National Foster Care Month
During May of each year, National Foster Care Month provides an opportunity for the public to show appreciation for the dedicated families who care for children and youth in the foster care system, as well as recognize the social workers who support them. It also gives the public the opportunity to get involved, either as foster care parents, volunteers, or mentors.
This month-long initiative began in 1988 when the National Foster Parent Association persuaded Senator Strom Thurmond to introduce a resolution proclaiming May as National Foster Care Month. In the beginning, the focus of the celebrations was on appreciation for foster families and the service they provide for their communities. In the 1990’s, however, the focus switched to the needs of older youth, particularly those about to age out of foster care. During President Bush, Sr.’s presidency, he issued a proclamation each year, providing an impetus for state-, county-, and city-level proclamations. This tradition has now become the norm for all presidents.
During the 2010 Presidential Proclamation, President Obama stated: “Nearly a half-million children and youth are in foster care in America, all entering the system through no fault of their own. During National Foster Care Month, we recognize the promise of children and youth in foster care, as well as former foster youth. We also celebrate the professionals and foster parents who demonstrate the depth and kindness of the human heart. Children and youth in foster care deserve the happiness and joy every child should experience through family life and a safe, loving home. Families provide children with unconditional love, stability, trust, and the support to grow into healthy, productive adults. Unfortunately, too many foster youth reach the age at which they must leave foster care and enter adulthood without the support of a permanent family.”
Over the years, National Foster Care Month has grown to involve multiple national organizations, including the Annie E. Casey Foundation/Casey Family Services, Child Welfare League of America, Foster Care Alumni of America, FosterClub, and the National Foster Care Coalition, that focus not only on raising the visibility of foster care, but also on conducting outreach and recruitment to increase the number of individuals and organizations engaged in supporting children and families. These partners continue to seek permanent, loving families for children in foster care by reuniting them safely with their parents, locating relatives who can support their growth, or connecting them with adoptive families.
In Pennsylvania National Foster Care Month is also a time to celebrate the safe and consistent decline in the number of children residing in foster care. According to the State Department of Welfare statistics, there were approximately 20,450 children in foster care homes in September 2006. As of September 2010, however, this number had dropped to below 15,000. This safe reduction is directly related to the hard work of many families and professionals across the Commonwealth as well as a major paradigm shift occurring in our dependency system. This shift includes moving from deficit-based thinking to strength-based thinking, a greater focus on family engagement, and a renewed sense of “urgency”.
These philosophical shifts along with specific court and social service practice strategies comprise the Pennsylvania Permanency Practice Initiative (PPI). The PPI incorporates a combination of strength-based, family-focused practices intended to achieve more timely permanency for children. Specific PPI practice strategies include Family Group Decision Making, Family Finding, and Family Development Credentialing, local Children’s Roundtables, CPCMS Dependency Court Computer System, three month judicial reviews and Grief & Loss training.
The PPI, a component of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s efforts to help abused & neglected children, is currently in thirty-one counties. With nearly 75% of children in care residing in those thirty-one PPI counties, Pennsylvania’s dependency system is experiencing positive and dramatic changes.
To learn more about the Pennsylvania PPI visit: http://www.ocfcpacourts.us/childrens-roundtable-initiative/permanency-practice-initiative/