Consider giving a child help, hope
Growing up in a safe, stable family is a privilege many of us take for granted. As children, most of us knew where we were sleeping each night, what the family rules were and what food we’d have for dinner.
Foster children, unfortunately, have few of these opportunities. Too often they move, with clothes and a few personal belongings, from their family home to a foster home, back to their family home and then another foster home, and another. With each move, they meet new parents, learn another family’s rules, sleep in a different bed, eat food they may not be familiar with, and start over at building trust in others and developing their relationships.
That’s why it’s critical that we find not only more foster families but the best foster families possible to help children through their trauma - the abuse or neglect in their families that was so egregious they were placed in the foster care system. In Minnesota, we have almost 14,700 foster children - an increase of nine percent over last year. Most of these children - 12,200 - are in family foster homes. We do not have enough foster parents to care for them.
We need foster parents in Minnesota who come from all backgrounds. They may be single or married, with or without children, renters or homeowners. Most importantly, we need foster parents who have a genuine concern for children and a commitment to help them work through momentous struggles.
While our goal is to return foster children home safely to their parents - 68 percent are reunited with their birth parents or other relatives - they need the best families to care for them while they are in foster care. And that includes foster parents who are willing to adopt the children they care for if the children can’t return home safely and the children’s parents’ rights are terminated.
Relatives are often the answer. Removing children from the people they love and the environments they know is emotionally traumatizing. When children must leave their homes, counties and tribes consider placing them in foster care with relatives first. Currently, 43 percent of foster families are relatives of the children they care for.
Yet we still need more relatives and other foster parents to provide critical temporary care and nurturing to children in crisis. We need foster parents to soothe children’s fears at night, listen to them vent about their struggles and help them cope with changes in their lives. We need foster parents to advocate for children at school and in the community, find them the resources to deal with the trauma in their lives, and bring them to medical and mental health appointments. We need foster parents to cheer for youth at games and concerts, praise them for trying their best and hug them when they feel the world is crashing in on them. And, we need foster parents who will consider adopting children.
You could be one of those parents. You could offer foster children the hope and help they need until they can safely return home, or be adopted or placed with a permanent family. As one former foster youth who spent years in and out of the foster care system put it, “Even if you come from a bad situation, you can be successful. Foster families are important. Together, we make it work.”
Consider becoming a foster parent. Take the first step and check out the Minnesota Department of Human Services’ website steps to become a foster parent. Then, contact your county or tribal social service agency for more information about the need for foster families in your community.