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May is National Foster Care Month. The 2014 theme is “Building Blocks Toward Permanent Families." Rene Clements, foster parent and president of the National Foster Parent Association says, “Foster parents play an important role in family reunification as they provide information, compassion, mentoring, and other supports to birth parents.”

Foster parenting officially began in the US in 1912 through the work of the Children’s Bureau, a part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. Over time the bureau has published brochures about everything from minimum care standards to “The Bill of Rights for Foster Children.” Not all children in foster care in the US through the past 100+ years were US born. During World War II, for example, 8,000 children from war torn areas of Europe were brought to US shores for safety. Today there are over 400,000 children are in foster care in the US.

According to HHS, there are a disproportionate amount of African American children in foster care, compared to Caucasian children. According to statistics African American children have a 44% higher chance of foster care placement than Caucasian children. These results were based on a sampling from about 4 million Child Protective Services investigations.

The number of children in foster care at any specific time period varies, based largely on the economic trends of the country. When jobs dwindle, many poverty level parents cannot afford to support families independently, even with help from social service organizations. During the 2010 fiscal year (Oct. 2009- Sep’t. 2010) 662,000 children were in foster care. By the end of September 2010, the number has diminished to 408,000 as the economy improved.

About 53% of children exit foster care after one year or more. The average child changes foster care placement more than three times during foster care. 65% of children who have been in foster care changed schools seven times. Half of children in foster care have chronic medical problems. About 28,000 children age out of foster care each year without having a permanent home.

More than three times the number of homeless people were foster care children compared to non-foster care children. By contrast, about 25% of foster care alumni suffer from PTSD, which is roughly the same percentage as war veterans.

To find out more information about foster care, how to become a foster parent, and how to help foster children in any other ways, click here.

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