Deciding whether foster parenting and/or adoption is right for you and your family can raise a lot of questions. As a prospective foster or adoptive parent, the fact that you’re even considering making a difference in the lives of kids means your heart is in the right place. But as you consider becoming a foster parent and await the right placement for you, there are some key characteristics that will help you transition into the role.
November is National Adoption Month, and this year's focus is on adopting teens and young adults from foster care. There is a huge need for adoptive parents willing to take youth who are at risk of aging out of the foster care system. Studies have shown that long-term success rates are much higher for teens who are adopted into families, before aging out of the system.
In a letter launching this year's National Adoption Month, Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner at the Children's Bureau, lays out some statistics that highlight the great need for families willing to adopt teens from foster care.
Children who are going through the adoption process are experiencing some form of trauma. This trauma coincides with very crucial developmental stages in their life. So how can foster or adoptive parents prepare for this transition and give their new family member the best chance at success? It starts with understanding what the child is going through and how they interpret their experience. Adoptive parents also need a support structure of professionals who can help guide them through these difficult times. Whether you are fostering or adopting, make sure you are partnered up with an agency like Victor, that offers guidance and professional support throughout the entire process.
At Victor, our foster services staff works hard to connect children and teens with caring families. It's not easy work, but it can be very rewarding. Susana Bernales has worked for the company for 15 years. She started with Rosemary Children's Services which merged with Victor over the past few years in an effort to further expand their reach and the great work they do. Susana started as an OSS, or office support staff and worked in that role for about 10 years. During that period she got more involved with the family recruiting process and really enjoyed it. She took phone calls and did the paperwork, but never got to go out and meet the families. When the opportunity came up to apply for a Resource Family Recruiter position she jumped at it. Susana wanted to help grow the agency, expand the foster services and get the opportunity to work directly with families.
Any parent will tell you that they aren't perfect. Whether you have your own biological children or decide to foster or adopt, you will experience the many challenges of parenting and quickly realize there is no such thing as perfect. We all try to keep learning, and grow into the best parents that we can be, but none of us get it right 100% of the time.
For those considering fostering or adopting a child, there are a lot of questions and many concerns. Many people may not think they qualify to foster or adopt and don't feel ready. There are a surprising amount of misconceptions about what is required to be approved for foster care. You don't have to be rich, you don't have to be married, you don't have to own a home, you don't have to be "perfect" to help give a child a good home.
An important part of being an outstanding foster agency is finding the right resource families to connect these amazing kids with. The need for foster parents always outweighs the availability, so it’s a constant search to reach out to new people, educate them and prepare them for the role of foster parent. Evelyn Alarcon is our Resource Family Recruiter and she is always out in the community, networking and meeting people at events to tell them about what we do and why they should consider fostering through Victor.
Evelyn meets people with a variety of ideas about foster care. Some already know a little about fostering or have even considered it, while others may have never even though of it as an option. There are a lot of misconceptions about fostering and Evelyn tries to give people a more informed view of what fostering is all about. We asked Evelyn about her experience talking to potential foster parents, below are some key takeaways.
When most people think of adoption, they think of the adoption of a newborn baby. While that represents some portion of the adoption spectrum, the reality is that there are more opportunities to adopt or foster older children. Many potential adoptive parents start off with an adoption only mindset, but there are other ways to go about adopting that you may not know about. We are going to focus on the Foster-to-Adopt option and some of the benefits of that method.
20 years ago, Senators John H. Chafee and Jay Rockefeller put partisan politics aside to introduce legislation that expanded support for youth who were aging out of foster care. This included resources for independent living as well as transition services. They worked to give a voice to older youth in foster care, which helped shed light on the issue and put a human face on the legislation which helped get it passed.
There are a unique set of challenges in foster care for older youth. As they approach legal adulthood the options for support and services often diminish. However, as many of you know, our children need support well into adulthood. It doesn't happen overnight and no 18 year old becomes a self sufficient adult without some guidance.
Last week, the Senate reviewed the 20 year history of the Chafee Act and it's effect on better outcomes for youth in foster care. They also discussed further support to make it better.
Since it's beginning in 1969, Sesame Street has taken on complex and emotional social issues and explained them in a simple way that children can relate to. With the introduction of a character in foster care named Karli, they explain the basic idea of foster care and address how those children may be feeling. The timing seems appropriate being that May is National Foster Care Month, a great time to spread awareness and understanding about what foster care is and the vital role it plays in the lives of so many young people.
Many young children do not understand what foster care is. What does it mean? Why would a child be in this situation? Where are their parents? Sesame Street introduces the concept and explains it in a simple, relatable way for kids, using the term "for now parents" as a synonym for foster parents.
The Children's Bureau, within the US Department of Health and Human Services sponsors National Foster Care Month every year. This year their theme focuses on the role of foster care as a support service to families in overcoming obstacles with the goal of reunification. When possible, successful reunification can be the best outcome for children in foster care, in terms of their long-term well-being.
The Children's Bureau has pulled together a selection of real-life foster care success stories as well as resources and information on their National Foster Care Month web page. We encourage you to take a look and share these resources. There are ways to get involved in supporting children and youth in foster care, even if you're not ready to be a foster parent.