When I was asked to write for this blog series, Things I Wish the Community Knew, initially I thought I should share the numbers to show the need. We have approximately 13,400 kids, aged 0-17 in foster care, in the state of Arizona. Roughly 81% of these children are placed in family-like settings, whether it be in a kinship home or a licensed foster home. The remaining population of children reside in congregate care settings, such as group homes. However, foster care is so much more than the numbers. The truth of the matter is that there is always a need for foster families, especially those willing to take children of all ages and sibling groups.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the late Fred Rogers, who said, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, it’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem. Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” During my daily interactions with our foster care community, I see this quote in action. I get the opportunity to witness people doing the work of heroes, whether it be caregiving, advocating, volunteering, or donating. I witness people seeing the need, stepping up to the challenge and choosing to say, “This is my community, I can help in some way.”
There are three things that the community should know about foster care: your impact is great, your life will be changed, and you will find a great community in the foster parents of Arizona.
Choosing to become a foster caregiver offers a wonderful opportunity to make an impact. The lessons you teach the children you care for will impact their lives and how they will grow as individuals, even when they reunify with their family. The Arizona Department of Child Safety is working hard to ensure that children get to see a healthy and positive relationship between their foster caregivers and their birth parents, we refer to it as “shared parenting.” (For more information on shared parenting, please go to https://dcs.az.gov/sharedparenting). Additionally, when you as a caregiver practice shared parenting, you’re able to build a relationship with someone and teach them skills that will impact not only the child you are caring for, but also other children they may have. You are literally changing the future.
Being a foster caregiver presents many unique challenges and experiences that will teach you to expand outside of your comfort zone, provide you with new and unique world-views, which may be very different from your own, and give you new perspectives on a multitude of topics. Your heart grows beyond imagination. Your life will never quite be the same, because you will have the knowledge that you have done so much more than you ever thought you could.
In Arizona, we have amazing foster families who network in order to share resources and knowledge with the purpose of helping one another manage and navigate what it means to be a foster family. It is inspiring to see the relationships families make with one another to build this community. I am lucky enough to witness new foster families being taken under the wing of tenured families, who help them to become the best that they can possibly be, and lets our community know we are not alone, we are working together to make a better future for children and families in need.
Being a foster parent is not easy, but it is important to remember that given the circumstance, for children, the situation is even harder. For those who step up to the challenge of improving our community through providing a safe and stable home for children in foster care, life is forever changed – in the best way imaginable.
Foster Care Recruitment & Retention Specialist
Foster Care Supports Unit
Arizona Department of Child Safety