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.