We need more foster parents to care for children in crisis

Guest Editorial

As the number of children in Minnesota’s foster care system has grown — from 11,500 in 2013 to 16,500 in 2018 — there is a greater need than ever for foster parents to provide temporary, critical care to children in crisis.

The good news is many people who might not think they qualify to be foster parents are actually eligible, and now is a good time to consider the commitment during Foster Care Month in May.

“During this time of great need for more foster parents, we want to dispel the myths about who can or can’t play this role,” said Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey.

“You can be married or single, homeowners or renters, with or without children. You don’t need to have a lot of experience, because we will provide training and offer support along the way. What’s most important is a commitment to ensuring children will be safe, loved and well cared for in your home.”

Potential foster parents need to be licensed and approved, and the licensing process includes a background check and a home study.

Training is available online in English and Spanish and in person through the Minnesota Child Welfare Training System. Financial support is also available, as is access to a variety of resources for successful foster parenting.

Counties consider placing foster children safely with relatives first, understanding the importance of preserving family connections. When that is not possible, agencies seek to place children with foster parents who live in the same community.

They make efforts to recruit a pool of foster families that reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of the children for whom foster homes are needed.

While more than 55 percent of children and youth in foster care in 2017 were non-white, only 30 percent of foster families were non-white.

“Minnesota needs a more diverse pool of foster parents to best meet children’s needs,” Lourey said. “Foster parents who are African American and American Indian are in especially high demand.”

Some children need foster care for a few days, some are in foster homes for years. The median length of time for children staying in a foster home was 297 days in 2017.

Last year 58 percent of foster children leaving care were reunited with their birth parents or legal guardians, while 18 percent were adopted and about 11 percent moved in permanently with a relative or other caregiver.

“Our goal is always to return foster children home safely,” said Lourey. “In the meantime, we appreciate the many dedicated foster parents who step in to nurture, mentor and guide the children in their care.”

Adults considering foster parenting can get more information about the application process on the Minnesota Department of Human Services website at mn.gov/dhs/people-we-serve/children-and-families/services/foster-care.

 

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