May is National Foster Care Month in the United States. It focuses on the needs and rights of the kids in the foster care system, reminding everyone that they, too, deserve love and compassion.
The month-long event serves as a platform to rally communities and support the foster parents, social workers, and community members who make a difference. Read on to learn more.
Featured in: May - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.
History and Background of Foster Care Month
In 1988, the National Foster Parent Association initiated National Foster Care Month in the United States to address the thousands of children who deserve a loving home and a bright future.
Over the years, it has evolved to include other community members, such as the Children's Bureau, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services branch, who joined the cause in 1995.
In 2001, it gained more momentum as other national organizations, including the Child Welfare League of America and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, joined the partnership.
Likewise, the Child Welfare Information Gateway provides resources, personal accounts, and outreach tools to help raise awareness about the youth in foster care.
The broadened focus and these partnerships led to policy changes, increased the number of foster families, and improved the quality of care for children in the foster system.
The Cause and Its Challenges
Foster Care Month addresses the issue of finding suitable homes3 for the almost 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system. Children often end up in foster care due to neglect, parental drug abuse, or the caregiver's inability to cope.
Finding a suitable home for the kids poses challenges; stability is the most significant. Moving from one foster home to another disrupts a child's academic performance, emotional stability, and formation of lasting relationships.
The shortage of available foster homes worsens the situation, leading to an imbalance that amplifies the instability and uncertainty these children already face.
Additionally, many children carry the weight of trauma suffered before and during their time in foster care. The burden of trauma often leads to significant mental, emotional, or behavioral problems, showing us why children’s mental health needs are important.
The fact that up to 80% of all children in foster care are grappling with these issues highlights the need for mental health support within the child welfare system2.
When children age out of the system, less than 10% hold a college degree, compared to 60% of the high school graduates from the general population who decided to proceed with higher education1. This issue highlights the need for programs that can smoothen the path to independence for these young adults.
Foster parents and families play a crucial role in the foster care system by offering a stable environment to children in need. However, a shortage of foster homes amplifies the urgent call for more families to open their homes.
Related Read: World Mental Health Day.
Efforts and Initiatives
UNICEF has established many child protection and social inclusion initiatives. Their efforts fortify child protection systems, including foster care, designed to safeguard children's rights and well-being.
In the United States, nonprofit organizations are pivotal in the foster care narrative. The "FosterMore" campaign collaborates with numerous nonprofit organizations and foundations. The campaign aims to shed light on their struggles and celebrate their victories, inspiring communities to pledge their support to these young lives.
The National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI) also aims to revolutionize the country's foster care system. They focus on policy reform and supporting foster children through programs such as Congressional Shadow Day and National Voices.
Moving on to the United Kingdom, the government has implemented the "Staying Put" initiative, which empowers young people in foster care to stay with their foster families until they're 21. This unique policy vastly improves their odds of transitioning smoothly into adulthood.
How to Get Involved and Support Foster Care Month
To get involved in Foster Care Month activities, consider starting with social media to raise awareness. Sharing posts about foster care stories, updates, and facts can be a simple first step.
If you prefer a more hands-on experience, you can volunteer at local foster care agencies. They often need volunteers to tutor children, offer counseling, or repair homes.
You and your family members can also organize or join fundraising events like charity runs, sponsored challenges, or online campaigns.
Moreover, you can read books on foster care, watch documentaries, and listen to relevant podcasts.
You can also contact local representatives to advocate for better training programs for foster parents, increased funding for agencies, or more inclusive laws for relative caregivers.
Foster Care Month raises awareness about children's challenges in foster care and the need to acknowledge foster parents. The focus is on supporting children, especially their victories and resilience.
If you want to advocate for the cause, volunteering at local foster care centers, providing financial support to organizations, or even becoming a foster parent can make a difference. Let’s take this opportunity to ignite change in our communities and change young lives.
Foster Care Month FAQs
For the whole month of May, It raises awareness about the needs of foster youth and recognizes the contributions of foster parents and child welfare professionals. It encourages communities to take action and support these vulnerable children.
You can educate yourself and others about foster care, volunteer with local organizations that support foster children, become a foster parent, or support foster care initiatives through donations or advocacy.
Children in foster care often face trauma from abuse or neglect, instability in their living situations, educational disruptions, and emotional struggles.
Yes, as long as they meet the requirements set by their local child welfare agency, they can become foster parents. These requirements typically involve completing a training program, passing background checks, and demonstrating the ability to provide children with a safe and nurturing environment.
U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022). 61.8 percent of recent high school graduates enrolled in college in October 2021. The Economics Daily.
Pecora, P. J., Jensen, P. S., Romanelli, L. H., Jackson, L. J., & Ortiz, A. (2009). Mental health services for children placed in foster care: an overview of current challenges. Child welfare, 88(1), 5–26.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. (2022) The Administration for Children and Families. AFCARS Report #29.