May is National Foster Care Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness for all of the children and youth in foster care. It is also a time to honor foster parents, families, volunteers, child welfare professionals, and members of the community who have a role in supporting youth who experience foster care. Over my 24 years of working with children and families, I have had the privilege to meet more children and youth than I can count. Sadly, many of these children and youth have been placed in foster care. Since the start of the pandemic two years ago, the number of children placed in foster care has significantly increased, while the number of available foster homes has not. In the United States 700 or more children enter foster care on any given day. There are over 400,000 children currently in foster care.
Historically, there is an old proverb, “It Takes a Village to Raise a Child,” means an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to grow in a safe and healthy environment. When a child is taken out of an unsafe home and placed into the foster care system, their house is not the only thing they lose. They often lose their family, friends, schools and neighborhoods. Once this happens, a village is needed to step in to help, trying their best to “cushion the bumpy ride.”
For National Foster Care Awareness Month, it is valuable to acknowledge how many people and organizations are doing good for youth in foster care every day. Raising children does take a village. Raising children who have experienced loss and trauma takes an even mightier village — a village that doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves. For Shelby County Job and Family Services, our foster families are the core of our village, and very much valued and recognized. They protect Shelby County’s children from potential harm, help them learn and use new skills, and make them feel good about themselves. In being a foster parent, there is no knowing when you may be asked to welcome a child into your home, or for how long. Regardless of the time together, foster parents and children will be changed forever.
Shelby County believes in the power of community, a network of people coming together to support one another through all of the highs and lows. Together with community and foster families, Shelby County envisions a transformation of foster care into a system that builds resilience and relationships, so that all children and families thrive.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent for Shelby County, please call 937-498-4981 to be connected to Shelby County’s Foster Care Coordinator, Molly Rogers. Once again, Thank you to all of our foster families and the community for always being there for Shelby County’s children.
The writer is a foster care coordinator with Shelby County Job and Family Services.