|Each year, a lot of children join new families through the foster care system. Both the families and the kids will face unique challenges as part of a modified kind of family / Photo by: Aleksandr Davydov via 123RF|
Each year, a lot of children join new families through the foster care system. Both the families and the kids will face unique challenges as part of a modified kind of family. Bringing in a kid into a family that may have a completely different set of personalities, living conditions, and domestic circumstances may prove to be a real challenge. It is a reality that is faced by roughly 800,000 American children per year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. With foster parenting, the role of the parent is to care for the child and help them transition into finding a new home and family.
What Is Foster Care?
Many who have heard about the foster care system commonly mistake it as a facility for juvenile delinquents, but it is not. Foster care is a temporary arrangement wherein adults provide for a child or children whose birth parents are unable to care for them. It is where children go when their parents cannot, for a variety of reasons, provide for their needs. Foster care can be informational or arranged through the courts or a social service agency, with the reunification of a child with their birth family or adoption as the end result if it’s for the child’s best interest. Foster care is temporary, but upon adoption, this will be permanent.
|Foster care is a temporary arrangement wherein adults provide for a child or children whose birth parents are unable to care for them. It is where children go when their parents cannot, for a variety of reasons, provide for their needs / Photo by: belchonock via 123RF|
Trends in Foster Care
The number of children in foster care has increased in recent years, as mentioned by Child Trends, a non-profit, non-partisan research center based in Maryland (US), with 443,000 in 2017 from a historic low of 397,000 in 2012. More than this, the percentage of children staying in the home of a relative or those receiving kinship care has also increased steadily in the past decade, with 32% of children in foster care in 2017. In the same year, nearly half or 45% of all foster children lived in homes of non-relatives, while one-third or 32% were living in foster homes with relatives, an arrangement known as kinship care. The numbers indicated a 24% rise since 2008. In 2017, 13% lived in group homes or institutions, 4% in pre-adoptive families, and the rest in other facilities, as mentioned by Child Trends. Additionally, the rate of people living in foster care increased from 6.2 per 1,000 children in 1990, rose even more in 1999 to 7.9 per 1,000 children, and decreased in 2012. By 2017, this saw an increase once more to 6.0 per 1,000 people.
Child Trends further shared that in 2017, non-Hispanic black children accounted for 23% of children in foster care versus a share of 14% of all non-Hispanic children in the US. Non-Hispanic white children made up 44% of foster care or 51% of the total population of US children. Hispanic children, considered as any race, were 21% of foster children or 25% of American children.
The average length that a child stays in foster care from less than 6 months to 5 years has dropped during the period 2000 to 2017, with an average amount of time spent between one and two years in care since 2017.
What Is a Foster Parent?
There is no single type of person who can become a foster parent, according to HealthyChildren.org, a website backed by 60,000 pediatricians and offers trustworthy, up-to-the-the-minute health advice and guidance for parents and caregivers. Foster parents can be married, with kids of their own, single parents, divorced, or couples without children. Some are even younger adults or older adults with children, who no longer stay at home. Regardless, foster parent candidates thoroughly undergo background checks and home inspections before being deemed as suited to provide a home for foster children. They are extraordinary individuals, who make the decision to share their home to a child who needs a place to stay. The process is not easy, accepting the challenges that come along with both the foster child adapting and the foster parent extending a home. Anything that can be done to ease the child through a difficult situation is always a priority, with foster parents playing a selfless role. Whether a child stays a few nights with a foster parent, a few years, or the rest of the child’s pre-adult life, the help that a foster parent gives can mean a world of difference to a child in need.
Not everyone can become a foster parent but can extend help in other ways than just foster parenting. Volunteer roles also exist to give support to children under foster care. In legal proceedings, these individuals play an important role in bridging the welfare department, healthcare professionals, parents, and foster parents to ensure that the child’s needs are met. There’s tutoring, friendship as a big brother or sister, coaching, mentoring, or donation. If one can’t be a foster parent, there are other ways to help because there is always a need to be filled in foster care.