Tuesday, April 15, 2014

respite

As I have mentioned before, I have been learning plenty about foster care. (You can read some of the local stats here.)

But there's more.

In July 2013, there were 406,822 children in foster care and 161,000 orphaned children in the United States. (This might lead some to ask why we are adopting from a different country. I get that. However, kids in the United States have a much healthier society, and a more stable government and environment than do children in DRC. About 20% of children in DRC, for example, die before their 5th birthday. This does not mean, however, that we won't be serving the US foster care system in some way.)

Also, OVER 200,000 children have "aged out" of the foster care system in the last decade.

Results of aging out: 
Homelessness: More than 50% experienced homelessness
Pregnancy: More than 75% of young women had been pregnant since leaving foster care
Unemployment: Over 50% were unemployed
Criminal action: Nearly 60% of young men had been convicted of a crime, with more than 80% being arrested

And consider this: Only 6% had a 2- or 4-year degree (which greatly diminishes opportunity) and  66% of children in foster care move 7 or more times while in care.

Financially speaking, the estimated social cost per child per year is $300,000, totaling to an estimated $8,000,000,000 cost to the United States per year.

So, while we all can't necessarily get involved in foster care at this very moment, we can do something very simple and important to help the system: Respite care, something I didn't even know about until our recent adoption ministry meetings at church.

Respite care provides foster parents with a much-needed break to spend time alone, to unite with friends, or take a vacation. It's not that the kids are bad; it's just that trying to change lives and be a solid example of love and grace can get exhausting. Who wouldn't need a vacation with all of the ways foster families are trying to change lives for the future while also dealing with the past from so many different angles?

Respite care for  foster families is needed in a huge way. One woman at our meeting said that it's a huge blessing to foster parents, as rest is not something they get to enjoy often. She also said she hates to call people to ask for help, but sometimes it's necessary. When those people say no and there is no one else on the list to call, it can feel like they're falling into a black hole of desperation.

But the good news: Respite care is not hard, and it doesn't require a huge or lengthy commitment. It might be a great way to get your feet wet in the foster care system. All you have to do is call your local Children's Division to get licensed (without doing the 9-10 weeks of training that is required for foster parents). And you don't have to provide care for weeks at a time; maybe just an evening or two.

Sounds easy enough, right? I dare you to check into it.

*Stats are from Cherish Kids, JRA's Foster Care and Adoption Ministry.