ELMIRA - May is National Foster Care Month, a time to call attention to the needs of the over 430,000 American children and youth in foster care and the foster parents, volunteers, mentors, child welfare professionals, and policymakers who play a vital role in keeping foster care temporary. Both the Adoptive Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 and the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 emphasized the need for child welfare agencies and courts to work together to use foster care as a short-term service in achieving the desired outcomes of child safety, permanency, and well-being and of family preservation. This year, the theme for National Foster Care Month is "Empowering Caregivers and Strengthening Families”. This highlights the importance of identifying, supporting, and developing prospective and current foster and kinship care families. Resource families, which include foster parents, foster-to-adopt families, and relative/kinship caregivers, are critical partners in the foster care process. This May, National Foster Care Month pays special attention to the resource families who offer children and youth in foster care permanent homes and connections. To the children, youth, families, caregivers, and professionals, celebrating means taking action. In Chemung County, we have approximately 110 children living in foster care.
Foster Care Month also honors foster families across the nation for providing safe, stable and supportive homes for children and young adults who are temporarily unable to live with their birth families. Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli has proclaimed May "Foster Parent Recognition Month in Chemung County" to honor the foster families in our county for their dedication, love, protection, stability and understanding they provide to our children.
The Chemung County Department of Social Services will be holding the 19th Annual Foster Parent Banquet on May 16, to honor these families. During the dinner, the "McDonough Award" and the "Lifesaver Awards" will be presented to foster parents who have excelled in their foster parenting roles. This year the guest speaker will be a foster parent that has partnered with birth families and they will speak about their experience
No matter their age, all children in foster care need a meaningful connection to at least one caring adult who becomes a supportive and lasting presence in their lives. The County is always seeking caring and compassionate families, and individuals, to foster infants, young children, adolescents, sibling groups or parenting teens, as well as children with special needs. Foster parents are provided pre-certification and on-going training, financial and medical support to meet the needs of the child, 24-hour emergency services, caseworker support for the foster family and the children, and a foster parent support group. "Recruitment for foster and adoptive families is continuous effort, no matter how much time you have to give, you can make a difference that can change a life for a young person in foster care." said Karen Fitzpatrick, Supervisor of the Homefinding Unit. "We hold information and orientation activities every month. In addition to regular foster homes, Chemung County is actively recruiting for homes that will foster adolescents. We also have a need for homes that can foster large sibling groups and children with special needs.”
For the young people in foster care, the presence of caring adults can make an important difference. There are many ways we can all become involved to help these children and youth and their families during National Foster Care Month and throughout the year. Visit Child Welfare Information Gateway's National Foster Care Month webpage at www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth to find:
- Information about the Children's Bureau Training and Technical Assistance Network and Children's Bureau-funded projects, whose work supports the national effort of keeping foster care temporary
- A link to the National Foster Care Month website, which features information about foster care, ways to get involved, the history of National Foster Care Month, success stories, and events and promotions
- Resources related to foster care and permanency
For additional information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 1.800.394.3366.
If you would like to learn more about how you can change the life of a child in foster care call the Chemung County Department of Social Services at 737-5557. You can also speak with representatives from DSS at the orientation session on May 17 at 5:00 p.m. at the Department of Social Services offices located at 425 Pennsylvania Avenue in Elmira.