Foster care and adoption through foster care can be complicated. Like a lot of complicated issues, myths often obscure the reality. And myths often discourage people from taking the first step to learn about foster care and adoption.
Let’s dispel some myths.
1. Kids in foster care are all juvenile delinquents.
More than 14,000 Arizona children are in foster care through no fault of their own because of abuse, neglect and abandonment. And while the number of children in foster care has decreased in recent years, the number of children in group homes because there isn’t a nurturing family setting available for them has remained steady at nearly 2,000.
2. Caring for a kid costs a fortune.
There is plenty of support for licensed foster parents making room in their homes and in their hearts for a child in foster care.
The foundation of financial support for licensed foster care parents is the monthly foster care payment provided by the Arizona Department of Child Safety. The stipend varies according to the age and level of need of the child in foster care.
Medical care and dental care for children in foster care are covered by the state-funded Comprehensive Medical and Dental Program.
New beds, clothing, school supplies and other essentials are available at no cost through several non-profit organizations in Maricopa County that are listed at www.azfamilyresources.org. Other organizations listed on the website support children in foster care by paying for expenses for youth sports and other enrichment programs.
3. Foster care and adoption is too much for one person to handle.
Foster parents working with AASK get plenty of help. Your family specialist will help you navigate the state child welfare system, including the courts, schools and the behavioral health care system. Family specialists will translate the jargon and explain the rules. They will even attend meetings and court hearings with you, if necessary.
The AASK team also includes experience behavioral specialists who offer guidance on how to parent children who have experienced trauma.
4. I can’t really make a difference.
Relationships matter. And that’s not just some warm and fuzzy catchphrase. It’s science.
Positive relationships regulate the brain’s stress response system and create healing neuroendocrine and neurophysiological states that promote healthy development in children, says Dr. Bruce Perry, a psychiatrist who also has a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Perry, considered a leading expert on childhood trauma, was featured in a 60 Minutes segment with Oprah Winfrey.
Research shows that children in foster care who have positive relationships with adult mentors experience:
Increased high school graduation rates;
Higher college enrollment rates;
Decreased likelihood of drug and alcohol use;
Stronger relationships with teachers and peers.
5. Teens are too old to adopt.
You’re never too old for family. When was the last time you talked to your mom or dad?
Research shows that children in foster care who grow up in a family do better in school than those who grow up in group homes. Youth in group homes are twice as likely to be arrested as youth growing up in a family setting. Being part of a family makes a difference.
Clint Williams is a family resource development specialist with Aid to Adoption of Special Kids.