30 Years of Foster Care: The Y Steps Up to Meet Urgent Needs
By Mark Putnam, Executive Director, Accelerator YMCA
Last week, Secretary Ross Hunter of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families penned a letter and shared a video about his learnings about foster care placements in a post titled Foster Care Placements – What I’ve Learned So Far.
Hunter identifies that high staff turnover rates and a shortage of foster homes are the biggest issues that Children’s Administration is facing as it relates to the foster care crisis. There are over 8,800 youth in foster care in Washington State, and only 5,000 foster homes.*
The YMCA has been a child placing agency for over 30 years, and through those years we’ve learned the best ways to build our foster care community and provide support for our foster families. Here are a few keys to our success, and why you should consider fostering with the Y:
- From day one, our program has treated foster parents as professionals. Our team of case managers works collaboratively with foster parents, who drive decisions made within the family. Y staff offer support to foster families and provide resources and training, but we put trust in our foster parents to do what is best for kids under their care.
- We were one of the first programs in Washington State to offer behavioral health services in conjunction with foster care. Eligible foster youth with high levels of behavioral health needs are connected with a YMCA psychiatrist and behavioral health therapists to address other needs the child may have.
- We pair experienced foster parents with new foster parents to build a network of support to ensure the success of each of our foster parents. Our foster parents are well supported by staff at the Y, and several of our foster parents have been with our program for 15+ years. In an official capacity, one of our former foster parents recently joined the Y as a staff member to specifically provide mentorship, coaching, and consult for other foster parents.
Foster Care is a very complicated issue, and as Ross Hunter stated, this has to get better and soon. The YMCA of Greater Seattle is stepping up to meet this urgent need for more foster homes within our community by leveraging local YMCA branches to serve as hubs for foster families, providing local access points for foster parents to receive support, training, connection, and healthy living activities for their families and build a Community of Fostering.
Our goal is to recruit 175 new foster homes in the Greater Seattle area. The YMCA is a longstanding organization that has the capacity to meet this need immediately and effectively. We are well-equipped with extensive support services and benefits for foster families that lead to successful placements and foster parents that provide years of service to our community.
*Data Source: InvestigateWest