National Foster Care Appreciation Month in May shines an important light on families and professionals helping children and youth in foster care find safety, stability and success.
Although foster families are needed for children of all ages, teenagers are especially in need of homes.
Natalie Monzon, public relations specialist for the Children’s Home Society of Florida, stated in an email, “Sadly, a common misconception is teens enter foster care due to some fault of their own. As a result, older kids are less likely to be matched with foster families.”
Usually teens enter foster care because of circumstances beyond their control, including neglect and abandonment, Ms. Monzon stated. “Entering foster care is scary and overwhelming for children at any age, but loving foster parents provide stability for children and teens when they need it most.”
The CHS is recruiting more foster families to help care for children throughout Volusia, Flagler and Putnam counties. Homes for teenagers are especially needed. Besides the CHS, other foster care licensing agencies in Volusia County include Devereaux, One More Child, Neighbor to Family and Florida United Methodist Children’s Home. Community Partnership for Children also works on placement with licensed foster families in its network.
CHS has 62 foster homes in Volusia, Flagler and Putnam, according to Arminda Jones, a CHS recruiting and licensing supervisor in the Daytona Beach office. There are 209 children for all the above agencies that have teens residing in out of home care in the three counties. She added 75 of those children are with relatives and non-relatives. The remaining teens are in licensed placements, which include foster homes and residential (group home) placements. A few others are missing/runaways or in a correctional facility.
“Group homes are to some degree still institutional and that’s why we are pushing teen foster homes,” Ms. Jones said. “It’s a proven fact that any child going into a foster home, when they turn 18, they do considerably better when they have that family to back them and be their support in the community.”
She stressed that even after becoming adults, foster children keep a bond with their foster parents and know they can still turn to them. Although the goal of CHS and other agencies with foster homes is reunification with biological parents, many times foster parents end up adopting the children. At CHS, foster parents often work with biological parents even after a reunification is completed.
CHS brings stability to more than 2,000 children each year with nearly 60% safely reunified with their families and 40% finding forever homes, Miss Jones said. A youth exiting foster care at age 18 without a family results in 40% becoming homeless, 52% becoming unemployed and 60% of young men are convicted of a crime.
As for National Foster Care Appreciation Month, she stated, “It’s the month where we can look at these people who open their homes, their hearts, their lives to these children. It’s so nice to see the love they give the children and they are raising them as their own. (And) these foster homes are also a support for the biological parents on reunification so they help them out, too. There’s a huge need for foster parents in Florida and there’s a huge need for the teens.”
Children come into foster care with few belongings, so the public can help by sending the agency gift cards to distribute to foster parents to help buy clothes for children.
Marc and Priscilla Small are CHS foster parents. In a joint statement they said, “To us, being foster parents means using our most valuable and personal resources to provide help to children in desperate need. Those resources being our family, our home and the love that we have for everyone we care for.”
Whatever the reason a child ends up in foster care, it has a huge impact on a child’s life.
“We strive to be a positive part of this impact,” the Smalls said. “Our goal isn’t to erase what they’re going through, but to help them manage the process. We provide normalcy, consistency, love and structure; at a time where these children could be missing all of the above.”
The children starting to flourish in their home is a wonderful feeling, they stated. “It’s amazing to see some of the transitions to great academic students, celebrated birthday parties, school plays, extracurricular activities, community involvements. All these activities let us know that our role has been a positive one.”
If interested in becoming a foster parent, call Ms. Jones at (386) 795-2168. Donations can be mailed to Children’s Home Society, Suite 100, 1530 Cornerstone Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL 32117-7129. For more information, visit chsfl.org.
Originally posted by: hometownnewsvolusia.com
By Diane M. Carey