National Foster Care Month recognizes the incredible, loving and caring adults who have opened their hearts to the nearly 400,000 children and youth who are in foster care each year.
“The need is constant. There is more abuse and trauma, more siblings being separated and more crises because of the economy, loss of jobs and increases in substance abuse,” says Marc Bermann, Foster Parent Recruiter at JCFS Chicago. “There is an increase in the number of kids coming into the system and they’re coming to us faster than we can provide placement.”
JCFS Chicago places children with special needs in foster-care homes, so foster parents are sought who have an affinity for, and are open to, the extra work involved to stabilize these types of children, says Bermann.
“Special needs kids are differentiated by the state in terms of their diagnosis, functioning such as associative and cognitive impairments and their medical complexities. For many different reasons these children have faced a variety of life issues and may find themselves being without their families and in need of foster care.”
There is no ideal profile of a foster parent, says Bermann. “The demographics are broad,” he said, and include single adults or coupled partners. There are many conversations and interviews held with prospective foster parents to ensure a good fit. “I’m old school,” says Bermann. “For me, face time isn’t using a smart phone turned toward my face. It’s actually sitting down with you, face-to-face, to help guide you."
In other words, foster parents don’t have to come with a super-hero cape, but they might earn one over time. “I am recruiting people who have a gift for working with children, who have a passion for wanting to develop the best in children, but also realize that there’s not a lot of glamour and glory in foster care. Being a parent is one of the toughest jobs in the word.”