Spending the past few months preparing to be certified as foster parents has brought us into many in depth conversations. There were many talks about our expectations, wants, needs and what to expect upon completion. We spent much time as a couple reading, talking, and educating ourselves as much as possible. There are some things that are hard to understand, but as you learn how “The System” works and the truths of what you will encounter, you realize that what is likely to happen does not always match with your heart!
I have said this before and I will probably say it a million times more… our intent of becoming foster parents was not to grow our family. We felt called into this and believe it is our mission field or ministry. While we are not seeking adoption at this time, we are open to the possibility. So if a child comes into our home and they become available for adoption, we are likely to welcome them to forever in our family! I think it is imperative for us as a community to understand what that truly means. I thought it would be a good idea to share a little about the process and share a few facts with you. My goal in doing this is to help you better understand the system and our role as foster parents.
When a child enters foster care for the first time, they are typically placed in emergency care, meaning that the foster parents are willing to accept a child knowing full well that they could be there for a day and it is most likely not a long-term placement. There are foster families that only do emergency placements. Once that placement occurs there is a Shelter Hearing for that child. The hearing determines the next steps of this journey for the child. In most cases a plan is created for reunification with the biological family and a time frame for review is given. In most cases that averages about three to six months. In some cases, there is no evidence to warrant the child remaining in foster care so they are reunified immediately. If a child is to remain in foster care, the emergency care family may choose to have them remain in their home or they may seek a home better suited to meet their needs.
It is almost ALWAYS the goal of the courts to rehabilitate the families and reunify as long as the child is in no danger. IF the biological families can show that they have been rehabilitated and they have completed each requirement, a plan for reunification is usually put in place. If biological families fail to meet the requirements they are typically given second, third or more chances to get things together. Under federal law, if the child is in foster care 15 out of 22 months, they may move to TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) at which time, the process begins for the child to be adopted.
If the goal becomes adoption, the current foster family may choose to petition the courts for permanency and adopt the child or children. If the foster families do not wish to seek permanency the agencies will look for a placement that is suited to meet their needs and a family that will offer them forever! No matter the placement, the law requires foster families to foster for six months prior to permanency. Once the six months is completed, there is a court hearing and an official adoption!
So why foster care? What made my husband and I say YES? Well, in February I was asked to step up as the educational coordinator for our Empty Chair Orphan’s Ministry. That new roll led me and my husband to do a ton of research. That research and reading the facts and statistics led us to this journey. We truly could not ignore those statistics and could not imagine being a child and not having a family or support system. It is simply unacceptable to us and while we know we can’t save them all, we know we had to do something! The hardest part was, these children were not a world away, and they were in our own community!!! So beyond becoming foster parents, we continue to serve with our orphan’s ministry and have begun to work towards changing things within our own community. We hope to have a suitcase drive in the near future because it is unacceptable to hand a child a trash bag and ask them to pack their belongings. We also hope to, and are working on creating care bags for each child in our community that enters the system.
Here are some facts, I encourage you to read them, soak them in and then ask yourself what you can do to make a difference. I do not believe that everyone is called to foster, but I do believe we can all do something.
The following information was taken from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.
In the U.S. 400,540 children are living without permanent families
in the foster care system. 115,000 of these children are eligible for adoption, but nearly 40% of these children will wait over three years in foster care before being adopted.
Each year, over 27,000 youth “age out” of foster care
without the emotional and financial support necessary to succeed. This number has steadily risen over the past decade. Nearly 40% had been homeless or couch surfed, nearly 60% of young men had been convicted of a crime, and only 48% were employed. 75% of women and 33% of men receive government benefits to meet basic needs. 50% of all youth who aged out were involved in substance use and 17% of the females were pregnant.
Nearly 25% of youth aging out did not have a high school diploma
or GED, and a mere 6% had finished a two- or four-year degree after aging out of foster care. One study shows 70% of all youth in foster care have the desire to attend college.
As of 2011, nearly 60,000 children in foster care in the U.S. are placed in institutions
or group homes, not in traditional foster homes.
States spent a mere 1.2-1.3% of available federal funds
on parent recruitment and training services even though 22% of children in foster care had adoption as their goal.
Over three years is the average length of time a child waits
to be adopted in foster care. Roughly 55% of these children have had three or more placements. An earlier study found that 33% of children had changed elementary schools five or more times, losing relationships and falling behind educationally.
Adopted children make-up roughly 2% of the total child population
under the age of 18, but 11% of all adolescents referred for therapy have been adopted. Post-adoption services are important to all types of adoption, whether foster care adoption, international adoption, or domestic infant adoption.
If you want to learn more about how you can help, please email me. I would be happy to share some thoughts and ideas with you! There are many resources in our country and even more importantly there are caring and loving people in this world. Imagine if we all did something, even a small something. These are our children, our future, our hope and unless we change some of these things, we are looking at a dim future for many, that breeds poverty, populates jails, creates homelessness, and often has a cyclical affect in our society. While not every child that ages out of the system falls into these horrible patterns, we can take a chance and help prevent those that very well may fall into that pattern.
Hebrews 13:16 ~ And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Galatians 6:2 ~ Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.