Helping Foster Care Feel a Little More Like Home

By Vicki Spriggs, Texas CASA CEO

May is National Foster Care Month, a time when we raise awareness of the over 407,000 children and youth in foster care across the country and the need to support them. More than 45,800 of these children are right here in Texas.

Too many of these children are feeling scared and lonely—living in a new community, attending a new school and surrounded by new faces. But we can help foster care feel a little more like home for these children by prioritizing and helping preserve strong connections with their families.

The theme for this year’s National Foster Care Month campaign is Relative and Kin Connections: Keeping Families Strong. When children cannot remain safely in their home, placement with kin—both formally through the system and informally through family arrangements—can increase stability, reduce trauma and help children maintain a sense of family, belonging and identity. The term “kin” encompasses both relatives (those related to children by blood or marriage) and fictive kin (those who have such a close emotional relationship that they are considered like family to children). According to DFPS data from Aug. 31, 2021, 10,438 children were in kinship placements on that date.

Kinship care helps maintain family connections and cultural traditions that can minimize the trauma of family separation. In our latest episode of our new video series, The Fix, Texas Alliance of Child and Family Services CEO Katie Olse speaks on how we can support kinship caregivers so that they can provide the very best care for the children they know and love.

It’s equally important to identify, engage and support kin as connections, not just as placement options. Just because someone is not able to provide placement does not mean they can’t support the child in different ways! In fact, for many youth, having the feeling of relational or emotional permanency—lasting, loving and accepting relationships with family, kin, friends and others—is more important to them than physical or legal permanency. This concept is what Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) is based on. By meaningfully including kin and family in case planning and helping them preserve a positive relationship with children, we can better support children and their families, and give them a better chance at a brighter future.

For Foster Care Month, we’re sharing a deep dive on CASA’s role in court and information on an exciting new campaign to help you educate your family and friends on how the system works, as well as issues and solutions. Let’s all take the time to raise awareness on how prioritizing kinship care, identifying connections rather than just placement options, and maintaining community ties makes a difference in the lives of children. Let’s shift the foster care system to become one that truly supports families!

Thank you for all that you do,