For some kids though Mother’s Day is a day that makes them acutely aware of how different their lives are from those of their peers. Last Sunday, while millions of children were handing their moms cards and gifts they made in childcare or school, many children in foster care faced the day with confusion, anxiety, and anger.
When I was the foster mother of a school-aged child I asked my child’s teacher to offer him the option of making 2 cards and gifts; one for his biological mom and one for me. The decision would be his. I wasn’t sure if this request would backfire and he would end up feeling more confused and angry, or if he would feel relieved by not having to make a choice between just one gift going to his “real” mom or his “new” mom, as some of his classmates called me. But, my own anxiety turned to relief when a smiling boy walked through the door and handed me a carefully wrapped present and a construction paper card. “This is for you for you,” he said and then pulled another one out of his backpack and told me “and this is for mommy when I go visit her next time.”
The Foster Care system is hard on everyone, the biological family, the foster family, and the child welfare professionals – but it is especially hard on the children. Imagine you are suddenly removed from everything you have come to know. You find yourself in a new, frightening and unfamiliar place. Due to circumstances beyond your control, you are forced to live with people you have never met, attend a new school and must make new friends. The only thought you cling to is being reunited with the people you love in a place you once called home.
May is National Foster Care Month, a month set aside to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections.
During National Foster Care Month and all year, please think about ways we can work toward ensuring a bright future for the more than 400,000 children and youth in foster care. National Foster Care Month is a great time to celebrate all those who make a meaningful difference in their lives.
Throughout its 100-year history, the Children’s Bureau – the first federal agency within the U.S. government—and in fact, the world—to focus exclusively on improving the lives of children and families – has worked to assist children and youth in foster care; engage youth in decisions that affect their lives; and support foster families, kinship caregivers, child welfare professionals, and others who help these children.
At the turn of the last century, conditions for children in America looked very different from today. More than 1 in 10 infants did not survive their first year. Many children left school to help support their families, often working in dangerous conditions. Orphans were crowded into large institutions, where they received little care or attention.
Lillian D. Wald, founder of the Henry Street Settlement in New York City, and her friend Florence Kelley are credited with conceiving the idea for a Federal agency to promote child health and welfare in 1903. Impressed with the idea, a friend of Wald’s wired President Theodore Roosevelt, who promptly invited the group to the White House to discuss it further. The journey to create the Children’s Bureau had begun.
Many years of nationwide campaigning by individuals and organizations followed. Eleven bills, eight originating in the House and three in the Senate, met with failure between 1906 and 1912. In 1909, President Roosevelt convened the first White House Conference on Children. This meeting brought together social workers, educators, juvenile court judges, labor leaders, and other men and women concerned with children’s well-being, who collectively endorsed the idea of a Federal Children’s Bureau.
In 1912, Congress passed the Act creating the Children’s Bureau and charged it “to investigate and report . . . upon all matters pertaining to the welfare of children and child life among all classes of our people.” President William Howard Taft signed the bill on April 9, 1912. The bill included an initial appropriation of $25,640.
- Before the creation of the Children’s Bureau in 1912, child welfare and foster care were mainly in the hands of private and religious organizations.
- In 1919, the Children’s Bureau published Minimum Standards of Child Welfare, which affirmed the importance of keeping children in their own homes whenever possible and, when that was impossible, providing a “home life” with foster families.
- In 1923, the Children’s Bureau published Foster-Home Care for Dependent Children, an acknowledgment of the growing preference for foster family care over institutional care.
- During World War II, when more than 8,000 children were evacuated from Europe to the United States, the Children’s Bureau oversaw their temporary placement in U.S. foster homes.
- The Children’s Bureau published a draft list of “The Rights of Foster Parents” in the May 1970 issue of its journal Children. That same year, the Children’s Bureau sponsored the National Conference of Foster Parents.
- In 1972, the Children’s Bureau sponsored—and President Nixon proclaimed—National Action for Foster Children Week to raise awareness of the needs of children in foster care and recruit more foster parents. The following year, Children published “The Bill of Rights for Foster Children.”
- In 1988, President Reagan issued the first presidential proclamation that established May as National Foster Care Month.
The National Foster Care Month website shares techniques and strategies that support foster parents’ efforts to strengthen families, keep children connected, and promote a sense of normalcy for youth while they’re in foster care. Learn more: https://www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth/resources/parents.cfm
“There are few things more vital to the welfare of the Nation than accurate and dependable knowledge of the best methods of dealing with children…”
– President Theodore Roosevelt.
GROWING UP GRANITE
Foster Parents are always needed in our state. I will not kid you, it is not always an easy job, but then neither is parenting your biological or step children, but it is rewarding. If you have ever wondered what it might be like, or if you have what it takes, I encourage you to take the first step and make a phone call for more information.
Below is information about becoming a Foster Parent in NH from the NH DHHS website.
“Home At Last” Segment on NH Chronicle on WMUR-TV
Most children entering foster care as a result of abuse and neglect in their home are able to successfully reunify with their family thanks to the hard work and commitment of their parents, their foster parents and the support from professionals. However, when children and youth cannot safely return home, Adoption is the preferred alternative. The State is continually recruiting for families who are ready and able to commit to a child or youth waiting for adoption. This task may have become a bit easier thanks to an amazing partnership with NH Chronicle and WMUR TV.
Watch “Home At Last” on NH Chronicle and meet Jordan, a terrific Foster Care child waiting to find a family to call her own.
New Hampshire needs to increase its pool of foster and adoptive families who are ready and able to care for children in need. We need families who can provide emergency care, short-term care and those looking to adopt from foster care.
May is National Foster Care Month and NOW is a great time to get started!
OUR CHILDREN NEED YOU! Jordan Needs You!
Why must you have a Foster Care license to be a foster parent?
It is required by New Hampshire law. RSA 170-E: 27 License Required: Prohibition Against Child Endangerment: No person shall establish, maintain, operate, or conduct any agency for child care or for child-placing without a license or permit issued by the department under this subdivision. RSA 170-E: 25 Definitions II. “Child care agency” means any person, corporation, partnership, voluntary association or other organization either established for profit or otherwise, who regularly receives for care one or more children, unrelated to the operator of the agency, apart from the parents, in any facility as defined in this subdivision.
What is the role of a foster parent?
Foster parents are asked to provide a safe, stable, temporary, and caring atmosphere for a child placed in their home. Foster parents become part of a team effort to support the child and implement the plans made for the child. This will involve working with biological parents, courts, DCYF, and other involved agencies.
Who can become a foster parent?
Any New Hampshire resident, aged 21 or older can apply to be a licensed foster parent. Singles and/or couples must have the time and energy to give to a child, complete the application and approval process, meet the rules for foster care and attend an orientation and mandatory training.
Foster parents are licensed to care for unrelated children and must:
- Complete a home study with a DCYF Resource Worker
- Complete an autobiography
- Submit fingerprint-based Criminal Records and Central Registry Checks of child abusers for household members over 17 years of age
- Provide medical clearance statements on all family members
- Submit the names of five references
- Provide local fire and health inspections of the home
- Participate in at least two home visits with a social worker
- Successfully complete Foster & Adoptive Care Essentials (FACES) training
Foster Parents receive monthly board and care reimbursement when a child is placed in their home. These payments help pay for food, clothing, and other costs associated with caring for a child. The amount of the monthly payment varies depending on the age of the child and any identified special needs.
Fostering is both rewarding and challenging. Foster Parents can expect assistance and support from DCYF staff and other community agencies.
To learn more about foster parenting, contact the DCYF Foster Care Program or the New Hampshire Foster and Adoptive Parent Association.