Children Need All of Us
By Stephanie Doore, Foster Home Development Coordinator at Community Health and Counseling services

Over the past decade, the media and our neighbors have done much to enlighten us about child abuse. They have helped us to broaden our definition of abuse and have removed the cloak of secrecy to reveal those among us who would do injustice to our most vulnerable members of society. Abusers have many faces; they are men, women and sometimes other children. Many times it is an adult family member who inflicts abuse on a child. We now understand that physical abuse is not the only abuse children experience; words deeply scar in their own painful way and leave behind bruises that can take considerable time to heal. Numbers of children are being sexually assaulted and robbed of a carefree childhood.

Adults who hurt children often point to their own circumstances as justification for their actions. Factors such as economic, vocational and financial stressors, substance abuse or misuse, health issues and years of generational influence are blamed for poor choices. It would be neglectful not to mention the impact of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic on families. The pandemic’s tentacles have impacted the financial, emotional and physical stability of many families, causing profound upheavals in daily living and exacerbating stressors that were already present.

What the media has not done particularly well is to represent what happens to those children who are removed from their parents’ custody while their parents work on making the necessary changes to create a healthier and safer lifestyle so their children can return to them. The reality is that if there are no extended family members to step in and care for the children, we rely on those who have stepped forward to become foster parents. Foster parents welcome children into their home and provide for their needs in a nurturing setting, while receiving assistance from the Department of Health and Human Services and; in some cases, treatment foster care agencies. When we believe the stereotypes relied upon to sell movies and entertain us, we miss the somber reality of the problem and have a difficult time knowing what we would be signing up for if we stepped forward to foster. When we see the worst case scenarios of foster parents who make the 5:00 news, it’s important to remember that for every one of those stories there are many more stories of foster parents who are working on a daily basis to show children placed in their care that they matter, that they are loved and that they have a purpose in this world.
What we do know to be true about foster care is that:
  • Children enter foster care most often due to their parents’ inability to safely care for them and provide for their needs.
  • Foster care is usually meant to be temporary while the biological parents work to resolve the safety issues that caused their children to be removed. The goal is almost always to reunify children with their families if this can be done safely. Reunifications routinely occur.
  • ALL children need adults to encourage, coach, teach, respect and offer unconditional and positive care to them.
  • Many children who have spent time in the foster care system graduate from high school, attend college or a trade program, have children of their own and work in a variety of settings.
  • All children have dreams and goals, even if they are unspoken.
  • Teens “graduating” into a healthy adulthood typically have had at least ONE adult who has been actively interested and committed to helping them reach their potential.

As we prepare to observe National Foster Care month in May, we wholeheartedly thank all foster parents who are shaping tomorrow’s future by helping children grow into their potential. Without you, well, quite frankly, the picture of child welfare would be unimaginable. We also believe that people are willing to help when you ask them for assistance. Today, we are asking others to join with us to ensure that we have enough homes for children who enter foster care. Maine has a shortage of foster homes and adding to this concern is the fact that many current homes are planning to retire in the near future, which will make this need even more critical. Some of our greatest needs are for homes willing/able to care for teens, sibling groups or LGBTQ youth. Being able to understand how a child’s previous trauma manifests in current behaviors is also important. Call to learn more about what fostering would look like for your family.

We know not everyone can or wants to be a treatment foster parent. Here are some other but also very important ways you can help:
  • Share the need for foster parents with friends, family and people you see at events such as PTA meetings, school events, etc and encourage them to find out more.
  • Hang some posters for us in the community.
  • Ask your faith-based community to share information in the bulletins or the PowerPoint announcements.
  • If you have connections to businesses, ask them if they would allow us to display some of our ?printed materials.
  • If you are part of a group that is looking for a speaker, consider inviting us.

On behalf of the Maine children who will benefit from your support, we THANK YOU!