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Fighting the foster care crisis in Philadelphia

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On most summer nights in Philadelphia, you’ll find neighbors sitting on their stoops in Fishtown, people browsing food options at Reading Terminal, couples dining in Rittenhouse Square, or families cheering on our beloved Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

Sadly, for nearly 6,000 children in Philadelphia, their nights are very different. Every day, children in Philadelphia pack their most treasured items, leave their homes, and enter the foster care system. Kids in foster care begin a journey filled with loss, uncertainty and dependency on a system that is not always well-suited to meet their unique needs.

Foster youth are some of the most vulnerable children in our community and they need a loving, permanent home, regardless of their age. In Philadelphia, 26 child welfare organizations recruit and license foster and adoptive families that provide loving, nurturing, and safe homes for these children.

Too often, children are placed in foster homes outside of their home communities, and they have a difficult time maintaining contact with family, friends, and neighbors. This also disrupts their familiar routines, which are essential in childhood development. Maintaining familiarity, even while a child is in foster care, can help them navigate this challenging time.

Children of all ages and circumstances in Philadelphia need foster families. This includes teenagers, who may have moved from home to home for several years. Sometimes, the comfort of a loving foster family can be enough for these children to thrive and flourish until they can return to their families.

Rising numbers of kids in foster care

Over the past three years, the number of children who need foster and adoptive homes in Philadelphia, throughout Pennsylvania, and across the nation has continued to rise. As the opioid crisis impacts our communities, children are often overlooked. Families are being torn apart because of the impact of addiction and substance use disorder.

Over 250,000 children enter foster care each year. We don’t have enough foster or adoptive families to meet this demand. At the end of 2017, 123,000 kids around the country were still waiting to be adopted into a family.

We see firsthand the issues in our communities that lead to growing numbers of children being removed from their homes. With the rise of the opioid epidemic, at least 1 in 3 children enter foster care because of parental drug abuse. An increasing number of them are infants and toddlers; last year, half of the kids who entered foster care were under 5 years old.

These precious kids experience more in their lives then most adults can imagine. The trauma and brokenness are real, but the love and stability that a family can provide – as a light in the darkness, safety in the chaos, and comfort through the fear – can change their world.

What can you do?

You might read these statistics and wonder: “What can one person do?” But one person can have a powerful impact. You could open your home to a child and become a foster parent. Or, perhaps foster care is not for you, but you can make an impact by coming alongside a foster family as they care for children. You could be a mentor for a child in care or volunteer at a local agency like Bethany Christian Services. We need your help.

Bethany believes that together we can change the world through family. So the next time that you head out to dinner, to Reading Terminal or to Citizens Bank Park, just take a minute to consider—do you have room in your heart and family for one more child? We all can do something. What is your something going to be?

If you are ready to take the next step, give us a call: (215) 376-6200. We would love to talk with you and help you make an impact in the life of a child.

Become a foster parent