Each May is National Foster Care Month. It is a time to acknowledge foster parents, family members, volunteers, child welfare professionals, and many other members of the community who help children and youth find permanent homes and available resources. When parents cannot keep their children and youth due to crisis, neglect, or abuse, the youth enter the foster care system where they need a safe home and someone who cares.

With close to half a million children and youth in the foster care system, there is an urgent need for foster and adoptive parents. The total number of children in foster care has decreased in recent years, thanks to advocates and supporters. Frontier Health offers two therapeutic foster care and adoption programs. TRACES serve children and teens up to age 18 in state custody throughout Northeast Tennessee referred by the Department of Children’s Services and VALUES which serves children from birth through the age of 17 throughout Southwest Virginia referred from the Department of Social Services, courts, mental health clinics, or emergency shelters.

“National Foster Care month is intended to raise awareness of the hundreds of thousands of children and youth in the United States who are currently displaced from their homes due to having entered the foster care system,” said Courtney Mauk, TRACES Parent Trainer/Recruiter, Frontier Health

“Local child welfare and agency staff work tirelessly day in and day out to ensure children in the Tri-Cities are provided with a safe, stable, and caring home when they are not able to return to their own.

“Unfortunately, the number of children and youth entering the foster care system is surpassing the number of available foster homes, and children in our region are waiting days, weeks, and months for a permanent foster home to be identified,” Mauk said. “Our children deserve better. They deserve to have a sense of security and stability during this traumatic time; this is what a foster parent provides.”

Foster Parents help these special children meet specific individual goals while living in their home. Working with a child to develop day-to-day coping skills, problem-solving skills, developing healthy relationships, building self-esteem, and developing independent living skills are just a few ways a foster parent can impact a child’s life. Foster parents receive training before a child is placed and continued training and support during the placement with regular visits in the home by their caseworker.

“The greatest challenge in the world is raising a child, but it is also the greatest gift one can be given. Great parenting does not have to come from your DNA, it comes from your heart,” Tim Perry, Sr. VP Children’s Services, Frontier Health, said.

Becoming a foster parent means making the commitment to a child that you will be there for them until they can return to a parent, a relative, become independent, or be adopted.

Who Can Foster/Adopt?

• Persons age 21 and older

• Persons who rent or own in stable housing

• Persons who are financially stable

• Married couples

• Single parents

• Families with or without children

There are many ways to help, even if you cannot foster or adopt yourself. The following are a few examples of how you can help your community, these children, and families in their times of need:

• Contact your local newspaper editors and encourage them to contribute articles or a column specifically dedicated to foster care awareness.

• Recruit volunteers; many children, through no fault of their own, need special attention and are often in need of mentors.

• Help raise public awareness

• Make a financial donation to a child in need of multiple resources

• Become a mentor

For those interested in adopting or becoming a foster parent, please contact Traces Foster Care (NETN residents) at 423-224-1067 and Values Therapeutic Foster (SWVA residents) 276-870-1487 or visit frontierhealth.org to learn more.