Each May, National Foster Care Month provides an opportunity to shine a light on the experiences of the more than 380,000 children and youth under 18 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 26,200 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 382,400 children under 18 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 26,200 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.