Opinion: Detroit kids deserve foster homes

Starr Allen-Pettway

The beginning of this decade saw a decrease of children in the foster care system. Unfortunately, within recent years the United States has seen a spike of children entering into the system. With over 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system, including 13,000 in Michigan with nearly half in Wayne County, children aging out of foster care are at higher risk for homelessness and incarceration. Children in the foster care system are some of the most vulnerable as they continually seek a safe place to call home and are in constant search of a loving, permanent family, no matter what age.

Heaven, 6, looks at the tea party set she just received at her home in Farmington Hills, Mich. on Dec. 24, 2017. In addition to raising her own children, Michelle Henry has two foster twins, Heaven and Nevaeh, 6, since they were two weeks old. Painting with a Twist adopted the family for the holidays and delivered Christmas presents on Christmas Eve.
(Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

Detroit has seen a growing need for foster families in the city, as oftentimes children are placed out of their own communities and into the suburbs where they have a difficult time maintaining contact with family, friends and neighbors. It also impacts their routine, which is essential in childhood development. Keeping children close what is familiar, even when in foster care, can have lasting positive effects for their growth, education and sense of identity as they navigate this tumultuous time.

Unfortunately, there are so few registered foster families in the city of Detroit. To address the need of local children, officials in Wayne County and Bethany Christian Services, a global nonprofit committed to bringing and keeping families together, are working to recruit more foster families. The ultimate goal is to extend the organization’s foster care services in Detroit and provide critical programming to those who need it in the city. Bethany recognizes this issue and hopes to provide greater access to foster care resources for local families, so they may more easily aid in decreasing trauma experienced by children in foster care.

Children of all ages and circumstances in Detroit are in need of foster families, including those who are teenagers and may be experiencing tougher circumstances than most, some of which have moved from home to home for several years. Sometimes, something as simple as remaining in their own community can be enough for these children to thrive and flourish where they are comfortable; in their own neighborhoods with a local family. In Madison Heights, where Bethany has provided foster care services for 12 years, we’ve seen the benefits of keeping children in foster care within the community.

Currently, we have 120 licensed homes in the Wayne County area, with only two registered foster families in Detroit proper. The children of Detroit need more resources. I’m hopeful the residents of Detroit and other organizations will join us in supporting these children so they can continue to call Detroit home.

It takes a village to raise a child—a phrase commonly used when talking about children, but that’s only because it is so true. Certainly, a strong family structure is the first step in successfully raising a child, but the impact a community (village) has on a child’s future is unquestioned. To that end, I am confident the people of Detroit and organizations supporting the city are fully capable of coming together and providing the resources necessary to ensure every child knows the love of a forever family.

Starr Allen-Pettway is the Detroit branch director for Bethany Christian Services