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updated: 5/2/2013 10:44 AM

National Foster Care Month: an opportunity of a lifetime

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David Bakker

Being a foster parent includes its share of challenges and joys. But it also allows foster children to share in the joy of having someone to support them after often having suffered through abuse, neglect or significant family issues. They need someone to love them and support them as they develop and find their places in life. For many of these children, it is an opportunity of a lifetime.

When the opportunity came for Jamal to foster parent his niece Paula (not their real names), he was concerned. He and his wife had never been parents before, and he hadn't finished high school. And Paula's life had been a struggle to this point. She was born with drugs in her system. Her birth mother was arrested following the sale of drugs to an undercover police officer and a high-speed chase during which her two children were in the car. At that point Jamal's concern for Paula took over and he and his wife agreed to care for her. Now with the support of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS), Jamal and his wife are providing a loving, stable home for Paula. Jamal is nearing completion of his GED and he and his wife are moving toward adopting Paula and another child who is also in their care.

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In its last fiscal year, LCFS supervised the care of 1,367 foster children. It also helped 322 foster children achieve permanency/positive outcomes through family reunification (123), adoption (168), guardianships (25) and emancipation (6).

According to "Illinois Kids Count 2013: Making Policy, Making Progress" from Voices for Illinois Children, "...new threats to our state's children have emerged. Our system faces an epic funding crisis. DCFS has been hit by deep budget cuts. Pressures of the economy and demands of high-need children pose additional risks to private providers and discourage families from becoming foster parents. Permanency is harder to obtain for more difficult and older children. We struggle to help birth families break the cycle of intergenerational abuse and build community connections."

There are challenges, and clearly, the need for foster parents is as strong as it's ever been. LCFS can help prospective foster parents become licensed. We also provide follow-up training and support as foster parents open their homes to one or more children in need of care. For more information on foster parenting and who can be a foster parent, go to www.lcfs.org/FosterCare or call 800-363-LFCS (5237).

Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois (LCFS) is a non-profit social ministry organization serving some 40,000 individuals annually with programs such as foster care, adoption, counseling, residential treatment and a variety of community services. For more information on LCFS, call 800-363-LFCS, or visit us at www.lcfs.org or www.facebook.com/LCFSIL.

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