This is the next installment of the Sick Pilgrim series of reflections during this Year of St. Joseph.
The Need for Foster Care
Foster care serves as a temporary, emergency place for children to safely be cared for while the situation with their biological parent(s) is stabilized. There are many reasons why a child would be removed from their home. Often, a family has a short term crisis–parental illness, incarceration, unemployment, or homelessness. Other families face more complex issues such as continuous poverty, parental addiction, or disability. While neglect is why children are most often removed from their homes, foster care is obviously needed when there are serious issues such as physical or sexual abuse.
Right now in the United States there are around 445,000 children in foster care. Half of them will spend less than a year in foster care. For more than half of these children (57%), the goal is reunification with their families. While 32% of those children are placed with other relatives, 46% are in foster homes. *
There is a chronic need for foster families, both for emergency overnight placements and for longer term care. The need for good foster fathers is especially important, because as Kate Murphy, Adoption Social Worker with the Massachusetts Department of Children & Families, notes, “there are lots of women role models—teachers, social workers, and so on–” that children engage with regularly. “Foster fathers are extremely important because the men in their lives have (so often) been super violent.” These children need positive male role models in their lives. “Fostering is one of the most valuable things a person can do. For someone to open their home and give a kid safety and care and love? It’s so critical. … Good foster homes stabilize kids who have lived in unsafe, trauma-filled homes. Put them in a good foster family, and these kids just blossom.”
A profoundly pro-life act, becoming a foster parent takes on a child’s disabilities, trauma, and hurts with the hopes that they can facilitate healing. That may look like safe reunification with the child’s biological parents, adoption into their family (or another adoptive family), or stabilizing support until the child is emancipated on their own.
What Can You Do?
If you are considering becoming a foster parent, a good first step is to check out the National Foster Parent Association, the Child Welfare Information Gateway, or your local chapter of Catholic Charities. If being a foster parent isn’t for you, there are other ways to support foster families, like working with the Together We Rise organization, or advocating for policies that strengthen families by reducing affects of poverty, promoting treatment for substance abuse, and expanding access to safe, affordable child care and after school programs.
And as always, pray:
St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, we pray for children everywhere who are in need of safety and care.
For the parents who cannot overcome their poverty or addictions or disabilities or other situations that keep them from being the parents they were created to be, that they may be strengthened and helped.
For the public safety, child welfare, health care, and education professionals who engage with children from neglectful and abusive homes, that they may discern what the children and their families need to be safe and whole, and that they may be able to meet those needs to bring stability and healing.
For policy makers, that they may create a more just world for children and families, so that the need for foster care and other emergency child welfare services is radically diminished.
St. Joseph, fill our hearts with compassion and love for our neighbors, that our children will grow up in safe, nurturing communities, neighborhoods, and homes.
* Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2020). Foster care statistics 2018. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau