The Word from Lansing Column:
Month of May Promotes Foster Care Awareness
Posted by Paul A. Long on
As a society, we should always be asking what more we can do to serve the state’s vulnerable children. Through the celebration of Foster Care Awareness Month during the month of May, it is important to take the time to reflect on a few ways we can make a difference.
The State of Michigan recognizes Foster Care Awareness Month as a time to celebrate all who provide safety, love, and support to Michigan’s foster children, as well as to highlight the continuing needs of the 13,000 children that remain in the system.
Michigan’s foster children, through no fault of their own, have faced trauma, abuse, and neglect that has separated them from their families. They seek a place of safety until they can either be reunited with their biological families or placed with an alternative placement, such as an adoptive family or another relative. Some suffer from emotional impairments, learning delays, or mental or physical disabilities as a result of what they have experienced.
While many families feel apprehensive about fostering because they are unsure of how to handle the needs of these children, public and private agencies across the state provide help to foster and adoptive families each step of the way. Michigan’s Catholic agencies who work with foster children have long been an excellent source of support both to biological families and foster or adoptive families. They provide a variety of comprehensive services, including counseling for the children and parents, home visits, parenting support services, mentoring, and clothing and material support, among others. Some of these agencies also work with children on the transition between foster care and adulthood, as unfortunately many children age out of the foster care system and become ineligible for state-funded assistance.
Since 2011, a measure supported by Michigan Catholic Conference and signed into law also extends support for young adults in the foster care system. As a result, eligible teens and young adults in the foster care system are able to continue receiving support services such as health care, counseling, and foster care payments until age twenty-one, rather than age eighteen. In order to be eligible, these young adults must be enrolled in school, a GED program or college, or work at least 80 hours per month. While this is helpful for foster kids, more can be done by the community to help this transition.
The State of Michigan is always looking for patient and compassionate individuals who are willing to consider becoming foster parents. Becoming a foster parent is challenging, but these individuals can truly make a difference in the lives of those who need it.
For those who might not feel called to become a foster parent, there are still many other ways to serve vulnerable children in our communities. Individuals and families can provide temporary respite care, serve as a volunteer mentor, recruit other potential foster families, or donate supplies like toys, books, food, and clothing to local agencies that work with foster children. Additionally, individuals can support the ability of Michigan’s Catholic foster care agencies to continue serving Michigan’s children by visiting www.micatholic.org/adoptionbills.
To learn more about foster care in Michigan and ways you can be a part of the solution for the state’s most vulnerable children, visit www.michigan.gov/hopeforahome.