With over 21,000 children in the Arizona foster care system, it is important to stop and reflect on who these children are and what help they need.
Why are they in foster care?
The number one reason children come into care is neglect (85% based on the latest report). This means lack of appropriate food, supervision, and shelter. Children also come into care when they experience physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Often times children who come into care because of neglect later disclose that they have also been physically and or sexually abused.
How old are they?
The largest percentage of children in care are between the ages of 1 and 5 (approximately 33%) followed by the ages of 13-17 (21%). When foster homes cannot be found for these children, they are placed in shelters and group homes. In Arizona, approximately 1 out of every 5 children in state care live in a group facility.
How long do they stay in foster care?
Children can come into your home for as short as a few days and as long as a few years. Many factors affect the amount of time in care, but 50% of the time their stay lasts between 1 and 12 months. 56% of children are eventually reunified with their parents.
What behaviors do I need to be prepared to parent?
Behavior is the language of children. As such, children will display a wide range of behaviors such as tantrums to express frustration, hording to express fear of starvation, lying to express fear of abuse, and bed wetting from night terrors. They need loving foster parents who will not personalize or shame them for these behaviors but rather hold their hand through the healing process. Foster parents need a good support team and behavior management skills in order to meet this challenge. Behavior and behavior management are addressed at length during the 30 hours of pre-service training.
What resources are available?
Children come fully insured with Arizona’s comprehensive medical and dental program (CMDP). CMDP covers a child’s need for dental, health, and behavioral care. There are also many non-profit organizations ready to help with clothing, educational resources, and access to scholarships for extra-curricular activities. Arizona also provides WIC services to children under five and the free lunch program to school aged children. Children in state care also qualify for financial assistance in enrolling in day care or before and after school programs.
Godly, patient, and loving foster parents are needed to care for these precious children as they wait to re-unify with their birth families or to be placed in an adoptive home. Who are the children in foster care? They are real children, with real needs, and real stories. If you feel God might be calling you to this task, please consider attending an orientation to find out how!
Not ready to foster? Here are five ways to help now!