The importance of foster care in the United States

The Morning of Family Court

Five years ago today, August 11 2016, Nate officially became part of our family. He came into our lives at 6 months of age. He was taken from his biological mother, an unknown father and extended family unable to take him in.  Little did we know that the estimated 3-6 months of care he needed would turn into a lifetime.  Celebrating the anniversary of our court date made me think this a good time to advocate for fostering a child.

We never anticipated adopting Nate. He wound up in need of permanent placement, we felt able to provide that and adoption was possible. The majority of children do not require long-term foster care. They will benefit from safe and supportive environments for as long as you can provide them.

The United States foster care system is an important part of the social safety net for children who are abandoned or whose parents cannot take care of them. It’s also a source of placement for children that need temporary homes while their own families go through difficult times. The National Foster Parent Association estimates that there are about 400,000 children in the US foster care system at any given time and over 3 million people have been in contact with it during their lifetime.

The odds of success for children who spend their entire life in the foster care system, without a permanent family to provide stability and permanency, are not good. The majority will never graduate from high school or college and they’ll continue to cycle through placement after placement until they’re 18-years old.

Fostering a child provides a safe, stable environment . Giving them a sense of belonging and meaning, growing independence through teaching life skills, and being part of something bigger than themselves.

Becoming a foster parent is not difficult, just prepare yourself for what you may experience. There are three types of foster care: emergency, short-term, and long-term. For the short-term or emergency placement, parents are asked to provide temporary care for young children in their home for no more than six months. You can provide a safe home environment to a child who needs help or be available on an as needed basis for things such as medical visits. If you’re willing to commit for the long term, it’s more likely that you will be asked to provide all parental duties including discipline and raising the child.

To foster a child you must be at least 21 years of age, own or rent property, have a high school diploma or GED, pass a background check and be able to provide emotional support. When taking in a child from the foster care system, you are expected to feed them, clothe them, give them shelter and love. Sometimes there are medical needs that the child may have that require additional expenses. Foster parents can apply for supplemental security income (SSI), food stamps and Medicaid for those added financial needs.

The rewards of becoming a foster parent are worth it and there’s never been a better time for someone who is willing to care about children in need. You’ll be giving them the stability that they’ve been looking for while providing yourself with an increased sense of purpose.

For more information about how to provide a foster home for a child consider these resources: