with a child who needs their help,” says Hoffstetter. “Yes, bigger kids mean some bigger responsibilities and issues, but I think many of us would prefer the challenge of a life-changing, heart-to-heart talk or a invigorating hike in the woods to changing diapers. And to anyone who is considering fostering a child in need, just remember: No matter how big they are, they’ll always look up to you.”
NOTE: Those interested in becoming a foster parent to an older child can call 1-866-4-KIDSPEACE or go to www.fostercare.com