What Kids in Foster Care Really Need | Getting Clear About Foster Care
Last updated: May 20, 2021, at 9:27 a.m. PT
Originally published: May 13, 2021, at 9:51 a.m. PT
Kids in Foster Care need love, patience and understanding while their family heals.
If you were to ask a child in foster care what they really need, they might all have different answers. Some might say their favorite toy truck, their stack of library books, their music, a blankie, or even plenty of fruit snacks. But what all kids have in common is their need to be seen fully as people and supported by foster parents as their family goes through a hard time.
We Work to Reunite Families
57 percent of children placed in out-of-home care in Washington were reunited with their parents within three years. Foster care isn’t about saving kids from their families, it’s about providing a safe and loving temporary home for kids, with the primary goal of reuniting them with their family.
A lot of people think kids in foster care are on their way to being adopted, but in most cases, we are working to reunite families as their family of origin gets support. Kids in foster care are just like every other kid. What they need more than anything else is loving supportive adults to help them on their path. The only difference is that kids in care need that same love and support from caring adults outside of their immediate family to help them weather a difficult time in their lives and help them reunite with their families. Studies have shown that reuniting families has much better outcomes for kids and parents alike. Foster parents are every day people who have been trained to step up for kids in their moment of need. Barbara and Frank Johnson have been licensed foster parents with the Y since our program began 33 years ago. Because of their longstanding commitment to kids and families, they have a lot of wisdom to share about working in kids’ best interest.
“I think birth parents think foster parents look at them like they aren’t very valuable, or as not good parents. And with me, I tell them, listen, I’m a grandmother, and I have grown kids your age, so they kind of look at me as the grandmother they didn’t have. And I ask them ‘what is it that you want for your child?’ So they see me as a partner. That’s what I want to be.”
The Unique Needs of Kids in Foster Care
All kids and youth in foster care have experienced the trauma of being separated from their families. Although most kids in care are more often removed due to neglect, and not abuse, kids have often learned ways to keep themselves safe like coping mechanisms and need extra patience and understanding. Trauma can show up in many forms, and requires special patience and training on the part of foster parents. Working with kids’ needs in mind from the start, rather than out of frustration, is the key to helping a child begin to heal and feel safe to be their best selves. The Y offers ongoing training and support for our foster parents both one-on-one with caseworkers and in groups with other foster parents to ensure our parents have what they need to be successful.
“These kids are exactly as precious as the kids you know in your life, and all the good things and all the hard things about them, it’s exactly the same. All the complicated things about interacting with their families are like that because they are that kids’ parents in the same way that you are your kids’ parents or you are your parent’s kid. Everything that we are trying to do has to be filtered through that and try to find the best step within it.” - Ashleigh and Quinn, Y Foster Parents
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