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Foster Parents Can Help Reunite Families

Illinois has 15,000 kids in the foster-care system. (cdc)
Illinois has 15,000 kids in the foster-care system. (cdc)
November 18, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Illinois has 15,000 children in foster care, and a new report highlights the connection between foster families and getting those kids back at home with their parents. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's report "A Movement to Transform Foster Parenting," foster parents need a bigger voice.

Child-welfare consultant Dr. Denise Goodman said the first line of therapy and healing is in the foster home. She said often the role foster parents play is underestimated by state, federal and private agencies tasked with placing the kids.

"There is a perception that foster parents are simply paid volunteers, which is kind of an oxymoron," Dr. Goodman said. "Foster parents have stepped up to do a very important job, and they do know the children the best."

The report calls for states to ensure high-quality foster care, help foster parents form strong relationships with the children, and identify and recruit more foster families.

Jacqueline Herbert-Townsend, the Northern Illinois regional director with Lutheran Child and Family Services in Illinois said foster parents nurture kids while they're separated from their families, and can continue to do so when they go back home.

"The greatest successes that I have seen is that when you have a foster parent that is able to partner with the biological family, they can become a lifelong support," she said.

Herbert-Townsend said children coming into the system have more needs than ever. She blames that on a society desensitized by violence.

"Often times, our children and their parents have been traumatized with the different levels of violence that they have seen, and it can be from something as what appears to be benign as television shows and video games, to actually violence in their communities," she explained.

Researchers from The Annie E. Casey Foundation recommend that foster families be valued as important members of the foster-care team, not viewed as mere beds in the system, saying they are the ones who have the most contact with the child, and should be given as much training and support as possible.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IL