Their Voice: May honors foster families
May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. Foster care is something that is close to my heart both personally and professionally. Personally my husband and I filled the role of kinship foster parents to two grandsons. Professionally, I am blessed to have a job that allows me to meet foster parents, foster youth and all of the amazing people who form together to create a team of support.
Typically, when a child or group of siblings are removed from a home, the most favored option is to place them with family members or a kinship placement. When this occurs, there is less trauma to the children because they usually know the family member and there is less stress. When adequate family members are not available, they are placed in licensed foster homes. If reunification between the child and biological parents is not an option or if the efforts are unsuccessful, in some cases foster parents will eventually adopt.
Even with the knowledge of the struggles that we have parenting our own children, unless you have done it, it is hard to understand the complexities of fostering a child that you do not know. In the best of circumstances, there are challenges that can overwhelm everyone involved. Foster parents go through a lot of training and are taught not to take things personally, to be sympathetic to the anger that comes from the child and their parents and to advocate for these children as they experience the stigma around them of being a foster child.
For those children who come into the system with developmental, behavioral, mental, intellectual or learning disabilities, finding the right family to step in can be even more challenging. These parents are often referred to as “professional” parents or “proctor” parents and receive additional training on not only navigating through the foster system but also managing different disabilities. There is also ongoing education provided to these families regarding children who have experienced trauma and how to better understand and manage how that trauma is manifested.
It is no secret that there is a shortage, not only in Utah but nationally, for good foster homes but the need does not decrease. There is a lot of initial training involved, many requirements to have a home licensed and knowing that when you are a foster parent, your life and home is open to many different individuals whose responsibility it is to monitor the child for safety and success. These are probably just some of the reasons many families decide not to participate.
For everyone who is currently or has ever provided kinship care, foster care or opened their home to a child or adult with disabilities, I hope you recognize the contribution you make. Sarah Dumas, Heartland for Children foster parent, said, “My words of wisdom to anyone thinking about becoming a foster parent is to go all in. You will never regret the investment of time, love and compassion you have sown into the life of a child.”
I personally would add that sometimes the rewards of the investment that you have sown does not appear immediately or even after the child is grown, and in some cases the child or adult may never be able to express it, but I know that it is there. Like I said, I am blessed to be able to work with these people every day and I get to see it.