What Does It Mean to Engage Foster Care?

On Wednesday, Oct 11 at 8:30pm America’s Kids Belong hosted a repeat of its first foster parenting info webinar, “What Does It Mean to Engage Foster Care?” This second edition featured a different roster of panelists from around the country.

Here is a recap of some of the panel highlights:

Georgia Kids Belong State Director, Rebecca Radicchi shared that the purpose of foster care is essentially to provide a safe home after a family crisis. Foster parents provide a valuable role in giving the kids in their care a safe space of stability while they wait for reunification with their biological family or (if adoption eligible) await being adopted into a new family. Foster parents are responsible also for the normal day to day parenting tasks like: helping the child get into therapy, receive dental, medical, and educational support when necessary.

What makes a good foster parent?

“Being willing to give attention, time and care.” -Kayla Young (foster mom)

“Knowing your WHY and holding onto that.” – Catlin Young (foster dad, SD Kids Belong)

“Someone who is emotionally available, and there for the kids, because they want to be.” -Dr. Danisha Keating (former foster youth, author of the book “From Foster to PhD”)

“Someone who is tough and resilient, and ready for difficulties. Be tough for them and stick in there with them when they are not at their best.” -Larry May (IN Kids Belong and former CASA)

What are the steps involved with foster parent licensing?

  • Contact county or private agency 
  • Attend orientation (attend more than one to pick the right agency)
  • Application
  • Classes (hours vary by state)
  • Home study process (home and safety, background checks, references, medicals, financials)
  • Gather supports and wait for a placement

How would you address common concerns about becoming foster parents?

“We worried about our biological kids, but they have been such a huge asset in fostering.” -Catlin Young

“Foster care exposes every area of your life in ways you could not imagine.” – Danisha went on to share that if someone has reservations, maybe volunteering in the foster care community first helps you be exposed to more in this foster care world.

“Spouses who are not on the same page, have to find some common ground.  Having all your questions answered first helps.”-Catlin Young

Regarding the difficulty of being foster parents: “Sometimes the hardest things are the most important things.” -Larry May

How would you address common concerns about becoming foster parents?

The panelists reminded us that community is key for kids in foster care. Supporting the foster family significantly helps the child in their care.

Danisha Keating, who was in the foster care system until age 18, challenged adults everywhere to consider how significant their involvement in any level is. “If we can surround them, as their community… We need people. People are what healed my hurts. Then, finding out there were good parents out there.” She went on, “For a foster youth to hear there are these people who have your back, they are your team, and they are here to serve you in whatever capacity you need.”

What does support look like for foster parents?

“Having people ask us…. “What do you need? How can we help? What are your kids favorite snacks? Can we give you a date night, and don’t clean the house, we’ll do that.” -Kayla Young

“It was exciting to have that community and social support. Other foster parents that kinda speak the same language as you. That was so helpful.” -Catlin Young

AKB has an incredible Foster Friendly App which is a great way that your business can support foster families. If you are a foster parent, you can receive discounts and tangible support from businesses who are saying, “We see you, we appreciate what you are doing for kids in foster care.”

What is supporting a foster child as an appointed volunteer?

Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers or Guardian ad Litem (GAL) volunteers are basically the same thing. Their job is to advocate for the child and check in with counselors, teachers, case workers, and foster parents. They talk to the child and speak in court on their behalf to better ensure decisions are being made in the best interest of that child. Usually you are just assigned one or two children. “The CASA volunteering role sort of opened our eyes to the struggles . . .it sort of broke our hearts for our city and what was going on with these kids who have been abused and neglected. It was just a real eye opening experience. It is just a great place to start.” –Larry May

Why is it worth it to engage foster care?

“It’s just the good stuff, I want to go deep and feel the hard stuff, and the highs too. I would encourage someone to be willing to go deep, to walk close enough to wildly cheer when they start to heal. Then just be a safe place.” – Rebecca Radicchi

“The generational impact that you are creating by saying “YES” to these families means that these kids get to hopefully go back to bio mom and dad and have a healthy home. It’s huge.” -Catlin Young

“If people hadn’t stepped in I wouldn’t be where I am. I wouldn’t be a good mom. I would have probably continued the generational cycle of foster care in my family. You just need one person willing, but a community can move mountains for them.” -Danisha Keating

Watch the replay of the webinar here:

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