May is National Foster Care Month
There are more than 391,000 children and youth in foster care in the U.S. About 80% have significant mental health needs due to complex traumas from entering foster care. Mental and behavioral health is the largest unmet need for children and teens in foster care.
This year, National Foster Care Month will help raise awareness about the importance of prioritizing mental health. This year’s theme, “Strengthening Minds. Uplifting Families,” emphasizes how it is essential to create a child welfare system that takes a holistic and culturally responsive approach to supporting the mental health needs of our nation’s diverse populations.
Support for mental health can mean different things to different people, and the lens with which we access mental health services must include a consideration of the culture, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, and disability of the recipient to ensure services are effective.
Here in Clay County, more than 300 youth are in foster care on any given day. As of the latest statistics, 474 children were in foster care for a total of about 112,800 days.
Even if you are not a foster parent, there are many things you can do to support them in your community. Here are some great ideas from the Florida Department of Children and Families:
- Free haircuts, dental care, clothing, or transportation.
- Free services based on your business: construction, home furnishings, family dinners at restaurants, mechanic services.
- Scholarships or free lessons for summer camp, sports teams, dance, art, or music.
- Providing school supplies (books, pencils, book bags, paper).
- Providing jobs for older youth
- Mentoring a child
You or your organization can contribute money or donate goods:
- For scholarships, summer camps, field trips, or music lessons.
- For holidays, birthdays, and graduations.
- Other items such as car seats, high chairs, toys, luggage or clothes.
You can support agencies and the court system by:
- Recruiting foster/adoptive parents in your community.
- Hosting social events for foster/adoptive parents (picnics, parties, bowling).
Meet The Slater Family
We have been married for over 15 years, and have 3 beautiful daughters (21,14, and 10 years old). We have lived in the Jacksonville area for 13 years and enjoy visiting Disney. We spend a lot of time on the softball field as we volunteer to coach. We have been foster parents for almost 4 years and have had 16 children placed in our home during that time period. We have also done respite for many others. We chose to foster to help give children a safe and loving home while they are waiting for reunification. One piece of advice that we would give anyone while they are preparing to foster is to remember your "why" and every child and adult deserves a 2nd chance.