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Another National Foster Care Month is about to draw to a close. There have been many efforts during May 2011 to reach out to the public through radio and television public service announcements, celebrations at the nation’s foster care offices and photos of children waiting for foster homes appearing in malls, on websites and in newspapers. The need for foster homes is great, and that need is constant throughout the year.
KidsPeace is a nonprofit organization that provides a variety of mental health services to children and families and places children and teens in foster homes across the country. Because more children enter the foster care system every month and the funding available to support these children diminishes constantly, KidsPeace encourages awareness of the number of children waiting for foster homes and the recognition of foster families all year long.
Government statistics indicate that there are more than 500,000 children in the nation’s foster care system, with nearly half them being older than 11 years. Many children are placed with relatives in order to strengthen family ties and lessen the adjustments to they need to make. Most, however, are placed in homes that are new and unfamiliar and must adjust to new schools, neighborhoods and “parents.”
According to KidsPeace National Director of Foster Care Ray Culp, the need to recruit foster parents willing to take in teens is critical. “These older kids will be aging out of the system soon,” Culp points out, “and they really need guidance from caring adults who will help prepare them for independent living.” From opening a checking account to applying for a job to purchasing health and auto insurance to grocery shopping to finding a place to live, teens need assistance and mentoring to make the transition to independence as smooth as possible.
Clearly, the teens who age out of the foster care system are at great risk when entering independent living unprepared. A large number wind up incarcerated within 2 years, nearly 60% of females give birth before they are 21, only about half graduate from high school and a very small number attend or graduate from college. Sadly, the children of former foster children are more likely to enter the foster care system themselves.
Strong foster parent recruitment efforts are essential to foster care providers like KidsPeace. “Once we have completed thorough background checks on adults who would like to become foster parents, we provide them with extensive training before ever placing a child in their homes,” Culp said. “After they have met all of our requirements, we then begin an extensive matching process that finds the best available home for each child.” KidsPeace’s careful matching leads to more successful placements and fewer disruptions for children due to failed placements.
Recruitment of foster families takes place throughout the year, and the number of new children needing foster homes grows every month. Therefore, KidsPeace urges those interested in learning more about becoming foster parents to visit fostercare.com. You could make an amazing difference in the life of a child or teen. We also urge the media to remember the importance of foster care throughout the year because there are always children waiting.