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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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May Is National Foster Care Awareness Month

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. A day in which we celebrate the love of mothers. But some children don’t get to enjoy either a mother or a father’s love. May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. Foster care is a way that some of these children get to enjoy that love. On any given day

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. A day in which we celebrate the love of mothers. But some children don’t get to enjoy either a mother or a father’s love. May is National Foster Care Awareness Month. Foster care is a way that some of these children get to enjoy that love.

On any given day there are more than 440,000 children in foster care in the United States or about one in every 170 kids in our country. Foster care is defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as “24-hour substitute care for children placed away from their parents or guardians and for whom the State agency has placement and care responsibility.” The placements can be in group homes, institutions, or the homes of family members, but the bulk of them are with non-relative foster families.

“Foster Care awareness month gives us a platform to highlight the hard work that everyone involved with foster care does every day as well as the need for more foster families. The foster care system is invisible to most people,” Jessie Young, a caseworker for the local chapter of KidsPeace, told Webb Weekly. “I am happy to bring attention to the children in our community who need loving, stable homes, kids who need caring adults to love and teach and guide them through life. Most of us take this for granted. But there are so many children who have been hurt and neglected who deserve a loving and supportive family.”

She continued, “There are many ways people can help! You can be a foster parent of course, or ‘adopt’ a child at Christmas and purchase gifts for them. We have fundraisers and look for donations to have special events for foster families and kids, like a roller skating party or a day at an amusement park. We also LOVE donations of gift cards and gift certificates that we can give our foster families as a way to show our appreciation — especially this time of the year.”

KidsPeace offers traditional foster care while also specializing in providing therapeutic foster care programs, serving youth who need treatment for mental or behavioral health concerns. This is different than traditional foster care programs, where the primary need of the youth they serve is a safe and secure placement and if treatment is needed it is delivered outside the home. In therapeutic homes, the foster families work closely with mental health professionals to deliver treatment in the home itself.

The heroes of foster care, according to Young, are obviously the foster parents who open their homes to these children and give them a chance to rise above their challenges and move towards healthy and successful lives — like Scott and Lori, Williamsport area residents who have fostered 22 children in their five years of working with KidsPeace Foster Care.

“It’s very rewarding, knowing how you made an impact on a child’s life,” Lori said. “It’s also amazing to watch them grow, and the changes that happen from when they first are placed in your home to when they leave.” But she is clear-eyed about the reality of the situation, describing caring for kids who have experienced significant trauma as “very challenging … one heck of a roller coaster ride!”

That is a sentiment echoed by foster parent Corine, who along with her partner have fostered two groups of siblings in the past couple of years. “I think people go into it with rose-colored glasses and think all things will be wonderful and loving. But the reality is, you need to take into account the kids needs and where they come from. They need you to treat them in a super loving way, but they may not treat you that way in return, not right away.”

But, Corine adds, being a foster parent, “is worth every frustration, it’s worth every tear. You have great moments where you see progress in your kids and how you are affecting them in a positive way.” Foster care, she says, “is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

This spring, Scott and Lori began a new adventure, finalizing the adoption of one of their foster children after having him in their care for nearly two years. Lori noted that during the adoption hearing, when the judge explained that the boy could have a new last name, the boy asked the judge for permission to change his first name as well. When asked why, he told the court he wanted both names to change because, “It’s a whole new life and family — a whole new everything.”

Note: foster parents are referred to by first names only, per KidsPeace’s privacy policies.

For information about KidsPeace Foster Care and about becoming a foster parent, visit fostercare.com/Williamsport or call 570-326-7811.

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