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May is National Foster Care Month… You Can Change a Lifetime!

Article / Review by on May 1, 2010 – 8:30 pmNo Comments

May is National Foster Care Month… You Can Change a Lifetime!

Each May, National Foster Care Month provides an opportunity to shine a light on the experiences of the more than 400,000 children and youth in the foster care system. The campaign raises awareness about the urgent needs of these young people and encourages citizens from every walk of life to get involved – as foster or adoptive parents, volunteers, mentors, employers or in other ways.

With the help of dedicated people, many formerly abused or neglected children and teens will either reunite safely with their parents, be cared for by relatives or be adopted by loving families. Many children would not have to enter foster care at all if more states provided support and services to help families cope with crises early on.

Thanks to the many advocates, child welfare professionals, elected officials and support groups around the country, the total number of children in foster care has decreased over recent years.  But more help is needed.

Every year, approximately 30,000 young people leave the foster care system without lifelong families – most at age 18. On their own, these young adults must navigate a weakened economy offering fewer jobs and less support for vital services such as housing. They need – and deserve – caring adults who love and support them.

We call on all Americans to join us in helping to change a lifetime of a child or youth in foster care. No matter who you are or how much time you have to give, you can help create permanent, lifelong connections for these children and youth.

All children — including the 424,000 American children and youth in foster care — deserve a safe, happy life. Young people in foster care especially need nurturing adults on their side because their own families are in crisis and unable to care for them. 

 

>>> About Foster Care 

Foster care affects hundreds of thousands of children and families and society as a whole. Child welfare issues arise in families of every race, ethnicity, culture, and age group. Children and youth are placed in foster care when their parents (or guardians) are no longer able to ensure their essential wellbeing. These young people need stable, loving care until they can either safely reunite with their families or establish other lifelong relationships with a nurturing adult.

>>> National Foster Care Month Core Messages

Each May, National Foster Care Month provides an opportunity to shine a light on the experiences of the more than 400,000 children and youth in the foster care system. The campaign raises awareness about the urgent needs of these young people and encourages citizens from every walk of life to get involved – as foster or adoptive parents, volunteers, mentors, employers or in other ways.  With the help of dedicated people, many formerly abused or neglected children and teens will either reunite safely with their parents, be cared for by relatives or be adopted by loving families. Many children would not have to enter foster care at all if more states provided support and services to help families cope with crises early on. Thanks to the many advocates, child welfare professionals, elected officials and support groups around the country, the total number of children in foster care has decreased over recent years..  But more help is needed. Every year, approximately 30,000 young people leave the foster care system without lifelong families – most at age 18. On their own, these young adults must navigate a weakened economy offering fewer jobs and less support for vital services such as housing. They need – and deserve – caring adults who love and support them. We call on all Americans to join us in helping to change a lifetime of a child or youth in foster care. No matter who you are or how much time you have to give, you can help create permanent, lifelong connections for these children and youth. 

> THE MAGNITUDE: About 424,000 children in the United States currently are in foster care because their own families are in crisis and unable to provide for their essential well-being. Many children in foster care are unable to return home safely because their parents lack access to services that could help strengthen the family. In addition, there are millions of foster care alumni in the U.S. who represent all walks of life.

> THE NEED: No matter their age, all children in foster care need a meaningful connection to at least one caring adult who becomes a supportive and lasting presence in their lives. Without families or stable relationships, too many of these formerly neglected and/or abused children and teens will end up facing life’s challenges all alone.

> THE FACES OF FOSTER CARE: Child welfare issues arise in families of every race, ethnicity, culture and age group. A disproportionate percentage of children in foster care are children of color, particularly African American and American Indian. In addition, children of color in the child welfare system experience worse outcomes.

> THE CONSEQUENCES: Research shows that young people who age out of foster care are far more likely than their peers in the general population to endure homelessness, poverty, compromised mental and physical health, insufficient education, unemployment, incarceration, and early pregnancy and parenthood.

> THE PRIORITY: Older youth are in most urgent need of attention. Nearly half of the young people in foster care are older than age 10. For many years, the number of young people aging out of foster care has increased. That number currently is about 30,000 each year. These young people exit foster care without the appropriate family connections, resources, mentorship, employment, skills or options they need to live independently.

> THE SOLUTION: Children and youth in foster care are capable of overcoming the repercussions of previous neglect and/or abuse. Across the country, people just like you are raising their voices and engaging in efforts to educate federal and state public policy leaders on the issues facing children and families. Supporting children and families is a bi-partisan issue and should be a priority for all policymakers. Throughout the nation, everyday people are serving as foster parents, relative caregivers, mentors, advocates, social workers and volunteers. Thanks to these unsung heroes, many formerly abused or neglected children and teens will either reunite safely with their parents, be cared for by relatives, or be adopted by loving families. Many children would not have to enter foster care at all if more states provided support and services to help families cope with crises early on.

> THE CALL TO ACTION: Many communities are urgently seeking more everyday people to come forward to help these young people realize their full potential.

— May is National Foster Care Month. Every state in our country has children in foster care. They belong to all of us. Now is the time to show we care.

— Visit www.fostercaremonth.org to find out more about the many ways you can get involved and make a lasting difference for America’s children. No matter who you are and how much time you have to give, you have the power to do something positive that will CHANGE A LIFETIME for a young person in foster care. You can help create permanent, lifelong connections for these children.

>>> History and Origins of National Foster Care Month  
 
National Foster Care Month originated in 1988 when the National Foster Parent Association persuaded then-Sen. Strom Thurmond to introduce a resolution to proclaim May as National Foster Care Month. President George H.W. Bush issued an annual proclamation during each year of his presidency, providing an impetus for state, county and city proclamations. The main focus of these early efforts was appreciation and recognition of the tremendous contributions of foster parents across the nation.

In the 1990’s, National Foster Care Month focused more on the needs of older youth, particularly those about to age out of the system. Under the leadership of the National Foster Care Coalition and Casey Family Programs, the campaign became a significant part of the drumbeat that ultimately resulted in the passage of the Chafee Foster Care Independence Act.

National Foster Care Month heightens visibility for the issue and provides a strong outreach and recruitment platform for individuals and organizations working to support children and families throughout the year.

Casey Family Programs continues to lead the effort in partnership with other national organizations that represent well-over 250,000 individuals and providers. Today, the campaign spotlights the importance of permanency for the 424,000 children in foster care. We call on all Americans to do something positive that will change a lifetime for a youth in foster care in their own community.

>>> Statistics and Data  
 
The magnitude of foster care as an issue in America is startling. With an estimated 12 million foster care alumni and 424,000 children and youth currently in out-of-home care, it is hard to ignore the impact of child abuse and neglect on our nation’s next generation.

Get the Facts about Foster Care on the national and state levels. Visit the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections to view the Foster Care Fact Sheets.

The National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections also compiled this complete listing of state foster care contacts as part of the National Foster Care Month campaign.
 

>>> Change a Lifetime 
 
No matter how much time you have to give, you can do something positive that will change a lifetime for a young person in foster care.

> If You Have a Few Minutes  

Learn the facts about foster care and gain a better understanding of the needs of those touched by this issue.-National Foster Care Month:
About Foster Care
Foster care affects hundreds of thousands of children and families and society as a whole. Child welfare issues arise in families of every race, ethnicity, culture, and age group. Children and youth are placed in foster care when their parents (or guardians) are no longer able to ensure their essential wellbeing. These young people need stable, loving care until they can either safely reunite with their families or establish other lifelong relationships with a nurturing adult.

Listen to digital stories shared by former youth in foster care, social workers, child welfare supervisors, parents, family partners, advocates, judges and CASA workers to learn about the experiences and perspectives of those impacted by foster care. -National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections

Make a financial contribution to support the personal enrichment or education
of a young person in foster care.
-Rowell Foster Children’s Positive Plan 
-Orphan Foundation of America 

Make a contribution to a national organization working to improve public policy and heighten public awareness.
-National Foster Parent Association
-Foster Care Alumni of America 
-National Foster Care Coalition 

Send a “Shout Out of Encouragement” to a youth in foster care or an alumnus of foster care.
-Foster Care Alumni of America 
-FosterClub 

Be inspired to make a difference by reading more about former children in foster care from all walks of life who are enjoying positive, accomplished adult lives, thanks to the relationships they shared with caring, committed adults.
-FosterClub All Stars 
-National Foster Care Month: Success Stories 

Send a care package to an alumnus of foster care who is attending college.
-Orphan Foundation of America 

Wear a Blue Ribbon during May in support of National Foster Care Month. Attend a local ribbon-tying ceremony to advocate on behalf of children in foster care in your state.
-National Foster Parent Association
-National Foster Care Month: Online Store
-National Foster Care Month: Events & Promotions

Donate goods such as suitcases, books, games, computers, sports equipment, musical instruments, clothing and school supplies to young people in foster care.
-Orphan Foundation of America

Spread the word by featuring the National Foster Care Month logo and website link on your personal and/or organizational websites.

> If You Have a Few Hours  
 
Child welfare supervisors can sharpen their leadership skills by applying to participate in an online leadership academy for supervisors.
-National Child Welfare Workforce Institute 

Volunteer with a local foster care program to provide personal, social and
academic enrichment opportunities for youth in your community.
-Orphan Foundation of America

Recognize a person or organization helping youth in foster care in your community by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper in praise of someone making a difference in the life of a child in foster care.
-National Foster Care Month: Toolkit

Help young people in foster care (and their caregivers) improve their financial literacy and gain practical money management skills.
-The Annie E. Casey Foundation, search “Foster Youth Money Guides”

Join a youth-led effort to raise funds and public awareness in your community to benefit children in foster care and to fight child abuse and neglect.
-Advocacy Club 

Make presentations to your faith-based congregation, civic group, PTA or  other neighborhood association. Encourage your community to come together to find families and resources that help young people in foster care thrive.
-National Foster Care Month  www.fostercaremonth.org, click “Toolkit”

Nominate someone for a Casey Excellence for Children Award in the categories of Alumni of Foster Care, Birth Parent, Foster Parent and Kinship Caregiver.
-Casey Family Programs

> If You Have a Few Weeks  
 
Become a respite care provider to support foster families in your community.
-National Foster Parent Association 

Tutor a child in foster care because they must change schools frequently (or sometimes have social/behavioral challenges to overcome), and would benefit greatly from extra academic support. Contact local foster care agencies, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCAs and YWCAs to ask about how to become a volunteer tutor.

Help young people in foster care become leaders by organizing a youth leadership or support group.
-FosterClub 

Encourage business leaders in your community to support young people in foster care. Ask your company to distribute this Change a Lifetime menu of ways to get involved or hang a Change a Lifetime campaign poster in your place of business to educate and involve employees and customers. The brochure and poster are available for order in limited quantities or download.
-National Foster Care Month: Online Store   

Collaborate with National Foster Care Month partners and local child welfare agencies to develop marketing promotions for the month of May and throughout the year.
-National Foster Care Month 

Help a youth in foster care gain employment skills or find a job by contacting the Independent Living Program in your area or visit any of the websites below:
-America’s Career Infonet 
-America’s Job Bank 
-America’s Service Locator 
-Career One Stop 
-Casey Family Programs 
-Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative 
-Occupational Information Network 
-Youthrules! 

> If You Have More Time  
 
Become a foster or adoptive parent. Caring families are especially needed for older youth, siblings and children with special needs.
-Casey Family Programs 
-National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections: State Foster Care Contacts
-National Foster Parent Association
-North American Council on Adoptable Children
-AdoptUsKids

Mentor a young person. Research shows that children and youth with mentors earn higher grades and improve their relationships with friends and families.
-National Mentoring Partnership 

Make a Permanency Pact. Supportive relationships with caring adults make
all the difference in the world, especially for older youth leaving the foster
care system.
-FosterClub 
-Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative 

Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA). CASA volunteers are trained citizens appointed by judges to represent the best interests of abused
and neglected children.
-National CASA 

Dedicate yourself to a career that helps children and families. Become a professional social worker.
-National Association of Social Workers 

Stay informed year-round. Become a member of the National Foster Care Coalition and join leading child welfare agencies and individuals to improve the lives of youth in foster care.
-Casey Family Programs
-National Foster Care Coalition

>>> Recognize
 
May is National Foster Care Month – the perfect time for honoring the many people who are making a difference in the lives of children and youth in foster care. Take a moment to recognize a foster parent, relative caregiver, mentor, volunteer or social worker for their efforts throughout the year.  Remember, a simple “thank you” is a powerful reward as it helps build retention and encourages recruitment, too. In Tools you will find several helpful resources created for the national campaign. These materials can also be adapted for use at the local level.

Five Ideas to Get You Started:

> Send thank you cards or personalized appreciation letters to foster parents, kinship families and other volunteers. Reach out to local merchants to donate flowers, candy or gift certificates, too.

> Organize a social gathering that encourages foster families to come together for a relaxing day of family fun and networking. Invite families to picnic at a local park. Provide free passes/tickets to special venues such as  the zoo, a movie theater, children’s museum or sporting event. Family outings are great opportunities for siblings living in different foster homes to reconnect and spend quality time together.

> Feature a foster parent or volunteer of the year (or select one for each month) on your organization’s website or in a newsletter. Include photos of the honorees and testimonial quotes from the children they serve describing how they have made a positive difference in their lives. Share your gratitude with a wider audience by repackaging this information into a press release for distribution to local media outlets.

> Hold a Blue Ribbon event in celebration of National Foster Care Month. Invite foster families, social workers, volunteers, the media and other community leaders to attend. Ask your local elected official for a proclamation recognizing the many people serving youth in foster care. For more tips on how to plan a Blue Ribbon ceremony, please visit www.nfpainc.org – To order your ribbons for May, visit the Online Store.

> Host a foster care awards banquet to celebrate your community’s outstanding foster parents, volunteers, social workers and foster care alumni. Solicit local businesses to help sponsor different event elements such as food/beverages (restaurants, caterers, grocery stores), venue rental (banquet halls, churches, hotels or restaurants), entertainment (DJ or live performers), awards or plaques for honorees (trophy shops), gift bag items for guests (cosmetic stores, gift shops, party supply stores or shopping centers) and invitations (graphic designers and printers). Recruit a local news anchor to serve as the event emcee. Consider offering free or discounted childcare options to make it easier for attending foster parents to enjoy a well-deserved night out.

 

*  More information at US National Foster Care Month

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