Each May, National Foster Care Month serves as a reminder that there are children, youth, and families in our communities who require our collective support to achieve safety, permanence, and the tools needed to thrive in adulthood.
This month is a time for us to acknowledge and express our gratitude to those who provide a helping hand to children in foster care, including professionals, foster parents, mentors, and others.
National Foster Care Month is also a time to reflect on how we can work together to better serve all children and ensure that every child has a safe, permanent family and that their well-being needs are met.
Nearly 400,000 children in the United States are in foster care. Most will be reunited with their families or find a permanent home through kinship care, guardianship, or adoption. However, it also is important to remember that each year approximately 24,000 youth “age out” of foster care without a permanent legal family.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, former foster youth who were in foster care when they aged out and who were enrolled in Medicaid or a waiver program while in foster care are now eligible for Medicaid until they reach age 26 in most cases.
As the federal agency charged with ensuring the welfare of children throughout this country, the Children's Bureau, within the Administration for Children and Families of HHS, works with child welfare professionals and institutions year-round to discover, test, and promote best practices. In 2014, the Children's Bureau funded a number of new initiatives, including:
• Awards for agencies to test new strategies for recruiting resource families for children in foster care.
• Grants to states, localities, and tribes to build the capacity of child welfare systems to prevent long-term homelessness among youth and young adults who have been involved with child welfare.
• Funding for states, localities, and universities to develop initiatives that will improve the social and emotional well-being of children who are involved with child welfare and have mental and behavioral health needs.
• The National Foster Care Month initiative, with this year’s theme of “Building Blocks Toward Permanent Families,” promotes awareness of children in foster care through a website and resources at https://www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth.
During National Foster Care Month, we encourage all Americans to seek out ways to support children in foster care and assist those who have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of these vulnerable children in need, including child welfare professionals, foster families, and mentors. Not every individual or family is in a position to foster a child in need, but everyone can play a role. To all who have given their time, love, and commitment to the children in foster care and their families, we thank you.
Visit the National Foster Care Month website to learn more: https://www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth/
Kathleen Sebelius is the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services