Jul 19, 2016
We need to face it...our nation has a foster care crisis on its hands. Across the U.S. there are more than 400,000 children in foster care and more than 100,000 are available to be adopted.
According to Bethany's Philadelphia branch director, Heather Bert, her office receives 200-250 calls a month about children who need a foster placement, however they have to decline most referrals because they simply do not have enough families.
"Everyone is scrambling," she said.
In 2015, 4,400 children in Philadelphia were in foster care. Today, that figure is nearing 5,700. This large increase is due to a change in Pennsylvania's child protective law and stricter reporting mandates which increases the numbers of children entering foster care compared to the numbers of children leaving the system.
"It's hard to sleep at night when you know kids are sleeping in county offices, shelters, and juvenile detention centers because there aren't enough homes," Bert said.
Although Bethany's Philadelphia branch has a pocket of experienced families that have the capacity to care for multiple children, Bert knows those families will need a break. The only sustainable solution: Find more families. Bert said for her office, the licensing process used to take 5-6 months, but due to the increasing number of children, her staff have shortened the licensing process down to 12 weeks as long as the families have references that check out, their paperwork is in order, and they are able to complete their 24 hours of training and home visits within a month.
"Like the classic starfish story, anything you can do for children in foster care 'matters to that one,'" Bert said. "Every single person has their one small thing—their 'five loaves and two fish' they can give to God on behalf of these kids and watch Him multiply it."
You Can Help
Foster homes are urgently needed in Philadelphia and in many other cities across the U.S. Even if you cannot become a foster parent right now, everyone can do something. What could your something be? Could you provide:
- Respite care?
- A home-cooked meal?
- Toiletry items in a care package for a child or teen?
- A restaurant gift card for a social worker responding to an after-hours call?
- An hour a week or an hour a month to volunteer?
- A backpack and school supplies for a foster child or teen starting a new school year?
Contact a Bethany office near you to learn more about the ways you can help foster kids and families.
*Note: Foster care is available in certain Bethany locations. Donations are welcome at all locations.
- 8 Ideas to Encourage and Support Foster Families
- How Do I Get Started? Q&A for first-time foster parents