According to a recent study, children with autism are more than twice as likely to enter foster care than those without that diagnosis. KidsPeace Foster Care is launching a new program to serve kids and families facing this challenge in Berks County, PA.
“Autism Focused Foster Care” seeks to identify, recruit and train individuals as foster parents who are equipped to provide a loving and supportive foster home experience for kids with autism. The initiative will be managed by KidsPeace Foster Care’s Temple, PA office, and its foster parent recruitment is being made possible by funding from Berks County’s allotment under the federal Family First Prevention Services Act.
“Most children who enter foster care do so with a history of trauma, which can give rise to strong feelings and problematic behaviors,” said Heather Einsig, a family resource specialist in the Temple office. “Children with autism who come into this situation may find it difficult to communicate their emotions to the adults caring for them.”
Einsig also notes that children with autism may find it hard to understand the changes they face when they are in foster care. “Trying to grasp that you are going to live with another family, going to a new school, and you won’t see your biological family every day is a challenge facing all foster kids to some extent, but it can be even more disruptive for a child with autism. We want to empower each child with ways to advocate for themselves, and express their feelings safely using essential calming and coping strategies.”
KidsPeace began recruiting parents for the AFFC program earlier this year – with an emphasis on adults with some experience with individuals with autism. Einsig notes that in addition to the extensive services and support provided all KidsPeace foster parents, those in the AFFC program also will have access to the organization’s highly regarded community programming for kids with autism, which is also provided at the Temple facility.
The program is currently available in Berks County, and children will be placed via the county’s Children and Youth Services office and/or Family Court. Individuals interested in becoming foster parents in the AFFC program in Berks County can learn more and request additional information at www.fostercare.com\autism.