Here’s the current reality - foster children and teens face more challenges than their non-foster counterparts when it comes to their mental health. Furthermore, this stigma can be a point of nervousness for potential foster parents. However, it’s also true that there’s hope for these foster children and help for their foster parents when it comes to overcoming these obstacles and creating a brighter future for everyone.
This year’s National Foster Care Month theme is “Strengthening Minds. Uplifting Families.” which highlights the need to take a holistic and culturally responsive approach to supporting the mental health needs of those involved with child welfare. These groups include social work and behavioral health professionals, volunteers, foster and adoptive parents, biological families of foster children, and the most important people, the children.
- On any given day, there are approximately 391,098 children in foster care.
- The average age of a child in foster care is 8 years old.
- 63% of children in foster care have experienced neglect, 36% have experienced physical abuse, and 4% have experienced sexual abuse.
- Children in foster care are more likely to experience mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
- In California, close to 31% of transition-age foster youth experience homelessness.
- The goal of foster care is to reunite children with their birth families whenever possible. In 2021, 47% of children who exited foster care were reunited with their birth families, and 25% were adopted.
Strengthening Minds. Uplifting Families.
Foster care can be a traumatic experience for children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect, or other unsafe living conditions. Children in foster care often struggle with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, foster parents and child welfare professionals play a critical role in supporting the mental health needs of children in foster care.
They can help children develop coping skills, provide a stable and supportive home environment, and connect them with mental health services when needed. By addressing the mental health needs of children in foster care, we can improve their overall well-being and increase their chances of success in life.
Building Bright Futures
Shannon’s story is an inspiring example of how supporting mental health and political advocacy for foster youth can change lives.
Finding Stability and Support with Victor Services
Upon meeting Shannon, her Victor clinician, Julie, quickly identified one of her main stressors: graduating from high school. As a senior who had just been placed in foster care, Shannon was worried about how she would be able to earn enough credits to graduate. Luckily, Julie had previously worked as a foster and homeless youth liaison for a local school district and was well-versed in the assembly bills that protect and provide resources for foster youth.
And so, I was able to let her know, "Hey, don't worry. There’re things out there that you can use to help you with that," said Julie.
Julie informed Shannon about AB-216, which allows foster youth to graduate with fewer credits than required by their school district. It’s not uncommon for foster youth to fall behind in school due to frequent moves and gaps in their education. This assembly bill was designed to aid students in foster care by acknowledging the unique challenges they face and providing them with the resources they need to succeed.
Because this path required less credits it would make it easier for Shannon to graduate on time. With this knowledge, Shannon presented the information to her high school counselor and was approved for the program.
From Foster Care to Student of the Year
The positive impact of this bill on her education proved invaluable and her hard work was recognized when Shannon earned the Student of the Year Award for her School District!
Shannon was able to make an impression on her teachers and peers in just six months of attending her new high school, earning her this coveted award. This success showed her that with the proper tools, help, and dedication to therapy, she can achieve anything she sets her mind to.
According to Julie, Shannon’s mindset shifted during her foster care placement. When Shannon was finally in a safe and stable home she was able to see the opportunities ahead of her.
She said "You know what? Yeah, this is my life now. But it's also an opportunity for me to better my situation, and better myself.”
Shannon continues to face challenges, but this recognition lifted her spirits and motivated her to strive for success in all areas of her life. With graduation around the corner, she is determined to overcome any obstacle knowing that if she puts her mind to something, she can achieve it.
National Foster Care Month 2023 Children’s Bureau Message
Every year the Children's Bureau selects an emphasis for National Foster Care Month. This year it’s a call to action for everyone to get involved in supporting children and families involved in the child welfare system. It emphasizes the need to take a holistic and culturally responsive approach to supporting the mental health needs of those involved with child welfare.
The Children's Bureau encourages individuals, organizations, and communities to:
- Consider becoming a foster parent or mentor to a child in foster care.
- Support foster parents by providing respite care, donating clothing or toys, or offering other forms of assistance.
- Advocate for policies and practices that prioritize the well-being of children and families in the child welfare system.
- Educate themselves and others about the unique needs of children and families involved in the child welfare system and how to support them.
By coming together and supporting children and families involved in the child welfare system, we can make a positive difference in their lives and create a brighter future for all.
Building and Uplifting Through Foster Care
Fostering a child or teen in need can be one of the most fulfilling and life-changing experiences for both the child and the foster parent. By providing a stable and supportive home environment, foster parents can make a positive impact on the mental health and overall well-being of children in foster care. Shannon's inspiring story is just one example of how advocacy and support for foster youth can change lives.
This National Foster Care Month, let us all come together to uplift families and strengthen minds. We can all take part in supporting children and families involved in the child welfare system by becoming a foster parent, mentor, or advocate. Download the free e-book below for more information on how you can make a difference in the lives of children in foster care.