There are thousands of children in the Tampa Bay area who have experienced trauma but have no family to turn to.
Fortunately, there is a force of change making an impact in the lives of these children every day: foster parents. Since May is National Foster Care Awareness Month, we are highlighting the need for more champions by listing the top five reasons you should considering fostering a child (or two):
- The children need you.
When young people are removed from their homes due to substance abuse, domestic violence, or neglect, they often feel anxious and abandoned. Foster parents step in to offer a home where they feel loved and heard. Your patience and willingness to listen can help a child begin his or her journey toward healing. You have the chance to be a real difference-maker during a time when children need a loving adult with whom they can work through their trauma.Eckerd Connects is a national private nonprofit that operates locally in the Tampa Bay area, and the organization’s placement specialists work to match incoming children with a foster home that is just right for them. As you support the children, the organization’s team supports you.
- The children’s parents need you.
Having a child taken away is difficult for everyone involved. Biological parents feel ashamed, angry, scared, and frustrated. During the mandated separation, these parents have to meet certain to reunify with their children. The biological parents often want the reassurance that their children, although removed from their personal care, are with safe and loving homes while they take the necessary steps to be together again.Foster parents provide that peace of mind.
Many “bio parents” are also allowed visits with their children, which allows you to serve as a support system (and sometimes an example). That collaboration and partnership help build a stronger family, and stronger families make for strong communities.
- Your own kids will learn compassion.
Working with foster kids is challenging and rewarding—for everyone in the home. If you have your own children, they will have a daily opportunity to watch patience and kind-heartedness at work. Joining you as you work with a young foster child can serve as a firsthand lesson in empathy and understanding.“When I went to my daughter’s school for parent-teacher conference night, her teachers told me that they couldn’t believe how compassionate she was for her age,” says Alicia Novell, foster parent and licensing specialist with A Door of Hope. “That is the greatest compliment as a parent, and I know it’s because of the patience and understanding that we have to show at home every time we bring in new babies.”
- It’s an opportunity to share your resources.
Opening your home is a chance to share the blessings you have with children who go without—food, attention, and proper housing all may have been lacking in their homes. To foster, you can be single or married, a renter or homeowner. As long as you are at least 21 years old, have adequate sleeping space, can demonstrate stable income, and pass a background check, you can qualify to foster. Beyond these requirements, all that is needed is a heart for children and a home full of love.
- You will make a direct impact on your community.
With nearly 4,581 children in out-of-home care in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties, there is an opportunity for the community to come together and answer the call for help. Although there a high number of children entering foster care (due to physical abuse, substance abuse, or neglect), the number of those becoming foster parents is not increasing as quickly. Our children are our collective responsibility, and providing a safe haven makes an impact on both the child and the overall Tampa Bay community.