How Foster Care Services Surround Young People with Care
Last updated: November 3, 2023, at 2:18 p.m. PT
Originally published: November 3, 2023, at 10:49 a.m. PT
There is a critical need in Washington for foster homes, and the Y Social Impact Center has been licensing and supporting foster parents and providing individualized support to children and youth in foster care for almost 35 years. Besides licensing and supporting foster parents, we also offer a variety of programs that serve young people as they age out of the foster care system. Staff work alongside young people to help them find and maintain stable housing, healthy relationships, steady employment, educational support, and life skills.
Reunification and Compassionate Care: The Heart of Foster Care Services
Meet Megan and Jon, foster parents who are making a profound impact in their local community by supporting biological parents. Licensed since 2020, Megan and Jon have gone the extra mile by not only providing respite care but also fostering deep connections with birth families. Since becoming licensed, Megan has formed a playgroup with other foster parents, foster children, and biological parents who meet at a local park. In their first long-term placement, they built a strong relationship with the birth family. That relationship continued after reunification, including weekly family dinners with both families, celebrating birthdays together, and continuing to babysit. Megan shared their experience, "One area we have had to navigate is redefining our relationship and labels after the unusual way we met. Close friends and family know our origins with him, but to new people, we respect their privacy and say we are 'family friends,' or I refer to him as our 'bonus guy.' We are Auntie Meg and Uncle Jon to him. Our kids understand the confidentiality piece, especially as he gets older and understands more. Someday, it will be up to [his mother] how/if she reframes our beginning for him, and we will support what she wants. I'm flattered that she asks my opinion about how to manage challenges with him, like labels, potty training, [and] behavior, etc."
Megan and Jon's experience is just one of many incredible stories from our foster care program, showcasing the incredible work done by foster parents and our Y foster care team to support biological families in the reunification process while maintaining long-term relationships with both families and youth. Every foster care journey is unique, and it's inspiring to see our program families mentor others and create a local community of support.
Empowering Youth in Transition: The Crucial Role of Wraparound Services
The Y's commitment to foster youth goes beyond reunification. We also focus on empowering young people who are aging out or have aged out of foster care through our foster care transitions program. As youth in foster care reach the age of 18, they often lose much of their support system, with as many as 1 in 4 facing homelessness in the next year. Our dedicated transitions team steps in to provide support and guidance, helping these young adults navigate the challenges of transitioning to independence.
Youth who have faced housing instability, multiple school changes, or numerous foster care placements are at increased risk of homelessness. Furthermore, those involved with both the foster care and juvenile justice systems face unique challenges. Our YMCA staff work hand in hand with these young individuals to help them secure stable housing, develop healthy relationships, find steady employment, access educational support, and build essential life skills.
This year alone, our transitions team has directly assisted 75 former foster youth, along with their families, in securing housing with an FYI Section 8 voucher. We believe in nurturing the futures of these resilient young individuals and empowering them to thrive beyond the foster care system.