USA (MNN) – May is National Foster Care Month in America. Foster care is a topic that doesn’t often get a spotlight, and it is easy for foster children to feel forgotten.
Bethany Christian Services’ Kim Offut says, “This is a time for us to really bring awareness to the number of children who are in foster care across the nation. So that’s why we have this month — to bring awareness, but to also identify families who are willing to step forward to be foster families.”
Statistics on Foster Children
Children’s Rights reports there are about 443,000 kids in foster care at any given time. However, the number of kids who spend time in the system throughout the year is much higher.
For instance, in 2017, there were more than 690,000 kids who spent time in foster care.
“Children who are in foster care, if I can just kind of explain how they enter foster care, they’ve been abused or neglected in their birth family home. So there’s a temporary situation that is happening in their family home that prevents them from remaining at home,” Offut says.
Of these children, about 70 percent are school-aged, and about 23,000 age out of the system every year.
For those children who do not have a biological or foster family walking alongside them, they are forced to begin providing for themselves entirely.
“Literally, at the age of 18, the doors of the foster care system are [closed] and you’re expected, at that age, to really figure life out on your own. You don’t have a family. You don’t have that foster family. You don’t have that place to call home. Some of our kids have not even graduated from high school. They’ve never held jobs. They just don’t know what to do with their lives.”
National Foster Youth Institute reports that 20 percent of kids who age out of the system will immediately become homeless. Less than three percent of kids who age out will earn a college degree, and many kids will be incarcerated or die within one year after aging out of the system.
Amarillo reported on statistics provided by Arrow. The statistics showed 80 percent of the prison population had once been in the foster system, and girls who were in the foster system are 600 percent more likely to become pregnant by the age of 21 than girls who were not in the system
“Then that cycle just continues and continues to repeat itself,” Offut says, as girls often send their children back into the system.
Bethany’s Foster Program
Bethany sees that placing kids into loving, Christian foster homes before they age out is important because it tends to give kids better chances in life.
“When you have a family — whether that is your biological family or if it’s a temporary foster family — the outcomes for our children [and] the future is much brighter because they have that safety, that security.”
Bethany’s goal for their foster care program is to place children in temporary, safe homes. Once the situation is safe again, they place the children back with their biological families.
However, since there are more than 400,000 children in foster care at any given time, there is a great need for foster families.
“There is a need there. We need more families to step forward to open up their hearts and their homes to kids who are in foster care.”
Offut shares that her family has been foster parents to many kids before, giving them safety and love, and they’ve even adopted.
“You are making a difference,” she says.
“I see families come forward and they say they want to foster as many kids as they can. They want to love on as many kids as they can and really make an impact on a child’s life… They’re making that impact because that child remembers you. They remember your kindness. They remember the warm meals.”
If you feel moved to act as a foster parent or family, pray. Pray for the Lord’s guidance and for the children in the system. Then, take your next step with Bethany and help be a loving, Christian home to kids who need you.
Header photo courtesy of Bethany Christian Services.