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Groups: Maine Foster Youths Need More Families Available for Placements

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Tuesday, December 7, 2021   

PORTLAND, Maine -- About 2,200 children are in foster care in Maine, and agencies say there are not enough families who are actively able to accept placements, and groups working with foster youths are hoping more Mainers will decide to become foster parents.

Candace Rowell, director of foster and child welfare services for Spurwink Services, who oversees a partnership between Spurwink and the Department of Health and Human Services called "A Family for ME," said there is no perfect formula for a parent, and urged anyone who thinks they could play a big role in a child's life, regardless of relationship status or sexual orientation, to look into it.

"Some of the most impactful foster parents are those who are really flexible thinkers, have unconditional positive regard for all and an understanding that kids and teens express complex emotions and experiences through behaviors that might not make sense to us in the moment," Rowell outlined.

Foster parents in Maine must be 21 and able to care for a child, have three non-family references, pass a criminal background check and receive home visits with a social worker. Rowell pointed out being a foster parent often means helping children catch up on appointments, broadening your family's menu interests and sometimes holiday rituals, to be inclusive of every member of your household.

Rowell acknowledged each foster child's family situation differs. She noted placement in a foster family can, for instance, help children who have experienced or witnessed domestic violence learn about healthy relationships, or support kids whose families may be dealing with opioid addiction while their family members work towards recovery.

She explained a community environment is preferred.

"We want that for the child," Rowell emphasized. "Rather than having a child who is able to be successful in a community setting, but is placed in institutional care."

Ten percent of the nation's kids and teens in foster care are in institutional placements, and a recent report from nonprofit Think of Us and the Annie E. Casey Foundation found Black youths are overrepresented, making up 13% of the nation's youth population, but 30% of the group-home population.


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