You may not recognize them in the store or walking down the street, but thousands of foster families provide a home for children who have been removed from their original homes and placed in the care of state. Children may be placed in care for a number of reasons, but most causes are related to some form of neglect or distress. Being separated from one’s family can add another level of trauma to an already difficult situation. These young people are in need of caring, nurturing homes while in transition.
Although the ultimate goal is to bring families back together, this process is not easy and sometimes reuniting families simply cannot occur. In these situations foster families may adopt their foster children. However, foster families have to be willing to handle the separation if and when the foster child returns to their birth family. There is a great need for loving people to become foster parents. According to a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration of Children Youth and Families, more than 400,000 youth were in foster care in 2014.
Fostering can be difficult for the family taking in the child as well as the youth being placed in the home. New patterns and new rules can be a challenging adjustment. Furthermore, family dynamics can change with the addition of a new person in the household. Some young people may come with physical, mental health or developmental challenges that a family may not be prepared to handle. Many youth are resentful that they have been taken away from the family that they know and love. Foster parents must be willing to put in the additional time needed to care for the specific needs of their foster child. Due to the uniqueness of each situation, parents should have patience as well as gain the support of other family members prior to agreeing to take a foster child into their own.
Although fostering can be challenging, there are many benefits to both the family and child. The foster family is able to provide a sense of stability and safety in a child’s life that they may not have received while living with their birth family. While some youth had these comforts before being placed in the care of the state, it is important for this to continue until the child is reunited with their birth family. Additionally, when a child is removed from the home, they can also be removed from their school system which can negatively impact them academically. Likewise, a child who faces food insecurities, abuse or neglect in the home can have a difficult time focusing on their schoolwork in and outside of the classroom. When placed in a stable environment they have a better opportunity to thrive in school. The positive connections that a child builds with their foster parents and siblings can play a vital role in overcoming trauma they experienced.
Foster parents can feel a sense of purpose and joy by knowing that they helped a young person in need at a critical time in their life. Additionally, they can develop a life-long bod with the foster child as some youth stay in contact with their foster families when they return home. There are many resources available for those who are considering becoming foster parents. The decision to foster should not be taken lightly and carful considerations must be made.
UCAN works with foster families and those interested in becoming foster parents. For more information on becoming a foster parent in Illinois please visit http://www.illinois.gov/dcfs/lovinghomes/fostercare/Pages/index.aspx.