May is National Foster Care Month, and the Racine County Human Services Department is taking the time to salute its current foster parents and to spread the word that more are needed.
Almost half-a million American children live in foster care; right now there are 136 children in foster care in Racine County, living in one of the 115 licensed foster care homes. (Another 19 county children are in treatment foster homes outsides the county.) The average age of the county's foster children is slightly under 9 years, and the average time each spends in a foster home is 386 days -- almost 13 months.
Mary Connolly of the Racine County Human Services Department says it's difficult to state "what age" will most need foster care in the near future, "because it just depends on the youth who come into protective custody, which varies day-to-day."
But the county does have an ongoing need for homes for teenagers, homes that will take sibling groups and homes that will serve children with special needs. "The goal is always reunification with the birth parent, but in some instances this is not possible. Many of our foster parents become adoptive resources for the children they are fostering," she says.
Young people in foster care especially need nurturing adults on their side because their own families are in crisis and unable to care for them. Each May, the county salutes the compassionate people who make a difference by serving as foster parents, relative caregivers, mentors, advocates, social workers, and volunteers. Because of them, many formerly abused or neglected children and teens will either safely reunite with their parents, be cared for by relatives, or be adopted by loving families.
There are an estimated 12 million foster care alumni in the U.S. representing all walks of life, and countless stories of children who grew up to be thriving adults -- while others struggled with life’s challenges all alone.
All Racine County foster parents receive extensive training; truly these families are Racine’s unsung heroes. For more information, contact the Racine County Human Services Department at 638-6356.