May is National Foster Care Month, with an annual presidential proclamation dating back to President Reagan in 1988. Currently, there are over 440,000 children and youth in foster care. This month is a time to recognize everyone that helps families and youth with permanent homes and connections, including foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, child welfare professionals, and community members and service providers.
Maybe you are a foster parent, know someone who is a foster parent, or are new to learning about foster care. Take a moment to test your knowledge and learn about available resources to support families and agencies.
Did You Know…
- Over 60% of children are removed and placed in foster care due to neglect.
- The average age of a child in foster care is 8 years old.
- Over 50% of children in foster care are male.
- 45% of children in foster care are placed in a home that does not have a relative.
- Over 120,000 children in foster care are waiting to be adopted.
All statistics are from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, AFCARS Report.
What You Can Do
Learn more. If you are new to learning about foster care, the National Council for Adoption offers information about what foster care is, how it works, facts and statistics, personal stories, and resources to learn more. Their policy publications offer a deeper insight and understanding into topics such as “the unique educational challenges facing youth in foster care,” “the importance of maintaining sibling connections in foster care,” and more. Hearing from youth and families will help you understand foster care from a new perspective.
Foster Parent Resources. If you are a foster parent, or are interested in becoming a foster parent, there are resources to help and support you. Foster parents are needed in every state to support and provide for youth who have been removed from their homes and families.
Community Support. Even if you are not a foster parent, there are ways to help foster parents, youth, and agencies, including serving as a Court Appointed Special Advocate or offering your photography skills.
Connect with agencies to see what services and resources they need. From upgrading the visitation rooms to hosting a parenting-class graduation, there are tangible and immediate ways you can engage. You may be able to serve as respite care for a family, offer transportation, or simply bring a meal, not knowing how much this means to the family. For more ideas, check out these examples of how community members have engaged to support youth and agencies.
Do you know how you personally or professionally intersect/connect with foster youth and families? The Traumatic Stress Network has created a list of external resources for foster families, child welfare professionals, educators, mental health professionals, and more. Explore how you can engage right where you are.
With the right support, foster youth can go on to attend college or vocational schools and achieve successful career paths. Many schools have programs and initiatives in place to assist foster youth to achieve academic success. The Department of Education has created the Foster Care Transition Kit for youth pursing college and career opportunities. California State University Chico offers PATH Scholars to support the goals of current and former foster youth. As you become aware of education resources available, advocate for and support the educational pursuits of foster youth in your community.
Take time this month to learn more about foster care in your community, how you can support youth, families, and agencies, and share with others!