Foster Care. I’ve wondered what people think of when they hear those words. Sympathy for the youth who are fostered? Admiration for the adults who choose to foster parent? The words always make me pause when I meet someone who tells me they are either the fostered or the fostering part of that duo. I immediately feel both sad and inspired. There is a deep, emotional story each person can tell and it reminds me that life is not linear as we strive towards happiness. We all have stories of better and worse times. Mistakes and misfortune. And joy. It is so interesting to hear people quietly reflect on their lives and make sense of how they have come to know of their place in the world.
This month of May celebrates Foster Care. It is a national event that embraces Foster Care’s existence and what it offers youth who have been removed from their families’ homes. Foster care offers refuge, support, and a place to begin healing. Nationally there are approximately 400,000 children in foster care. In Maine there are nearly 2000 children cared for in 1400 foster family homes. Each of these children has his or her own story of need, and each of these families has chosen to reach out and help. My reaction to Foster Care Month is one of quiet respectful celebration, not big party. But I certainly respect the different ways to celebrate. The pain these children have suffered is palpable to me and I find myself grateful that the Foster Care system allows the public to respond in a life-changing way.
Along with nurturing and supporting children in Foster Care, a goal of the Foster Care system is to reunify fostered children with their biological families. There is a strong belief that children belong in a permanent home or in their biological homes, and in preparation for the return of their children, biological families receive therapeutic services to ready them for this. We are happy to report that last year, 88% of youth who left Spurwink’s Treatment Foster Care Program, and the Foster Care system, returned to their biological families or were adopted. This is better than the 74% national rate.
Treatment Foster Care is specialized, skilled care that serves children with special needs – with heightened emotional and/or behavioral health challenges. Spurwink supports over 30 specialized Treatment Foster Care homes and this month sent thank you cards to our foster parents, are co-hosting a dinner and training event, and are treating foster families and children to a Portland’s Sea Dogs baseball game.
National Foster Care Month provides all of us with an opportunity to appreciate the families who provide a loving, nurturing home for a few days, a few months, or a lifetime. They are a valued resource, indeed. To learn more about Foster Care, participate in our services, or invite a speaker from Spurwink to your organization, church group, neighborhood or community center, please feel free to reach out to us: Rana O’Connor, Resource Coordinator, 615-5878. Or complete an interest form online at www.spurwink.org/fostercare. Join us to make National Foster Care Month a success year-round.
Linda S. Butler, Ph.D., LCSW | Director of Research and Outcomes
Rana O’Connor | Resource Coordinator