May has long been recognized as Foster Care Awareness Month. Nationwide, more than 390,000 kids need a foster family and in Tennessee, more than 8,000 kids need foster homes with approximately 4,000 homes available.
When it comes to fostering, there are all kinds of options for families. Foster families can be single parents, couples with or without children, older couples; just about any household with room to care for and support children in foster care. Some foster children are foster to adopt, some are foster to reunite with their family and some will be respite visits for weekends or week-long stays. In many instances, fostering is not about adoption, but providing support for a child and a family until they can be reunited. That’s what foster parents do; they provide support and a loving home to children during a time in their lives when they need it most, and until they can help the child reunite with their families, safely.
The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that up to 90% of children have been exposed to trauma. This can be intimidating to potential foster homes. However, fostering agencies, like Youth Villages, prepares foster parents by providing extensive training, including trauma and collaborative problem-solving, during the certification process. Trauma-informed counseling and awareness is especially important when working with children who may have unhealthy coping mechanisms. In younger children, this can look like food hoarding, sleeping disorders or appetite changes. In older kids, physical aggression and yelling are signs of past trauma and unhealthy coping habits.
Fostering is not for everyone, but for those who feel passionate about helping kids, consider becoming a foster parent. It is not always going to be easy, but it is incredibly important work that can be rewarding to the child and the foster family. Do your research to find an agency that fits your needs, and also consider fostering through Youth Villages.
With Youth Villages, every foster family receives a counselor who works weekly with the family and is available 24/7 if any situation may arise. Together the counselor and family work to identify emotions and unhealthy behaviors in the child while brainstorming appropriate ways to handle conflict and adversity. Youth Villages empowers foster parents to earn trust and develop a relationship with their foster children, taking an active interest in their lives, schoolwork, and hobbies. Foster kids, especially those who have been traumatized, may not have had positive role models and involvement in their former homes, and all it takes is a caring adult to change the trajectory in a child’s life.
If fostering isn’t for your family right now, you can still help another foster family in your community by helping with yard work, providing a dinner for them or running a quick errand for them. Anything that you can do to ease the daily stressors will make the family even more successful.
If you are interested in learning more about fostering, visit www.youthvillages.org/foster or call 1-888-MY-YV-KID.
Youth Villages is one of the largest providers of services to children in Tennessee and a national leader in children’s mental and behavioral health. The organization has been recognized by the Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report and was identified by The White House as one of the nation’s most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations. Learn more at www.youthvillages.org.
Crisis services are available 24/7 if your child needs support. Call 855-CRISIS-1 or text CONNECT to 741741. If you have thoughts of suicide, contact 988 to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.