Opinion: Michigan needs far more foster parents
More than 13,000 children are in foster care in Michigan, and our state desperately needs more foster and adoptive parents. As branch director for Bethany Christian Services of Southeast Michigan, my staff and I continuously struggle to find enough families willing and able to care for these vulnerable children and youth.
Our state has 82 counties but nearly half of the children in the foster care system live in Wayne County. It is our commitment and our hope that we can build a stronger foster home base in the Wayne County area to better support children and families that are coming into care.
Foster parents could be the answer to restoring our hurting communities.
Throughout the state of Michigan, we need more families committed to caring for and supporting children during temporary placement, or adoptive families if reunification with a child’s family of origin is not possible. We especially need more families willing to accept sibling groups of two or more or older children.
We can’t have a system that is able to remove a child from his or her home but is then unable to support that child in a family environment after removal. Children thrive best in a family environment, and they need a place to call home. If homes are not found, some children end up in shelters. This is a devastating outcome, and it should never happen.
Currently, Bethany Christian Services of Southeast Michigan manages about 160 foster care cases and 115 licensed homes. We see between 65 and 85 referrals weekly, but we can only accept, on average, five or six referrals monthly because we don’t have enough homes available.
To combat this challenge, we are working with a host of relatives to become licensed so that children can remain connected to and with their families. We hope to build a system that supports children in and around their communities of origin, and a system that supports these children’s biological families with a variety of services so that they can eventually be reunited.
It takes a village to raise a child, but we can be part of that network of support for these children and their struggling families. As we celebrate National Adoption Month this November, I urge you to consider becoming a foster or adoptive parent. If you have room at the dinner table, love in your heart and a desire to support children and families at a pivotal moment in their lives, you can be the answer they need. And they need you now!
You don’t have to have all the answers; you just have to be willing to say yes. We at Bethany will help you do the rest. This month, we celebrate families who have answered the call, and the children who are sleeping peacefully each night in loving homes.
Every child deserves to be loved, connected and empowered through family. Family has the ability to connect us, transform us, and change the trajectory of a child’s life forever.
Of all the ways you can show love, foster care is one of the greatest. Becoming a foster parent could be the most rewarding role of your life. Will you be the change a child needs?
For more information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent, call me at (248) 414-4080 or visit bethany.org.
Starr Allen-Pettway is branch director for Bethany Christian Services of Southeast Michigan.