Renaming Foster Care
Years ago there was a Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit with Mike Myers impersonating a female talk show host that always ended with a statement to be discussed among the guests. They always took a phrase and questioned how it is commonly understood. As we celebrate Foster Care Awareness month, I’m wondering in the spirit of this SNL skit if we would ask, “Foster Care….is neither foster nor care……talk amongst yourselves.”
The number of children in foster care is staggering: nationwide more than 500,000 children, in California 100,000 children and in Los Angeles County, more than 33,000 children receive child welfare services. Though the numbers have been reduced over the last several years, they are still daunting. For each of these children, the disruption of their lives is traumatic, the impact significant and the potential for long-term failure frightening.
So what of the foster care, child welfare system? While many of us know it as a worthwhile endeavor making a positive difference in the lives of children, nationally both “foster care” and “child welfare” continue to evoke negative impressions. Many actually do ask, what kind of “care” is it? The other day I received a call from the parent of one of our residents very concerned that her daughter was identified as a foster child in materials she received recently!
Maybe it is time to rename foster care? Of course, renaming it without changing the system would only be a gimmick. The only solution is an unwavering resolve to provide a system of care that never loses sight of the needs of each child and family; a system that, although always focused on safety, is committed to providing families with the resources they need to care for their children; a system that is not punitive, but rather oriented around what is effective and committed to strengthening families.
The fact is that the child welfare system is changing to become more child driven and family friendly, and these efforts have contributed to the decline in the number of children entering the foster care system. The need of each child and family in care, however, has not diminished and the challenge to provide them the resources and services continues to be great.
In an effort to “rename” foster care here at Hillsides, we have developed an ingenious way to rally community support while drawing attention to the needs of the children and families we serve. Check out Foster Soles and join in supporting our efforts.