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All children deserve a nurturing and stable home. There are times when parents are unable to provide a safe environment for their children, so children can no longer remain with their parents. Ideally, a family member or foster parent will be capable of providing a safe place, temporarily, or in some cases permanently, for those children. There are some times, when circumstances do not allow for children to be placed in foster care, and they are placed in group or institutional settings. The hope is that the children who are placed in a group care settings are there because they benefit the most from it, not because there isn’t a family member or foster family available to place them with.

An article recently published in the Washington Post discusses a topic that has gained a lot of attention over recent years; significantly decreasing the use of residential settings for youth in the foster care system except for those who truly benefit from and need that environment.  Why?

“The longer kids stay in institutions, the less capable they are of reintegrating into society,” said Jeremy Kohomban, CEO of Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Mr. Kohomban sees the use of the residential system as a short-term emergency room where kids stabilize and then return to the community rather than a long-term placement. The Children’s Village of Dobbs Ferry has shifted their focus from residential placement to services like in-home therapy and parenting classes.

Only using institutional settings for foster children when it is the best option for the child is an idea that continues to gain support nationally. Trends in Kentucky reflect this idea, with the percentage of children placed in out-of-home care in foster care compared to other settings has increased from 70 percent in 2008 to 86 percent in 2012.

Providing more preventive supportive services for families at risk of their children being removed and recruiting more families-including relatives-to serve as foster parents were two recommendations made in the article to ensure children are in an environment that will limit trauma and provide stability.

On May 4, 2014 there were 7,659 children in out-of-home care in Kentucky. Many of those children are in foster care homes with foster parents that went through training to prepare for taking in a child at a moment’s notice.

In celebration of National Foster Care Month, we encourage you to think about how you can play a role in ensuring vulnerable children have the support that every child deserves. Maybe it is supporting your neighbor, who has stepped up to take care of her grandkids, or a member of your church who has dedicated his time to training to become a foster parent, or encouraging your policymaker to support funding for preventive support services for families.

Interested in becoming a foster parent? Click HERE for more information