National Foster Care Month is in May

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 13, 2006

Every day, there are 518,000 children and youth living in foster care because their own parents can’t take care of them. The needs of these children must be addressed. They need a stable and secure home until they can either return to their parents or establish a lifelong connection to a nurturing adult.

National Foster Care Month in May provides an opportunity for people all across the nation to get involved, whether as foster parents, volunteers, mentors, employers or in other ways. It is also an opportunity to show our appreciation for the dedication of the foster families who care for these children and youth and the social workers who support them.

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. The main focus of the early efforts was appreciation and recognition of the tremendous contributions of foster parents across the nation.

For the children in foster care on Sept. 30, 2004, the average amount of time they had been in the system was 30 months. 29 percent of children leaving care in 2004 had been away from home for a year or longer. 53 percent of the young people leaving the system were reunited with their birth parents or primary caregivers.

There are many things that we can do to help change the life of a young person who is in need:

n First, mentor a young person. Research shows that children and youth with mentors earn higher grades and improve their relationships with friends and families.

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

n Become a foster or adoptive parent. Caring families are especially needed for older youth, siblings and children with special needs.

n Open your business &uot;home&uot; to help find families for youth in foster care. Find out how your organization can encourage people to get involved.

n Learn the facts about foster care and gain a better understanding of the needs of those touched by this issue.