They would fit inside One Classroom
The number of children living in dependency in Jefferson County is easy to picture; if we sat them all together, they would fit inside of one classroom, the number hovering around 30 children. The majority of these children go to live with relatives. Jefferson County does not have nearly enough foster homes to receive the remaining children that are without relatives to care for them.
To be a Child
If foster homes are in short supply- as they are now- children are placed in foster homes out of Jefferson County. People outside of the situation would be shocked to know that we send kids to other towns, other cities, all the time simply because there is no one here to make space for them. When you are a child placed out of your community, you experience huge dislocation as you leave everything you know and start at a new school, with new therapists, new friends. You also have to travel long distances, often with a stranger hired to transport you to court-mandated family visits. If you return home after foster care, you have to make transitions again, in reverse.
If you imagine your own child going through this upheaval, these hours of travel and transition, you can see how this is not acceptable. If you imagine a child with a history of abuse and neglect experiencing it, you can see that we must work together to change it immediately.
To Be a Foster Parent
Foster parents have decided to make room at the table for the most vulnerable among us and yet they often work without anyone to call for support. The child's caseworker will likely change several times while the child is in care and matters become more complicated if the child originates from outside of Jefferson County. This means when the going gets rough, as it often does, there is no one to call. Parents often work in isolation, not knowing anyone else who is fostering locally.
The parenting of a hurt child takes tremendous resources of time, education, and heart. Foster parents and relative caregivers need and deserve our recognition. When we lose a foster parent due to frustration and anger at the system, the effects ripple in our small community. Not only have we lost a current licensed home, we have also lost our future homes.
We Can Do Better
Our town is prime to invent a new approach to fostering. Some cities have created foster villages to house kids and foster families within reach of each other. In Jefferson County, we are lucky enough to already function as a village. We are so connected as a community that it would not take much to organize our efforts around what few foster families we have left.
The saying goes that not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone can help a child in foster care. We extend that belief to say that every one of us has something to offer the family that is fostering.
This is a statement grounded in ethics and practicality. Our commitment of support is the powerful recruitment tool we have been missing.