Alabama Observes National Foster Care Awareness Month | Alabama Public Radio

May is a special month as it is recognized as National Foster Care Month. During this time, the focus is on raising awareness for the children in foster care and acknowledging the dedicated individuals who form the backbone of the child welfare system in each state.

The Alabama Department of Human Services (ADHS) reports that there are around 6,000 children currently in foster care in Alabama. These children come from diverse backgrounds and experiences, representing various economic groups. Each child is assigned a dedicated social worker who strives to find them a suitable foster family. These families provide temporary housing and care until the child can be reunited with their biological families.

Being a foster parent is a challenging responsibility, as it entails providing care and support to children during highly stressful periods in their lives. According to Mancuso, the primary objective of foster parents is to prioritize the well-being of the child. In certain cases, this may involve collaborating with the birth families and ensuring their participation in the child’s life.

According to Amanda Mancuso, the director of family and child services at the ADHS, foster parenting is a dual role that involves a challenging task. Foster parents are entrusted with the responsibility of being parents to children who are not their own. The agency encourages foster parents to collaborate with them and also work together with the birth family.

The ADHS organizes Individual Services Plan (ISP) meetings involving the child, their biological family, foster family, social worker, and other key individuals in the child’s life. These meetings aim to address the child’s needs and ensure the best possible plan is implemented. It also serves as an opportunity to plan visitations between the child and their family during the separation.

To support foster families in addressing the difficulties that may arise while caring for a foster child, the ADHS offers Trauma Informed Parenting Classes, also known as “TIPS.” These classes are designed to equip families with the necessary skills and knowledge to provide appropriate care and support to the child, especially during this challenging period in their life.

Mancuso emphasized the importance of understanding that children often express their emotions through their behaviors. It is crucial to provide parents with the necessary tools to effectively manage these behaviors within the home. By equipping parents with knowledge and resources, they can address and handle these situations early on, preventing them from becoming overwhelming.

In addition, children who are part of the foster care system undergo the Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment Program (EPSTD). This program ensures that they receive annual medical screenings to address their physical and emotional well-being.

Becoming a foster parent requires individuals or families to go through the foster care approval process. This process involves completing a 30-hour preparation course, undergoing background checks, and welcoming home visits, among other requirements.

According to Mancuso, one of the most significant actions individuals can take is to consider opening their hearts and homes to these children. By providing stability and nurturing, and working in partnership with their birth families towards reunification, people can make a profound difference in the lives of these kids.

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