Imagine that you are getting ready to host a party. You have taken the time and effort to slowly fill a bright assortment of balloons with helium. As you turn to greet your new guests, you realize that you forgot to hold on tightly to the dazzling balloons and they are slowly floating up and away into the sky. According to an estimate from the Foster Care Institute, foster family attrition was as high as 50 percent in 2016. We all know that the years of experience and training invested in current foster families only increases their value. Our goal is not to let them float away.
Data is limited on the reasons some families stop fostering. Instead of looking at what’s going wrong, let’s focus on what we can do to keep foster families engaged and ready to commit for the long term. When surveyed nationally, foster families shared needing support in the following areas:
- Trauma-informed respite care to allow families time to take care of other responsibilities or for when they need a few days to recharge
- Parent coaching to help understand how to deal with child behaviors that are new to them or to provide guidance with a particular child
- Education and behavioral health support that children need to be successful
- A 24-hour crisis hotline available to help them de-escalate a situation and avoid hospitalization or a call to law enforcement during trying times
- A community of support to turn to for information and camaraderie
Foster family retention happens when families feel involved, respected, appreciated, and valued as a member of a team of professionals working together to create better lives for families. At the Coalition, we are here to support you with this effort. If you have ideas that have worked in retaining foster families, let us know. We would be happy to share them in a future issue of Foster Care Footnotes. If you need help with retention, give us a call and ask to speak to any of our Resource Specialists. We are here for you.