Embrace Alabama Kids Week: Foster parenting helps kids, enriches families

Published 10:22 am Tuesday, August 2, 2022

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By Lori Foreman

Back to school season is an exciting time for many students and families in Alabama. As children across the state return to the classroom, it’s also a time to reflect on the vital role our educators play in shaping a student’s future.

Did you know teachers are often the primary source of reporting child abuse and neglect? Alabama receives more than 28,000 reported incidents every year. This number typically rises when school starts back, creating a greater need for more foster parents in our state.

Whether a child remains in foster care for three months or three years, foster parents can change a child’s life dramatically. Many children haven’t had the opportunity to experience a consistent and supportive caregiver in their lives. This is the role that foster and adoptive parents can fill for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

While the idea of foster parenting can be daunting, those who decide to invest in children’s lives as foster parents find the experience very fulfilling. For community members interested in learning more about fostering, Embrace Alabama Kids will host an interest meeting via Zoom on Wednesday, August 10 at 9:30 a.m.

Embrace Alabama Kids is a statewide nonprofit ministry dedicated to serving Alabama’s vulnerable children, youth and families for the last 130+ years through adoption services, family preservation, education programs and foster care. Our South Alabama foster care program operates in Andalusia, Dothan and surrounding counties. The demand for foster care continues to grow.

So how does it work? A foster family is matched with a child based on how the child’s needs will fit the strengths and dynamics of the foster family. When matching a child or sibling group to foster families, staff consider the age of the children, level of care required, other children in the family, and a variety of other factors. Having a large number of diverse foster families leads to finding a better “fit” for families and foster children. In this area (Andalusia, Dothan and surrounding counties), we currently need 25-30 families.

The Embrace Alabama Kids staff fully supports the foster family throughout the training, home visit, licensure, and fostering experiences. In addition to providing licensing and support, our ministry regularly coordinates educational and fun activities for foster children. Whether it is a trip to the zoo, water park, or science museum, activities of this nature are stimulating for kids and provide a bit of respite for foster parents.

If families are even slightly interested in foster care, we encourage you to reach out to Embrace Alabama Kids to start the conversation about ways to help and get involved. Those interested can be helpful even if they are not prepared to offer full-time foster care. We need fill-in, part-time grandmas, grandpas, aunts, and uncles that can keep kids on an occasional weekend or for a week to provide respite or emergency care.

Many people have concerns about fostering. At Embrace, we understand that and would love to offer resources we have available to our foster and adoptive parents to help combat many of these concerns. We would also love to share real-life stories of foster parents who looked past their concerns and are thankful they did, because in return, they received some of the biggest blessings of their lives.

Please join us on August 10 at 9:30 am for a Zoom meeting providing information and resources about the process of becoming foster parents. To learn more about foster care or register for the foster parent interest meeting via Zoom, go to www.letsembracekids.org.

Together, we can make a positive impact on our children’s lives in Andalusia and across the state.

Lori Foreman, LICSW, lives in Andalusia and serves as Director of Programs for Embrace Alabama Kids.