We may set new goals, make new plans and seek new opportunities — or simply be looking to make a change. How about changing a child’s life by becoming a foster parent?
May is National Foster Care Month, an annual observance to recognize the role each of us plays in the lives of children and youth in foster care. During this special time of year, I’m reminded of just how important it is to reclaim, re-educate and reintegrate foster care children back into their families and communities so they may live a healthy and prosperous adult life.
Childhood is a very tender time, one in which children need to feel loved, supported and cared for. We can all make a real and lasting difference — and change a life — by opening our hearts and homes to children in need. Foster parents can positively affect children of any age and set them on a path toward a bright future by following these three steps:
Foster parents can encourage a sense of belonging, mastery and generosity among youth. In essence, “reclaiming kids” means transitioning them from the streets, abusive situations or negative home environments to a place where there are supportive adults and positive influences. Teaching children about making good choices and empowering them by showing love and support can help them reclaim their lives and undo years — or even a lifetime — of emotional distress.
Foster parents also can help re-educate children by teaching them helpful conflict resolution strategies, reinforcing good behavior and equipping them with healthy life skills. It is imperative that they unlearn bad habits from settings where drugs or violence were present. For example, by demonstrating that the use of words is encouraged rather than striking out at someone, foster parents help children learn to develop effective communication skills instead of drinking alcohol, using drugs or turning to violence to solve problems.
Reintegration is the ultimate goal of the foster care system. It involves placing kids back into their school systems, communities and families so they can move on from their troubled pasts and lead healthy lives. Regardless of an individual’s background, we all have a desire to belong, to learn, to love and be loved, and to be a contributing member of society. Reintegration bridges the gap between a child’s past and present, and is the key to a promising future.
Foster parents don’t have to go the path alone. Agencies like Centerstone [and other organizations that provide similar services] can help teach individuals how to be effective at each of these steps and ensure they have the support they need to be the best influence on the children in their care.
I encourage everyone — regardless of your community, whether it’s Cleveland or Chattanooga or other — to consider becoming a foster or adoptive parent for a child or group of siblings.
For more information on how you can get involved and have a lasting impact on a child, you can contact Centerstone at 615-604-8656, or you can reach out to other reliable organizations that are involved in foster or adoptive parenting services.
(About the writer: Gino DeSalvatore is director of Residential and Academy Services at Centerstone. Organizations like Centerstone, which serves the Cleveland and Chattanooga areas, are helping to connect children in need with loving families who are integral in helping to shape young lives and prevent bright futures from being permanently derailed.)