A Peek Into a Foster Care Agency
By Emiley Shenk, LSW
Adriel Foster Care and Adoption
When people hear that I work for a private foster care agency, I am usually met with the following response: “Wow, I could never do that.”
That referring to foster parenting.
Very often the perception of what foster care looks like is quite different from the reality. Let’s delve further into what foster looks like and address some of those perceptions from an agency’s perspective.
Myth: All kids that come into foster care are teenagers with major behavior problems.
Reality: Youth of all ages enter into foster care. At Adriel, the average age of children in foster care is seven. Quality foster homes are needed for children of all ages. Likewise, the circumstances which bring youth into foster care are as varied as the children we serve. Each child is unique and brings his or her own set of strengths as well as behavioral challenges. Usually, the concerns which bring youth into foster care are not the fault of the child, but rather an inability of the parents to care for the child.
Myth: You can spot a foster child a mile away. I wouldn’t want to deal with that.
Reality: Foster kids are just kids. They long to be treated like other kids and, like all of us, long to be loved and cared for and assured that they are worthwhile. Most likely, your life has overlapped with foster families and you’ve never even known it. These families shop in stores, attend schools, participate in churches, visit parks and festivals—just like other families.
Myth: Foster youth move from place to place all the time.
Reality: More than half of the youth that we serve are reunified with family (56%). Some go on to be adopted (25%), some go to kin, or family placements (20%).
Myth: I can’t adopt so I wouldn’t be a good foster parent.
Reality: Not all of our foster parents adopt. Many of them see it as their service to offer a stable, loving, caring home for youth as long as they need it.
Myth: I want to adopt a child that needs a home, but my finances are limited.
Reality: Parents that are approved to adopt through the foster care system can qualify for adoption assistance programs through the federal and state government.
Myth: I would like to help but I am a single parent/divorced/working full-time/living in an apartment.
Reality: Just like the youth we serve, our foster families come in all shapes and sizes as well. Being single, divorced, a working parent, or living in an apartment does not make you ineligible to be a foster parent.
Myth: I’ll never be able to let go.
Reality: An Adriel foster parent, Don North, answers: “It can be difficult and sad at times. However, we decided that this will not keep us from serving children. God has helped us to say goodbye and comforted in the process, and in some cases to stay in touch. “ The only way to love is with all your heart. These kids become a part of your family, forever.
Myth: Foster parenting is so hard. There is no way I could ever do that.
Reality: There are several ways to help support foster care. Being a foster parent is an important, needed service and, certainly, Adriel is in need of quality foster parents to care for youth in their homes and that need cannot be understated. There are 12,500 children in Ohio in foster care and other out-of-home placements.
Another way to be involved is to be a respite provider. Respite foster homes provide a much-needed service for children as well, giving them a safe, loving home while they are in transition.
Become an alternate care provider. Foster parents are extremely dedicated and need a break from time to time like all parents. Alternate care providers offer their service by caring for the youth and giving foster parents a short break.
Consider donating to Adriel. Financial and in-kind donations are also an important service to the youth we serve. Offering youth care bags, blankets, and pillows when a child is removed from their caregiver and comes to a foster home for the first time are small but meaningful gestures that help to provide a warm welcome to a youth in crisis. Donations also helps to support our foster parent appreciation event, foster family Christmas parties, independent living items for teens, and much, much more.
And, if you are a person of faith, please pray. Pray for the youth that are in foster care. Pray for families who have opened up their homes and lives to caring for youth. Pray for the parents who are not able to care for their children. Pray for staff that are supporting these youth and families. Pray for agencies that serve children in crisis. Pray for Adriel, that we may faithfully carry out our mission: that of “providing quality care for children in the spirit of Christian love.”
For more information on Adriel, visit our website: www.adriel.org