Foster Update

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foster-parenting

We are officially a licensed foster family! I first told you about this journey in a post 5 months ago, and we just got the email – we’re in! So now we start the new waiting game. We wait for the child who needs us, the child with unique needs that only our family can fill in this difficult time. It could be days, weeks, or months; I really couldn’t say. So while we wait, I want to share with you some insight we’ve gained about the child welfare system here in Central Florida.

On average, authorities remove only 5 children per 1,000 investigations. They don’t blindly whisk away children at the first hint of a troubled home life. Their primary intent is to give families access and referrals to resources to help them avoid the removal of their children. Prevention is the first line of defense in the system. With the exception of egregious abuse, the primary goal in most cases is to have the child eventually returned to their own home and their own family whenever possible. 64% of children in care are reunified with their birth families within 12 months. And less than 10% of children re-enter foster care. This is a sign that the process works! If for any reason it’s decided that returning home isn’t in the best interest of the child, then an alternate permanency plan is pursued, often through adoption. We are not an adopting family. But we went through classes with many families who will make great homes for those kids who have lost their parents and need new forever homes.

Photo credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net
Photo credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net

Since Community Based Care of Central Florida took over this service for our community as a partner with the Florida Department of Children & Families, the number of children in care has gone down 30%, and the number in group homes (vs. family homes like ours) has decreased 37%! Can you imagine how beneficial it is for a child to belong to a family, rather than reside in a group home, raised by workers and volunteers (no matter how fantastic and generous those saints are!)? What a difference it must make in the way these children build life-long relationships when they are grown, with kids of their own. While the need for foster homes is always present, the ratio of homes to children has increased from .54 (more kids than houses) to 1.48 (more houses than kids)! This is important, because it means child placement agencies can match kids with the right foster family, not just any foster family.

But keep in mind how quickly and easily that number can move in the wrong direction. Without ongoing recruitment and training in large numbers, this ratio can shift in the blink of an eye. Foster families that ultimately adopt will often take time off from fostering to get acclimated to their new permanent family structure. Families are “retiring” from care every day due to age or compassion fatigue. Many sibling groups are separated, because there aren’t enough beds in any one house. And this January, a new law was passed that allows children to opt to remain in foster care past the age of 18, until they turn 21. “My Future, My Choice” puts an end to foster children finding themselves homeless, parentless, and without resources on their 18th birthday, when most of them are still in high school. 

Photo credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net
Photo credit, David Niblack, Imagebase.net

Let’s be honest, you Orlando Moms Blog readers already know how long we’ve been involved in the application process.  We first called the recruiters a year ago this month! It’s not a quick process, nor is it particularly easy. But it’s essential if we, as a society, are going to care for these kids. Someone has to do this! Could it be you? Let the idea roll around in your head for a while. Talk to your family. If you think there’s even a remote chance you could be good at this, contact a recruiter. I assure you it will be many months before you are committed to foster-parenting a child. Or maybe you know another family that would be perfect for this kind of service. Encourage them to think it over. Sometimes we need the seed to be planted by those who love us, because we can’t see for ourselves a way to fulfill our potential. So mention it! Throw out the outlandish notion over a cup of joe, or just share this post. Some of life’s biggest and best adventures start with someone asking, “Have you ever thought about…?”

So…have you?

2 COMMENTS

  1. congrats, Sarah and family. I know how hard this process is–I have a friend who had many foster children, and even the ones they did end up adopting came and went from them through foster care many times before the parents ultimatley relinquished rights. Every step of fostering is a long, hard one, but as you note, it’s so rewarding and fulfilling to know you are helping a child who needs love.

  2. Beautifully written! You are going to be such a blessing to your child-in-need! Looking forward to reading about your future adventures 🙂

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