As many Amara foster families are aware, referrals for children needing foster care have changed significantly since March 2020. While this appeared to be due to the pandemic, we know now it’s more than that. Our counterparts at the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) have shared that they are making concerted efforts to find relatives at the beginning of children’s cases when they come into state care. They are also providing more in-home services to prevent the need for foster care in the first place. We know that children have better outcomes when they can safely stay with family.
What this means for foster families now is there are fewer referrals for single children younger than eight, and this trend is expected to continue. Families seeking a foster placement of one child younger than eight have been waiting for a placement for several months. Because our collective work is so important, and because older children need love and stable care, it is imperative that we work together to meet the current needs of kids and families entering the child welfare system.
Many families come to Amara thinking they’re ready to foster parent children under 6, and don’t feel ready or knowledgeable about parenting older children and youth, or sibling sets. We also know that many foster parents are uncertain and even uneasy about building and maintaining collaborative relationships with a child’s family while caring for that child. But not knowing now, doesn’t mean we can’t learn and grow together. Amara is here to support families who are ready and willing to learn about the needs of kids and families in the child welfare system and are ready to put what they learn into practice by welcoming children, youth, and their families into their hearts and homes.
What we know about the kids currently coming into care:
- Most are single children older than 10.
- Some are part of sibling groups of between two and four kids with a wide range of ages. Some are different genders who cannot share a room.
- Some have experienced trauma due to domestic violence.
- Some have special needs, including children on the autism spectrum.
What licensed caregiving families can do:
- Be open to considering sibling groups and children over 10.
- Talk to your Amara Foster Care Specialist about what it would take to serve these children.
- Offer to provide respite care for families who are struggling to maintain a challenging placement.
- Make sure to check your email frequently and respond to our Child Placement Coordinator when notified of a potential placement.
- Take classes to prepare for older children, siblings and those who have experienced trauma. The Alliance CaRES offers some very helpful classes. https://allianceforchildwelfare.org/caregivers.
- Keep growing and learning about:
- how to build relationships with children’s families
- how to create an inclusive home
- how to talk about race with kids
- how to build a trauma-informed home
- Attend support groups to build connections and learn from others.
How anyone can support licensed caregiving families:
- Check in with a foster family to see what they need.
- Offer to organize a meal train.
- Offer babysitting so a family can have an evening off.
- Educate yourself and your network (neighbors, coworkers, family, friends) about childhood trauma and how to show up for children in our community as teachers, mentors, coaches, etc.
- Be intentional about extending invites to licensed caregiving families for activities and events.
- Consider donating excess goods or volunteering your time at organizations that support foster/kinship families.