Hundreds of thousands of children—nearly half a million—are in foster care in the United States today. This number is staggering, and it’s overburdening the foster care system, which suffers from a lack of resources and a lack of training for foster parents. Many foster families report getting burned out from the lack of support, and the resulting high turnover rate of foster parents puts more stress on an already overtaxed system and less focus on providing the stability that children need during vulnerable times.
Strengthening communities is a key component to helping children in foster care. Nonprofits all across our region are doing their part to provide warm, safe and loving homes for children who need care and to support the families who care for them. When communities are strong and supportive, foster families can provide the best homes to children who need them the most, and children can flourish to reach their full potential.
Here are four Murdock Trust grantees doing life-changing work in the foster care system.
Olive Crest is dedicated to ensuring a strong family for every child by preventing child abuse, treating and educating at-risk children and preserving family. With locations in Bellevue and Tacoma, Washington, Olive Crest works with abused, neglected and at-risk children. It is the second biggest child placement agency in Washington, and its Fostering Together program works to improve recruitment and retention of foster families to provide safer and more loving homes to children in foster care.
The role of volunteers in organizations like Olive Crest is an important one. Volunteers spend time with and provide support to biological parents and foster families, pick children up from school, provide necessities like diapers and car seats, provide transportation and recreational activities to children and, most importantly, bring hope and encouragement to the lives they touch.
Nationally, 20 percent of all foster adoptions fail. Kinship House works with at-risk foster children in Oregon to address the barriers to placement in foster or adoptive families, specifically focusing on mental health treatment. Kinship holds a unique place in both the children’s mental health and foster care arenas as it works to transition youth to healthy, stable, permanent families through education and targeted therapy to the child, siblings and the whole family. As a result, the disruption rate for children in Kinship’s programs is only 1.5 percent.
Amara is committed to placing Seattle-area children in foster care with a loving and supportive family. All too often, due to the lack of resources to meet the needs of a ballooning population of children needing foster care, children are taken to a police station, a caseworker’s office or a hotel room after just being removed from their families. Amara recognized a desperate need for children to have a soft landing into foster care until they could find the best long-term housing option and created its own warm, safe, home-like setting to welcome children. Amara extends a hand to children and doesn’t let go until they are safely in a permanent home.
Child Bridge’s mission is unique in the state of Montana, focusing solely on recruiting, training and supporting foster families for the nearly 3,500 children in the state in need of safe and loving homes. An important part of its programming is connecting churches with foster families. Church members wrap their arms around foster families, providing child care, meals and other tangible support, because when foster families are well supported, they can provide a more stable and long-term environment for children.
The common thread that weaves through these nonprofits is the love and support provided to foster children and foster families, which is made possible by the strong community surrounding them. The Murdock Trust invests in organizations working not only in foster care, but behavioral and mental health, housing, afterschool educational programs, family services, youth development and so many other arenas that work together to build strong communities throughout the Pacific Northwest. Learn more about the ways we invest in strengthening communities by checking out our Grants in Action series on our blog or browsing our Grants Awarded page.