“We who have means and a voice must use them to help those who have neither.”
- Jennifer Donnelly, American writer.
National Foster Care Month is a time to raise awareness of the estimated 407,000 American children and youth living in foster care and the challenges they, along with the family members, foster parents, child welfare professionals, and policymakers who support them, are faced with every day of the year.
Foster Care is defined as “a temporary service provided by States for children who cannot live with their families. Children in foster care may live with relatives (kin) or with unrelated foster parents. Foster care can also refer to placement settings such as group homes, residential care facilities, emergency shelters, and supervised independent living.”
Champions of these children raised their voices and were able to create an impact on a federal level in 2018. The Family First Prevention Services Act, signed by President Trump, was an essential first step to redirecting federal funds to provide services that would focus on prioritizing prevention, supporting kin caregivers, and promoting permanent families for these children. According to the FY 2020 Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), the number of children in foster care has decreased for the third year in a row.
Voices today are advocating for Congress to implement policies that will also prioritize racial equity and improve child and family well-being. According to the child welfare community, “Identifying the special needs of multiple racial and ethnic groups, and developing practices, programs, and strategies to meet their unique circumstances has proven an overwhelming task.” African American children have been overrepresented in the foster care system for more than a decade. Black children represent 23 percent of the children in foster care and yet only represented 14 percent of the total child population in 2020.
In this same year, 34 percent of the children in foster care were placed with kinship caregivers. They play a key role in supporting family connections which are essential to a child’s health and well-being. Many advocates believe that this number would increase if there were more services available to assist the relatives who take on the role of caregiver to these vulnerable children.
While government regulations direct how foster care operates, child welfare and nonprofit organizations often do the heavy lifting and have front-line exposure to the challenges still present within the system. Organizations around the nation are working diligently to provide services for foster children and caregivers, to help keep children safely with their families when possible and ensure placement in the most family-like setting appropriate when foster care is necessary.
At TWG we recognize the vital role that members from all parts of child welfare play in supporting children, youth, and families. With decades of experience advocating for children and youth, we at TWG have seen numerous occasions where one organization’s “voice” has impacted policy strategies that improved outcomes for children and families.
Your voice matters and can make a greater impact than you might realize. If you want to be heard beyond the community you serve, we’re here to increase the pitch of your voice and be the champion of your cause.