The College of Social Work Honors National Foster Care Month this May

The College of Social Work honors those who have made a difference in the lives of children in the Commonwealth.

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By Jeff Damron and Tamikia Dumas, Program Coordinators for the Foster Parent Mentor Program

Each year in May, we take a few moments to honor those who have dedicated themselves to providing safety, permanency, and well-being for children and youth, who for a variety of reasons, have been placed into foster care. Join us in giving thanks to the many foster parents, child welfare professionals, policy makers, and community officials that shine the light of hope for children in the Commonwealth and around the world.

Nationally, just over 390,000 children have been removed from their homes and placed into what is hoped to be the temporary care of trained and certified foster parents within the community. In Kentucky, just over 8,000 children have been placed in out-of-home care.

All that sounds a bit sterile, statistical, and academic. But what we’re really hoping to do is bring awareness to those in our community that tirelessly offer our kids empathy, love, support, and encouragement – to help our kids heal, and find some measure of normalcy until such time that they’re reunited with family or adopted.

People like Ken and Vicky from central Kentucky who would come home from their jobs to the hospital to sit and rock an infant, placed with them, suffering from withdrawal of a substance exposed to while in utero. Ken worked third shift and Vicky worked first shift and would take turns offering patience, presence, and persistence in the rocking chair for several weeks.

We want to celebrate folks like Laura in northern Kentucky who was willing to take additional training to help a young 13-year-old girl overcome her near crippling anxiety. After months of reordering both their lives, Laura enrolled her in her local high school where she flourished academically, socially, and in the gym. And we can’t forget social workers like Melissa who spent more than a few long weekends at the office sitting with and caring for a young man who was recently released from a behavioral treatment program. Until a family could be identified to care for him, he would sadly have to spend weekends sleeping on a mattress at the local foster care office. It’s this kind of love and sacrifice we want to focus on and celebrate.

In addition to serving children in need, foster parents also serve and support each other. There are over 350 foster parents in Kentucky who become mentors to support newly approved foster parents. Mentors like April, in Franklin County, who went to the emergency room at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning to relieve a foster parent who had been there all night with a child. Mentors like Diane in Jefferson County, who contacted the Foster Parent Mentor Program Coordinator to inquire about resources for a relative care foster parent who was going to lose financial support for their sibling once custody was turned over to Kentucky from another state. During National Foster Care Month, we recognize and applaud your efforts to help new foster parents.  

Here at the Foster Parent Mentor Program, we recently afforded our nearly 400 Foster Parent Mentors a professional development opportunity to learn more about the extensive benefits for youth in care and for those ageing out of care (learn more about them here). The Commonwealth is indeed engaging and investing in our youth by building an extensive support system and working with them to think about and plan for that next best step in their lives.

What a wonderful time to consider providing kindness, love, and hope to a child in need! Thank you to all many foster parents, child welfare professionals, policy makers, and community officials that continue to help and support families in the Commonwealth and beyond.

Learn more about the Foster Parent Mentor Program.

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For 85 years, the University of Kentucky College of Social Work (CoSW) has been a leader in social work education. As a college, we promote community and individual well-being through translational research and scholarship, exemplary teaching, and vital community engagement. We are committed to the people and social institutions throughout Kentucky, the nation, and the world. Like the University, CoSW is an organization that cultivates a diverse academic community characterized by interpersonal fairness and social justice. We are fiercely committed to developing outstanding social work professionals — leaders who will serve individuals, families, and communities through innovative and effective practices that are guided by cultural competency, systematic ethical analysis, and a keen and pragmatic understanding of the human condition.