Facts and Statistics on Fostering Children

Jun 11, 2018

If you are interested in the foster care system and particularly if you are interested in becoming a foster parent, you probably have hundreds of questions.

While we certainly can provide you with the answers to hundreds of questions about foster parenting, we don't want to overwhelm you with information before you even take the first steps. But let us answer a few questions here about the foster care system and whether you can play a role in that system.

The Need for Foster Parents

Probably, your first question about fostering children is: Am I really needed? Some of the statistics about the foster care system will answer that question with an emphatic "Yes!"

As of September 30, 2016, the last year for which complete figures are available, 437,465 children were in the foster care system. That number has climbed more than 40,000 since 2012 and continues to increase each year.

The largest percentage (45 percent) of children in foster care are being cared for in non-relative homes, while 32 percent are in the homes of relatives other than their parents or primary caregivers. Only 7 percent are in institutions and 5 percent in group homes, so it's obvious how important loving, non-relative foster parents are to the success of the foster care system.

In Colorado, nearly 10,000 children spent time in foster care in 2016 with an average of 14 children removed from their parents' homes each day, and the state reports it will need an additional 1,200 foster parent homes in the coming two years, according to a Denver Post article published in October 2017.

Kids in Foster Care

The statistics also provide a quick snapshot if you are wondering what types of children end up in foster care.

While you might think many abused children end up in the foster care system, only 12 percent of children are removed from their homes because of physical abuse. The vast majority, 61 percent, are removed for neglect. Thirty-four percent of the children in foster care come to the system because of parents' drug abuse. (Many of the reasons for children entering care are overlapping so these numbers will total more than 100 percent.) Even 10 percent of children enter the system because their parents are unable to find suitable housing.

You also might expect parenting a foster child will come with special challenges, and it will, but only 11 percent of children are removed from their parents' care specifically because of the child's behavioral problems.

One particular issue of concern for those who run foster care programs is finding foster families of similar ethnicity to the children. Nationwide, 22 percent of the children in foster care are African American and 21 percent are Hispanic, while foster families make up much smaller percentages from those backgrounds.

Exiting Foster Care

Though many children end up in long-term foster care situations, more than half of children leaving foster care are reunited with their parents or primary caregivers. Another 23 percent are adopted, either by their foster parents or by non-foster parents, meaning there is a need for both short-term and long-term foster families.

Whatever the route for a child leaving foster care, it's still going to take some time as the average stay is 19 months. Parents who seek to get their children back often must go through a treatment program or extensive training to ensure they are able to properly care for their children. Adoption also takes time as adoptive parents must undergo a background check.

Are You Ready?

Among the many questions you still have, one more big one is: Do I/We Qualify? You also will have to submit to a background check and may need to answer some hard questions, but it will be worth the effort if you truly are interested in helping these children.

A few basic qualifications you must meet:

• You must be 21 years of age or older.

• You must have an extra bedroom in your home that can accommodate foster children.

• You must have a valid Colorado driver's license and have access to a reliable vehicle that is dutifully registered in Colorado.

• You must be financially stable without the income fostering will provide.

• You cannot smoke in your home or vehicle while fostering.

You'll need to meet a few more requirements and certainly will need a love of children and physical stamina and patience to commit to these foster children. If you would like more answers or are ready to apply to become a foster parent in Colorado, contact Kids Crossing to start the process today.

Can I Foster A Child?

Jun 04, 2018

Fostering children is a rewarding and life-changing experience. There are many components involved in being a great foster parent and above all else, it's absolutely imperative that you are completely honest with yourself about whether or not you are ready to foster a child or children.

Consider the reason(s) why you wish to become a foster parent. Are you physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally prepared to deal with the sometimes heart-breaking circumstances that can land in your living room? How well do you handle stress? Do you have an adequate support system in place before taking on the demanding role of foster parent?

There are a slew of considerations to think on before choosing to provide a foster home for the thousands of children in need of a loving, temporary home but if you've done an honest evaluation of your preparedness and willingness to take that step, here are the next steps to take.

Legal Requirements

What you need to have in your home

Whether you rent or own a home or apartment, and are married, single, divorced, or widowed, the State of Colorado accepts applications from any individuals who meet the above criteria but there are additional necessities your foster children will need before you become a foster parent. 

Many of the children who are in the foster care system are coming from a place of abuse or neglect and often they will arrive with very little to call their own so it's important that your home is prepared for just about anything.

A separate room for children.

Whether you rent or own a home or apartment, your dwelling needs to have an extra room and space adequate for a child.

Personal Hygiene Items

Be sure you have extra toothbrushes, combs, and toiletries for each sex and various ages of children.

Safety Measures

Many children in the foster system come from dysfunctional families with drug or alcohol abuse so it's important that you use proper safety measures to ensure access to harmful chemicals or medicines be out of reach. 

Comfort Items

Because of the sensitive nature of taking in a traumatized child, it's helpful to have cozy things that they can embrace once they move in. Having a selection of comfy blankets or teddy bears can be an effective way to help break the ice with new children and help them feel safe enough to settle in.

Emergency Contacts

When you take in a foster child, you'll have a foster care team that includes: 

Make sure you have a list of all of the key players involved in your foster home, including social workers, doctors, therapists, and other key figures and their contact information.

How to Apply for Fostering a Child (First Steps)

It may seem like a complicated process but if becoming a foster parent is important to you, there's no time like the present to begin the process. 

The first step is to complete and submit an application package. Once you've done this, you can begin with the rest of the requirements. All told, the process involves a cost of up to $65 if you go through Kids Crossing. We ask that foster parent candidates get certified in CPR, obtain a physical, and make sure all pets in your home have proof of vaccinations.

For more information about how you can become a qualified foster parent, contact us and talk with one of our many experts about how you can start today.

Are You Ready To Be A Foster Parent?

Apr 20, 2018

Being a foster parent is as rewarding as it is challenging. Many well-intentioned people want to become foster parents to the many children in need of one. The most recently available statistics indicate there were more than 420,000 children in foster care in 2015. Their median amount of time spent in foster care was 13.5 months with the largest percentage of children (35 percent) staying between one and 11 months.

But before making the leap to providing a foster home to a child/children, it's important to honestly evaluate several things in your home and life.

Is Your Home Ready?

Most foster children are removed from their homes because they have experienced some form of abuse or neglect. Their lives have been turned upside down and, often, they can suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues related to their family homes and lives. 

Because of this, it is important that your home provides them with a sense of safety and security that they may never have experienced before.

Having their own room(s) with their own bed(s) may be a new experience for them. Be prepared with things like extra pillows or blankets, stuffed animals, night lights, and other things that might bring them comfort. Be aware, also, that some things may trigger children by reminding them of their previous home so be prepared to add or remove things that might cause them distress.

Do You Have Enough Resources?

Resources will be an important part of providing your foster children with the loving, supportive environment that can help them stay healthy and focused. Finances are an important consideration but there are other resources that will be essential to providing them with the structure and healing they will likely need.

Are there sports or other extracurricular activities they can participate in?
Do you have the time and availability to take them to mental and physical health appointments?
Are your friends and family members open to - and supportive of - your fostering?
Do you have your own down-time plans? 
Do you have your own experts you can turn to for help or guidance when if you become overwhelmed?

Can You Provide Them With What They Need?

Being a foster parent is a selfless act that is rooted in the best interest of the children but it is not a simple or easy undertaking. Foster parents take in children who have sometimes experienced unimaginable pain and turmoil. These children are going to need special care and attention, in addition to food, shelter, education, and clothing.

Remember these children are in a completely unfamiliar place and will sometimes be in need of mental health care. To this end, one of your greatest gifts to them is the continued care while they are living in your home. Your support, patience, and understanding are vital to their ongoing growth. 

Be aware that there is no guarantee on the length of time a foster child will stay in the home. Your commitment to them is going to require a lot of your time and attention and many will be shut down or distant, needing extra patience and guidance from you.

Ultimately, the role of the foster parent is an altruistic, loving attempt to inject joy, love, acceptance, and positive experiences into the lives of those who may otherwise never experience it. There is a large number of youths who age out of foster care and struggle with their adulthood, but there have been many success stories of foster children who grew into icons across the world.

Being a foster parent gives you the opportunity to be somebody's hero so make sure your decision to provide a foster home is informed and authentic. Take time to learn as much as possible about the ups and downs of fostering and, when you're ready, reach out to us and help us to help others in need.

The Life of a Foster Parent

Apr 13, 2018

Becoming a foster parent is an extremely special gift that you can give a troubled child. You're helping children have better lives and providing them with the stability and love they're desperately seeking. Opening up your home as well as your heart will teach you so many things. Whether you have a child for a few weeks or a few months, you have the opportunity to instill lifelong lessons, be a positive role model, and set a great example for what a healthy family operates like.

If you're considering fostering, there are a few things you should know before you bring a child into your home. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Preparing Your Home for a Foster Child

Before the child even steps foot into your home, it's best to be prepared. Placements can happen very quickly once you're approved to be a foster parent. 

Gather clothing of various sizes and for both genders, collect toiletry items such as toothbrushes, shampoo, etc., to ensure you're fully stocked with all the basic items they may need when they arrive. Lock away all medications, chemicals (cleaning supplies), and anything fragile (glass vases, sentimental objects) so they're completely inaccessible. Some foster kids come from destructive backgrounds and may abuse or break these items out of anger or stress.

This is the fun part, prepare a room for them! It's important the child has their own space for comfort, safety, and to make them feel like it's their home too. Since you'll have an extra mouth to feed, you'll need to make sure you're fully stocked with food. Pick up a special treat for them! After they arrive you can ask what their favorites are.

Organizing, cleaning, having some games/movies on hand, and stocking up on common healthcare items like painkillers and a thermometer is wise too.

Bringing the Child into Your Home

Having a child stay in your home can be stressful for everyone. Adding a child to your home is a personal experience, and getting comfortable will take some time. Try to remember to say "our" home rather than "my" home to make them feel more at ease. As soon as the child walks in the door, it's very important to establish yourself as a parent. Lay down the ground rules and what you expect of them. (Especially with older children). Ease their fears and relate to them that you're here to help them, provide them with basic necessities and to let you know if they're hungry, thirsty or feeling sick. 

Introduce the child to other family members and then give them a tour of your entire house, showing important things they'll need to know. End the tour with their bedroom and let them get acclimated with some alone time. They're probably feeling overwhelmed, so some personal space is important. Depending on the child's age, situation, and personality some of these details may need to be adjusted. Remember, every child is different!

Bonding Activities to Do with the Child

Simple activities can help make foster kids feel welcomed and loved. After a little while, hang pictures of them in your home. Read books together. Brush their hair while singing to them. Color, cook, and eat together. Go to the park, shopping, or movies together. Set up a solid bedtime routine every night. Paint their nails. There are so many activities you can do together that will strengthen the bond between you both.

Overall, the most important activity you can do with them is simply spending quality time with them.

Reuniting the Child with their Family

The best way to set the entire situation up for success is by forming a good relationship with the foster child's family right from the start. When speaking to the child's family don't use negative or cruel words or bring up the past. Communicate and keep talking after the child has been reunited. Keep an open line of communication to discuss behaviors, how the child is transitioning, who's handling their homework, etc. Some of these conversations may seem uncomfortable but keep pushing to keep the lines of communication open for the child's best interest. You can also communicate through the child's social worker if that's easier.

Transitions are hard. Very hard. It can take weeks or even months to adjust depending on the child. Everyone's struggling with the change and going through some tough emotions. Remember these feelings are not going to last forever. You helped the child get through a tough chapter in their life. You provided love, support, and everything they needed when they had no one else to turn to. Pat yourself on the back and feel proud. Give yourself some time to recover, and then get ready to open your home to the next child who needs you.

Being a foster parent is extremely meaningful and rewarding. For more information or to apply to be a foster parent, contact Kids Crossing today.

Making Your Foster Child Feel Welcome

Mar 29, 2018

When a child is placed in foster care, it is a difficult situation to deal with, no matter the reason behind it. Sometimes the biological parents are willing but simply not able to care for their children and both parent and child are upset that they are being separated. Sometimes the reason for a child being placed in foster care is due to the death of their parent or parents, which increases the feelings of sadness, loss, uncertainty, and fear of the future. Often there is no available biological family member who can step in and take over the care of a child, and this can leave the child feeling rootless, unwanted, or unloved, even if that is not the case. Being understanding about the conflicting and confusing emotions a foster child is dealing with and extending kindness, patience, and being accommodating can help make a very difficult situation somewhat easier. Part of helping a child deal with the difficulties of being placed in foster care involves making that child feel welcome when they arrive at your home.

What can you do to help make a foster child feel welcome? Foster kids need kindness, love, and support just like every other kid. Because of being separated from their biological families, they often need a little extra patience and understanding, especially during the initial transition period. A foster child may be shy, withdrawn, and initially uncommunicative. Do not take this as a sign of rejection; your foster child needs to get to know you and understand that you want them in your home. They need to feel included without being pressured to act a certain way in order to be accepted by you. The more you are prepared to receive a foster child into your home, the more welcome you can make him or her feel. However, even if it’s an emergency placement there are a few simple things you can do to make the transition easier.

The Arrival. When your foster child arrives at your home, be one of the first welcoming faces. If the child is young, kneel down to eye level when you introduce yourself. Offer a few options for your child to call you, and don’t expect to be called “mom” or “dad” initially, although you can offer that as an option. Don’t force physical contact such as hand holding, but make it available if the child is younger, as this could be reassuring and help to start forming a bond between the two of you. If the child does not welcome your touch, respect his or her space. There may be a history of physical or sexual abuse, which can make a child hesitant or anxious about being touched. It’s wise to err on the side of caution and do your best to make the child feel welcome and comfortable without expectations.

The Welcome Basket. If you have a welcome basket ready for your foster child, it can offer reassurance that you were expecting and anticipating his or her arrival, and that they are worth getting a gift. Fill it with age appropriate toys, books, clothing, and a treat. Having a welcome basket prepared will let your child know you care. Include a small family book with photos of family members, pets, and a list of general house rules. Talk about your family’s favorite hobbies, activities, and traditions. Be sure to leave room for your foster child to add their own family history, favorite foods, activities, and hobbies. Leave a blank page for a wish list of things they would like to do or places they would like to visit.

The Home Tour: Show your foster child around the house. Explain that she’s now part of your family and can feel free to use things around the house. This can help give her a sense of belonging, which may be a first for her. If you have other children, have them join you to help start bonding with your foster child. End the tour with her room. If you have enough advance notice of your foster child’s arrival, you can ask the caseworker what your foster child likes and have it waiting for her, such as a favorite book or movie. Having a nightlight can help make the room feel safer, especially if the child is young. Allow your child the option to rearrange things in the room if it will help things more comfortable for her.

The Ice Breaker: Once your child has had time to get settled, gauge her mood and see if she’s open to talking. If so, start by asking questions that show that you’re truly interested without being intrusive, like asking if there’s anything you can do to make her more comfortable. Make yourself available if there are any questions. All of this will help build a bond, but don’t feel rejected if she doesn’t want to talk. It’s likely been a very difficult, and perhaps even scary day with a lot to process. Keep in mind that your child’s previous experiences with adults may have led to trust issues. Remember you are still a stranger, in whose house where your foster child is now expected to live. There may be genuine feelings of fear, and it’s important not to try and force your child to adapt or open up to you immediately. Patience is key to learning to live with one another.

Foster parenting is a serious commitment to provide love and support for a child and family in need, at a critical and often very emotional time for both the child and the family. The impact of being in the foster system is life changing for all involved, and becoming a foster parent is a big commitment of time, resources, support, emotions, and care. Being kind to the biological parent or parents, if they are present, can help everyone understand that you are there to help make the situation better. Remember that foster care is about helping to rebuild families and bring them back together, not split them up. In the end, love and patience will win the day.

If you think you want to become a foster parent in the Colorado foster care system, we encourage you to first educate yourself on the requirements. Kid’s Crossing is a private, non-profit, 501c3 Child Placement Agency licensed by the State of Colorado providing resources and training for foster parents. Our agency was founded by foster parents, for foster parents, and we understand the heart, commitment, and dedication required to foster a child. For more information on Colorado foster care and/or becoming a foster parent in Colorado Springs, call Kid’s Crossing at (719) 632-4569.