National Foster Care Month

*This blog post was previously written when I worked at The Prevention Researcher on May 11th, 2010; titled National Foster Care Month-  Thoughts about Our Youth in Foster Care.  Promoting awareness of foster care youth is still near and dear to my heart; in the last year when one of my dearest friends died and her daughter was placed in a group foster home for well over a month.  May she always believe in herself and hold dear, the joyous memories she shared with her mom.100_0204

Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about a group of very special young women that I met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  In 2000, I began a practicum with Three Rivers Youth, to fulfill my bachelor’s in Social Work at Chatham University.  Part of my field placement was at a therapeutic group home for 12 adolescent girls from the ages of 12 to 18.  Termon House was a home away from home. Many of these young women had been in and out of their parents’ homes, their extended families’ homes, and foster homes. Because of their mental health diagnosis and criminal behavior they were not suited for any other placement, or rather, no other placement was suited for them.  Daily activities at Termon House included helping youth prepare meals, set daily schedules, learn about basic hygiene, complete chores, set up therapy appointments, prepare for home visits, have daily group meetings together, and catch up on homework.

One young woman I’ll name Tracy, for confidentiality purposes, was 15 when I met her.  She was a bright young woman-musical, witty, funny, and very caring.  Tracy was also extremely angry, often arguing with her other house mates and staff about the injustices of the world.  Her diagnosis included Bipolar Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and PTSD.  Tracy first came into the foster care system at age 5, when a social worker found her caring for her 2 younger siblings, after her mom died of AIDS.  Tracy’s dad was killed in a gang shooting.  Not long after meeting Tracy, I learned that she was a mom of a one-year-old baby girl, who was being cared for by extended family.  There is one day I’ll never forget. Tracy received a phone call, and soon was in tears, sobbing uncontrollably.  Staff was informed that Tracy’s baby daughter’s cancerous brain tumor had come back.  I sat there thinking, at 15 years of age, how does a young woman like Tracy cope?  How do we begin to improve the foster care system so that it can support her many needs and roles–as a high school student, a person with mental illness, as a young mom, and as a daughter with no parents?

May is National Foster Care Month.  In the U.S. 463,000 children and youth are in foster care.  There are an estimated 12 million foster care alumni in the U.S (www.fostercaremonth.org).  In Oregon, where I now live, there were 5,833 youth served in family foster care in 2009; 65% of those youth were placed in temporary foster care due to physical abuse and 50% due to parental drug or alcohol abuse.   Find out about 2009 foster care statistics in your state.

Casey Family Programs is one organization trying to improve the lives of those in foster care.  Their 2020 Strategy aims to ensure that every child in America has a safe, permanent family.  Their hope is to reduce the number of children in foster care by 50 percent and improve self-sufficiency for those that are.  I highly recommend this video they created.  It uses art, stories of youth, families and staff to call to action anyone compelled to do what they can to improve the lives of foster youth across the nation.  I thank Tracy, and all the youth out there trying their best, who continue to show us compassion even when our families, communities, and systems have not always made them feel safe at home.

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About jasminerose

Social Worker, Critter Lover, Amateur Photo Taker, Writer, Crafter, & Creator. View all posts by jasminerose

3 responses to “National Foster Care Month

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