Thursday, June 30, 2011

National Foster Care Awareness Month

In recognition of Foster Care Awareness Month this past May, ywca clark county would like to take a moment to focus on the children who wait in foster homes for stability to return to their lives and the teenagers who are preparing to transition out of care. On behalf of the roughly 800 children in foster care in Clark County, it is important to raise awareness of the issues that impact foster youth and to encourage individuals in our community to support them.

Each year in Clark County, over 300 children are removed from their homes because of abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Children and youth of every race, ethnicity, culture, and age group are placed in foster care when their parents or guardians are no longer able to ensure their essential well-being. These children need stable, loving care until they can either safely reunite with their families or establish lifelong relationships with a nurturing adult.

Even though a child may have experienced abuse or neglect in their home, that lifestyle is all he or she knows. It is their framework for understanding life. In a foster home, the smells are different, the food is unique, the foster family may not look like the child and they may even speak a different language. Navigating the newness can be especially stressful to a child.

About 30% of children in foster care have severe emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems and most children struggle with the following issues:

  • blaming themselves and feeling guilty about removal from their birth parents
  • wishing to return to birth parents even if they were abused by them
  • feeling unwanted if awaiting adoption for a long time
  • feeling helpless about multiple changes in foster parents or social workers
  • having mixed emotions about attaching to foster parents
  • feeling insecure and uncertain about their future
Children in foster care between the ages of 15 and 21 are in a unique position of transitioning out of state care and becoming adults. For these children, becoming independent and having to make life altering decisions is a scary thought, especially when decisions have always been made for them. Research shows that young people who age out of foster care are far more likely than their peers to endure homelessness, poverty, compromised mental and physical health, insufficient education, unemployment, incarceration, and early pregnancy and parenthood. These youth are in a vulnerable position and need kind, compassionate adults to help them create their own road map for life.

At ywca clark county, we offer two programs that serve foster children and youth in our community. Not everyone can become a foster parent or dedicate time to volunteering, but don’t be discouraged anyone can help change the life of a child.

Volunteer with the Court Appointed Special Advocates Program (CASA) at ywca clark county and learn how to advocate in court for abused, neglected, or abandoned children. CASA volunteers are often the one stable, supportive adult that the child is able to connect with. To learn more, visit

Volunteer with the Independent Living Skills Program (ILS) at ywca clark county. ILS teaches self-sufficiency skills to teens getting ready to age out of foster care and live on their own in the community. The program focuses on employment, housing, and education as the three legs of self-sufficiency. To learn more, visit

Make a dedicated effort to get involved with legislation surrounding foster care. Make direct requests to your legislators, petition, and vote for measures that advocate for the best interest of foster care children and youth.

Investigate ways in which your business or employer can provide support. Some employers will match donations to non-profits such as ywca clark county, some encourage volunteer opportunities within the community and some even offer employment assistance or training to foster youth.
It is time to change the perception that children in foster care are the responsibility of someone else. They are our children and their well-being is dependent on the willingness of our entire community to care for and about them. All children deserve safe, happy lives and all children deserve compassionate, understanding adult interactions. Together we can make a difference.

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