Foster Care as a Support to Families, Not a Substitute for Parents

May 1, 2020
May is National Foster Care Month

By Jerry Milner, associate commissioner, Children's Bureau

Foster care is meant to be temporary. In fact, according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, 56 percent of children who exited foster care in fiscal year 2018 left to be reunited with their birth parents or other primary caretakers. That is why, for the second year in a row, the Children’s Bureau’s National Foster Care Month initiative is focusing on the theme, “Foster Care as a Support to Families, Not a Substitute for Parents.” While continuing to focus on ways in which the child welfare system—through community engagement, collaborative relationships, and targeted support services—can strengthen and support families, this year’s campaign expands to pay special attention to how implementing family voice into the permanency-planning process as well as encouraging collaboration between parents and resource parents, the community, and the courts and related professionals can help shape a truly supportive child welfare agency culture.

Last year, national partners and local communities kicked off the 2-year campaign by hosting dozens of events, recording webinars, and developing resources to promote National Foster Care Month and the importance of collaborative relationships—such as those between out-of-home caregivers and parents—in strengthening families' capacity to nurture and provide for their children's well-being.

This year, you can join the Children's Bureau in continuing to support this theme during the 2020 National Foster Care Month campaign by planning events and activities in your community. Visit the updated National Foster Care Month website Visit disclaimer page to find new resources to support your work that demonstrate how partnerships between agencies, parents and youth, community organizations, and the courts and related professionals can be a key factor in supporting reunification and maintaining family and community connections for youth in care.

The Spread the Word section Visit disclaimer page of the National Foster Care Month website offers an outreach toolkit Visit disclaimer page to help child welfare professionals and community advocates engage the public through social media and other outreach activities. This year’s toolkit includes brand-new shareable graphics Visit disclaimer page , Facebook Frames Visit disclaimer page , and sample social media posts Visit disclaimer page to help you spread the word online. The toolkit also includes sample Foster Care Month proclamations Visit disclaimer page and key facts and statistics Visit disclaimer page to use in messaging to demonstrate how the child welfare system can prioritize foster care as a service to families and promote reunification.

The website also shares real-life stories Visit disclaimer page about how the child welfare system can strengthen the capacity of families to nurture and provide for the well-being of their children. These stories offer a first-person perspective from children, youth, families, and professionals involved with the child welfare system.

During May, and all year long, we salute all the caregivers, case managers, community-based service providers, and volunteers who nurture and support children and families working toward reunification or permanency. Visit the National Foster Care Month website Visit disclaimer page today to learn more about keeping families healthy, strong, and together.

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