By Sheila Weber, Director of Strategic Initiatives
Today marks the beginning of National Foster Care Month 2020. For the second year in a row, the Children’s Bureau has selected the theme “Foster Care as a Support for Families, Not a Substitute for Parents.” The distinction is critical and this theme aptly articulates an ongoing mindset shift worth highlighting. Foster families (often referred to as resource families) are a critical resource and source of support for children and their families following times of crisis, when the circumstances leave no other option than to remove children from their family home for a period of time. At Lutheran Services in America, we have 30 member organizations in 25 states and territories across the U.S. serving approximately 12,000 children in foster care every day.
Foster Care providers and resource families play an integral role in supporting families and helping them heal. According to the most recent AFCARS data, nearly 50 percent of children exiting foster care return home to reunify with their parent(s) and 43 percent of children exit foster care in less than a year. This data highlights the need to overcome biases and beliefs that children in foster care must be “saved” from their families and be kept away from their families for months, if not years. This also highlights the critically important role of resource families and foster care providers in caring for and supporting children and families who have experienced trauma and difficult circumstances, along with the need to provide this support in a manner that recognizes and honors the goal of timely reunification whenever possible.
We applaud foster care providers and resource families who are working closely with children and families to support and engage everyone in the process of healing and reunification. The work of building relationships, supportive communication, and a collaborative parenting approach is certainly a more deliberative and effortful route — which is also why we should celebrate National Foster Care Month with an additional dose of gratitude in 2020.