This article is made possible by a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.
Written by Jacie Farris
Many people enjoy celebrating months and days dedicated to siblings, friends, hugs and food. But this May, Hoosiers are invited to consider a topic of greater importance: foster care.
May is Foster Care Awareness Month, and in Indiana the state’s Department of Child Services (DCS) is trying to highlight the need for more foster parents.
“As DCS protects children from abuse and neglect and works to ensure their financial support, when children come into our care we find a safe home for them,” said James Wide, deputy director of communications for DCS.
Wide continued, saying, “It’s important to have enough foster homes available, so the youth can be matched in homes that are more in line with their individual needs.”
According to DCS, a total of 20,821 Hoosier children are in state care, and 4,704 of them are located in Marion County. Of those children, 3,165 are in foster care. That means Marion County has the responsibility of finding willing foster homes for roughly 15 percent of the state’s youth in need of care.
Furthermore, the cases of children in need of services have increased by more than 2,500 in the past year, demonstrating a growing need across the state.
“It is a challenge for DCS to recruit and train foster parents to keep pace with the growing demand, while ensuring that each child can find a foster home to nurture and support their individualized need,” said Jeannette Keating, assistant deputy director of communications with DCS.
Without safe, stable foster families, these children are more likely to have negative experiences when transitioning to adulthood. According to the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, these negative experiences include higher rates of homelessness and involvement in the justice system, as well as lower rates of employment and high school and college graduation. For specifics statistics, visit http://www.jimcaseyyouth.org/mission-and-vision.
President Ronald Reagan issued the first presidential proclamation establishing May as National Foster Care Month in 1988, but foster care has a much longer history in America. For decades organizations throughout the country have worked to highlight the importance of housing and caring for children and teens. In central Indiana, the Children’s Bureau, The Villages and Connected by 25 are a few of the many organizations that can help citizens who are interested in fostering children. To learn more, visit http://www.childrensbureau.org/what-we-do/foster-care-services, https://www.villages.org/get-involved/be-a-foster-parent/ or http://www.fostersuccess.org/.
In 2014, DCS released a video encouraging families to make a difference in the lives of children and teenagers by showing “the willingness to be there, the willingness to care, [and] the willingness to open your heart and your home….” This video is part of the department’s Choose to Be the Difference campaign, which they are continuing this year for Foster Care Awareness Month. To view the video, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iveETPFecR8, and look for special radio announcements, social media posts and billboards from DCS on this topic during the month of May.
While fostering is not always easy, Wide reminded potential foster parents that the experience can be worthwhile.
“The children that are coming into a foster home are leaving a traumatic situation,” said Wide. “Going into a foster home is also traumatic. So, please be patient and know that foster parents can make a permanent positive impact on the life of a foster child.”
To spread the word about Foster Care Awareness Month online, use #FosterCareMonth and #NFCM2016 on social media.