As you may be aware, May is National Foster Care Month. According to the most recent report released by AFCARS (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System), there are more than 400,000 children in foster care across the United States. While that’s a sobering statistic, there is reason to be encouraged as the number of children in domestic foster care continues to decline – down more than eight percent from 2008, and nearly 30 percent from 1999, when there were nearly 570,000 foster children.
One primary reason for that decrease is the continued growth of proactive social service programs such as Safe Families for Children, a program committed to keeping kids out of the foster care system, preventing child abuse, supporting pregnant and parenting teens, and strengthening families. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Safe Families, it truly is an amazing initiative, providing temporary care for children whose parents are experiencing personal difficulties – whether its homelessness, unemployment, substance dependency, etc. – so that they can work through their troubles without having to place their children in foster care.
According to the Safe Families for Children website, the organization was “founded in 2002 by Lydia Home Association, a Chicago based Christian social service agency. Successfully established in more than 13 states, Safe Families partners with host agencies, local churches, ministries, as well as community and government agencies, to intervene in the lives of children and families that would otherwise be forgotten.”
We’re blessed at Bethany to be able to offer Safe Families services through a number of our branches across the country and I’ve been fortunate to see firsthand the impact this remarkable program has on keeping loving families together. Safe Families benefits greatly from the tremendous generosity of those who volunteer to be host families, taking in and caring for children for weeks or months at a time, as well as those families who provide resources to host families in order to alleviate the potential financial burden of caring for others.
While the decade-long decrease in the number of children in foster care certainly is a positive sign, there’s still plenty of work left to be done as the tolls of living in long term foster care can have a negative and lasting impact – more than 40% of foster children end up abusing drugs and alcohol, 40% turn to crime, and up to 10% give up hope and commit suicide.
Last year, more than 254,000 children were placed in foster care, so our work is far from over. Family preservation and social service agencies like Bethany must continue to lead in raising public awareness and do a better job of recruiting families, community organizations and local businesses committed to supporting the country’s most vulnerable children.
We’re always looking for host families, so to those interested in lending a hand to families in need, please contact your local Bethany office. To find the office nearest you, visit www.Bethany.org.