Foster families urgently needed as pandemic lingers
An interview with Focus on the Family’s Dr. Sharen Ford.
“Now, more than ever, we need to be helping our kids. If you have a spare room, consider it,” Trever Elliot says. He’s a foster provider, advocate and care home provider in the UK. “Ultimately, whatever’s going to happen with this virus,” he says, “we’re either going to get through it together or on our own. And I don’t think anyone wants to get through challenging stuff on their own” (“We can’t stop caring for children because of COVID,” The Guardian).
But Elliot, who has increased his efforts to help kids during the pandemic, is closer to the exception than the rule. With more children needing care and a decline in the number of people applying to be foster parents, children’s services report an urgent need for new foster families in Canada, the U.S. and many other countries.
“There is a desperate need to get as many caring people as possible licensed and ready to serve,” Dr. Sharen Ford, director for Focus on the Family’s foster care and adoption efforts, says. As in-person activities resume, “schools, day cares and doctors’ offices are the ‘safe zones’ where children have a relationship with people and these individuals are mandated reporters,” which might contribute to an increase in reporting in the upcoming months, Dr. Ford suggests in an interview with CC. This may contribute to further demand for foster care.
“Many of the supportive services that were previously available to families weren’t as readily available during the last 12 months,” she adds. “This puts families and children at risk. Whatever the reason for child welfare intervention, we need safe places for children until they can be returned home.”
Dr. Ford also notes that COVID-19 has posed challenges in the regular process of finding and training new foster families. It’s also been difficult, she says, to maintain availability in already-licensed homes. “Fostering isn’t for the faint of heart,” Ford adds. A supportive community is essential for both new and experienced foster families. “It takes committed families to continue fostering, but it also takes the Church and the faith community to provide consistent supportive services to foster families for them to continue providing placement services for children in need.”
Elliot, who is in his 20s, encourages “anyone with a ‘clean heart’ to consider fostering, as despite popular myths, there are no criteria requiring foster carers to be in nuclear families or have children of their own.” Dr. Ford urges Christians to consider how they can support this need, too: “Vulnerable children need committed and caring individuals that are willing to open their hearts and their homes by becoming foster families, respite care providers or by supporting foster families through acts of kindness. If we are Christians, we must care for the least of these.”
The steps to becoming a foster parent
If you’ve ever wondered, Could I do that? – here’s an overview of what would happen next.
- Contact a local licensed government office or a government-approved licensed child placement agency. Use Google to find an agency near you.
- Attend an orientation meeting.
- Talk with friends and family members about supporting you throughout the process.
- Encourage them to join you on the journey – first by praying for you and second by considering becoming a respite care provider for the children that enter your home.
- Complete an application
- Complete First Aid/CPR Classes
- Complete finger-print background checks & medical exams
- Participate in a home assessment/home study
- Attend Foster Care Training classes
- Maintain annual training hours
(Information courtesy of Dr. Ford.)