(Photo via facebook.com/TurningPointsforChildren)
We have a golden opportunity to help vulnerable and often ignored children and teens.
There are around *6,000 foster children in Philadelphia. They range in age from newborn to 21 years old and come from every section of the city. Foster children represent a diverse array of ethnicities, languages and family histories.
Children enter foster care for many reasons including abuse, neglect, poverty and the death of a parent. When these things happen, foster parents provide love, support and a temporary home.
To be honest, even though I’ve worked with programs serving teens for over a decade, I never paid much attention to foster care. This changed when I became a foster home recruiter with Turning Points for Children. Over the past few years, I’ve learned that foster care is a big, but not impossible, issue to address.
What makes a good foster parent?
Many people are intimidated by foster care. They feel like they need to be superheroes to be good foster parents. The truth is that foster parents — like all parents — don’t need to be perfect.
Good foster parents don’t give up. Moving into a new home with strangers can be stressful. Effective foster parents have the resilience to push through those rough first days and provide stability for the child. It makes a big difference for a child to know that his or her foster parent isn’t going to quit after one tough day.
Good foster parents accept reality. Foster care is usually temporary. It can be difficult to work to build a relationship with a child who will leave you home in a matter of months. Foster parents realize that this may be what is best for the child.
Good foster parents invite foster children into their family. They don’t just provide a bed; they provide a home. They ask children about their day at school, offer a shoulder to cry on, or find out how they can support a child’s hobby. They help toddlers learn to tie their shoes and teens think about career goals. They take foster children with them to family reunions or vacations.
Who can be a foster parent?
Foster parents are diverse. They can be single or married, gay or straight, young or old. As long as an individual is at least 21 years old and has stable income and a home with room for children, he or she can apply to become a foster parent.
From our Partners
At Turning Points for Children, we recruit parents from everywhere. We desire diverse pool of foster parents. We want to create rich experiences for the children we serve.
Many people think that foster care is for empty-nesters. Older people make great foster parents, but so do young adults. Our city’s young adult population represents a wide array of professions and experiences.
One of the most vulnerable groups of foster children is teenagers. Many people are often reluctant to open their homes to older youth. Sometimes, a foster parent with youthful energy and not-so-distant memories of being a teenager is the right environment for a teen in care.
Many young adults have a desire to adopt children, but the traditional adoption process can be expensive. Pre-adoptive foster care is alternative with a lower barrier-to-entry. Adoption through foster care also allows individuals to help children from their own local community.
What should I do now?
If you’d like to become a foster parent, you can reach out to us at Turning Points for Children by completing our Foster Parent Interest Form. We can also answer questions you may have about foster care and ways to support friends and neighbors who are fostering.
Even if you can’t become a foster parent today, you can make a difference. Make it a point to talk to friends and neighbors about foster care. Encourage people you know who are considering foster care to fill out an application.
Foster children can seem like an invisible population in our city, but they don’t have to be.
*According to Heather Keafer, director of communications and external relations for the City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services: “Generally speaking, the system has been hovering at just below or just over 6,000 children [in] ‘placement’ through DHS for the last few years (placement is a general term for involvement with DHS — and includes foster care). Currently, 5,065 children and youth are currently in foster care. Of this number, 2,764 are living with family — in ‘kinship care foster homes.'”-30-
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