This month, I am sending a special “thank you” to 675 wonderful families that made the choice, at great personal sacrifice, to change their community for the better. In addition, I want to thank and acknowledge family members, policymakers, child welfare professionals and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care.
About a decade ago, we ran a foster parent recruitment campaign called Everyday Heroes. The message was simple: those who volunteer to foster abused and neglected children perform heroic work and are worthy of their own tights and capes. Heroic is still the best word I can find to describe foster parents.
More than 100 years ago, the U.S. Children’s Bureau affirmed the importance of keeping children in their own homes whenever possible and, when that was impossible, providing a “home life” with foster families. Foster care is a temporary support when parents are unable to keep their children safe; it is not a substitute for parents.
Although we make every attempt to keep children with their families and serve them in their own homes, there are times when children do need to be temporarily moved from their home. We work hard to keep them with families or close friends. These “kinship families” are similar to foster families – they step forward and take on the great responsibility of temporarily raising someone else’s child, at their own great sacrifice.
Despite our work and commitment to birth and kinship families, foster families remain an incredibly important part of the child welfare system. Without them, the system won’t work. We can’t always keep a child in their home and we can’t always find kin to take them. So, on any given day, hundreds of children in our care stay in foster homes. Honoring foster parents who provide a temporary safe and stable home for children is critical and important.
Our incredible partners who license foster homes also deserve a thank you! Although we have 675 certified foster families in Hamilton County, there is still a great need. Many of those families accept only babies. Some won’t take teenagers, or children with special needs or large sibling sets. If you have even an inkling of interest, please explore fostering with one of our partners.
The work is challenging. Foster families temporarily interrupt their lives to ensure a child has a safe, loving home. They attend countless doctor’s appointments, therapy appointments, family visits, school events, extracurricular activities and more for someone else’s child, placing the child’s needs above their own. And, if everything goes right, they must say good bye to a child they may have grown to love as their own.
It is a difficult job. Sometimes, it is a thankless job. Not today. Today, I personally say thank you to the 675 families in Hamilton County – and all those in Butler, Clermont, Warren, Montgomery and other counties — that care for someone else’s child as if they are their own. You are truly everyday heroes.