Two years ago I was sworn in at my local county court house as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), since that time I have spent a few hours each week advocating for children who are removed from their homes by Child Protective Services. I’ll be honest, my initial draw to this volunteer opportunity (besides the fact that I love children) was the chance to be on the inside of a court room in my own community. One too many episodes of Law and Order during college left me feeling aspirational about defending the greater good.
While my court room days are limited, I have spent more of my time seeing the inner workings of an overwhelmed foster care system monitored by an equally overwhelmed Child Protective Services. Every day, abused and neglected children are removed from their homes. Some are taken to a safe relative placement. Others are placed in foster care with a local family. And in some cases, children are sleeping over night in CPS offices or homeless shelters, because there’s no where else to go. I’ll let you sit under the weight of that sentence for a moment.
There are many small ways you can reach foster children: offer meals or other necessities to local foster families, volunteer with a shelter in your area that provides care for homeless youth, teach your children how to be inclusive towards foster children, or become a CASA in your county.
But maybe you could help in an even bigger way. Maybe you have thought about fostering before. Maybe you’ve wondered, what exactly does it look like? Here are a few simple questions and answers about foster care that everyone should be educated on.
Q. How many children are in the foster care system?
A. In the United States, there are approximately 415, 129 children under the care of Child Protective Services, 46% of those children are in a non-relative placement with a foster care family.
Q. Do I have to be open to adoption to be a foster parent?
A. No, in fact only 25% of children who have been removed from their home are assigned the goal of adoption, while more than 50% have the goal of reunification with their biological family.
Q. What kind of training would I need?
A. The basic requirements for foster care include being at least 21 years of age, financially stable and able to pass both a background check and home study. After meeting these requirements, you would receive at least 20 hours of training including education on abused and neglected children.
Q. How long should I expect a foster child to live with me?
A. A child’s stay in the foster care system can range from less than one month to more than five years, but 63% of children are in the foster care system for less than two years.
Q. What if I don’t have an extra bedroom for a foster child?
A. Children can share a bedroom with another child as long as they have their own bed. Children over the age of six should only share a bedroom with a child of the same sex.
Q. Don’t I need to be a stay at home mom to foster a child?
A. Not at all, the Department of Family and Protective Services will fund daycare for children who are in a foster family with two working parents, they will also fund summer time childcare for school aged children.
Q. What about the influence fostering a child would have on my biological children?
A. In many cases, introducing a foster child to your children can exude much of the same excitement as bringing home a newborn. It’s also an opportunity to enrich your child’s life by allowing them hands on experience with caring for the specific, individual needs of children in your community. Of course, this experience may also lead to new challenges including increased family stress, competition for parents’ attention, and loss if/when a foster child leaves the family. But many foster parents say it’s all worth it to offer healing to a hurting child.
You can read more about the statistics used in this blog post at the Child Welfare Information Gateway.
If you’re interested in learning more about fostering in the Dallas area you can contact these foster agencies: