About 423,000 children are in foster care in the United States. That's 423,000 kids who need to soak up all the support, love, and understanding they can get during what is likely one of the most difficult times in their lives.
May is National Foster Care Month, a month to acknowledge the foster parents, family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections.
There's no doubt it takes special families to provide foster care to kids in need, and more are needed. Are you interested in learning more about fostering children?
We talked with foster mom Marcie Rabinowitz, who, along with her husband, Norman, has offered a safe haven for kids in foster care for more than 30 years in her home in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. Marcie and Norman have three biological children and have adopted seven children.
How did you get started in foster care?
My husband and I began our journey in foster care over 35 years ago with the placement of a 15-year-old teen who now lives in Texas. We stay in touch to this day!
How would you describe the process of foster care and sum up your experience?
It has been a life-changing experience and has been the fuel that has kept us going. It is a difficult but rewarding job. I like a quote from the book The Prophet, 'You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts. You may house their bodies, but not their soul.'
If I was interested in becoming a foster parent or learning more about it, where would I begin?
I would start by inquiring at your local agencies to discuss the process. Also, your local government child services organization will have information. Speak to other foster parents in your community about their experiences. They can offer you support and advice. Many agencies will connect you to other foster parents in your community.
Do you need to be a two-parent household or a stay-at-home parent to do foster care?
No, there are many single parents and working parents who do foster care.
What kind of training do you need?
The training to become a foster parent is extensive, though it varies depending on the agency and state. CPR, First Aid, and a variety of other trainings are required. Trainings can be a major time commitment! Many foster parents need to have knowledge about areas like special education as well. Consider your background knowledge in subjects like that and consider taking an online class if possible.
Tell us something about foster care that many people do not know?
The requirements are always changing in foster care, but in important ways. For instance, in 1994 the United States passed a law that prohibited foster care discrimination based on race, color, and origin. This law helped to make foster care more equitable for all.
Could you give us any other advice for foster parents or potential foster parents?
Maintain a positive approach to your life and take time periodically for self-care and some time together with your partner.
Interested in learning more about becoming a foster parent but not sure where to start?
- The Children's Bureau, which is under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, maintains a directory of contact information for state child welfare officials, programs, organizations, and services with a focus on foster care, permanency, and adoption. Search the directory here.
- The National Foster Parent Association offers resources and education to foster parents or people interested in learning more about fostering.
Here are agencies and groups in Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, and Stafford where you can find information:
Alicia Marshall is the publisher of Macaroni Kid Scranton, Pa.