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May 2019: An Important Anniversary in National Foster Care Month History

National Foster Care Month provides an opportunity for everyone to learn about how they can enhance the lives of children in foster care. May was originally declared as the month to recognize foster care in 1988 by President Reagan as a way to focus on giving recognition to foster parents. Since then the theme has changed every year. This year’s theme is about emphasizing the fact that foster care is a supporting service to parents, not a substitute for a permanent home, and that the best chance of reunification happens when community resources and partnerships are properly leveraged. But the Children’s Bureau has been the leading advocate for foster care for a lot longer than 31 years.

At the beginning of the 20th Century, America had a revolution in the way they viewed the government’s role in managing society’s ills. The Progressive Era had brought about a new taste for social reform, including a hunger for children’s welfare change. At the time, the vast majority of children who were “parentless” were placed in institutions run by religious or private organizations. This would become one of the many things the federal Children’s Bureau was determined to change after its founding. In 1919, 100 years ago, the Bureau published Minimum Standards of Child Welfare, which urged the importance of creating a “home life” with foster families rather than placing children in orphanages. From that point on, foster care grew in popularity until it became the model of state care for children in need in all 50 states in the nation.

In support of the theme this year, The Children’s Bureau has collected several resources that show foster care is a support for families and can help maximize the chances of reunification. The first two are websites that provide print and electronic publications, websites, databases, and online learning tools for improving child welfare practice, both for professionals and foster care parents alike. You can find these websites here: https://www.childwelfare.gov/fostercaremonth/resources/. They also have a website dedicated to building capacity for local government agencies and child welfare professionals, located here: https://capacity.childwelfare.gov/.

Although each Foster Care Month has a specific theme, it is still a time to recognize that we can each play a part in improving the lives of youth in foster care. Members in the adoption community, along with foster parents, foster youth, and child welfare professionals and caregivers can honor and recognize National Foster Care Month by spreading the word. We hope you will join us in making sure all voices that want to speak about foster care are heard.

Nick Weaver is the Volunteer and Outreach VISTA at Adoption Network Cleveland