May is Foster Care Awareness Month.

Suzette Johnston, Family Resource Specialist with KidsPeace says organizations like KidsPeace are trying to spread the word that the need for Foster Families is at a critical high at the moment.

Foster Care Awareness Month, Suzette Johnston
Foster Care Awareness Month, Suzette Johnston
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"We definitely are at a critical point at the moment in our state. We have a reduced amount of Foster Homes and right now we have kids that are waiting longer lengths of stays in ERs and residential facilities just waiting for a home to open up."

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Johnston says the requirements to become a foster parent are pretty simple:

"You do need to be at least 21 years of age. You can be married. You can be single. I think we have a variety of foster and resource homes where some are very clear that they only want to foster to adopt, and some are very clear that they want to work with as many kids as need them. We have kinship families. So there are definitely many different ways to become a foster parent. "

GeorgeRudy
GeorgeRudy
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For those considering becoming a foster parent, the process may seem a little overwhelming, but Johnston says it's really not that complicated, and organizations like KidsPeace exist to help folks navigate the ins and outs.

Paper foster care family of three with gold key
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"They do need to be able to pass a state-run background check. The Department of Health and Human Services does offer classes. Right now, they're being offered on Zoom. There is an application to fill out. Then there's a home study involved..."

Johnston spent a decade, with her husband, as foster parents before filling their home with adopted children. She says while the experience can be challenging, it is also incredibly rewarding to know the positive impact you can have on a child's life.

Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures
Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures
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"It's really just a very amazing experience. You're providing a child with a safe, stable loving home. I think that really the eye-opening thing for a lot of foster parents is to just watch these kids experience things that they've never experienced before. Maybe they're experiencing something like being a sports team for the first time. Or maybe they're experiencing something you and I would think is simple like sitting down for a meal, and being in a family that can afford a meal. Just watching a child who has not been able to smile before this, smile. Part of that comes from stability; living in a stable home where it becomes predictable. Children will thrive when they feel safe."

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Comstock
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Johnston says while some kids may present with challenges, foster parents should always know they are part of a team and have lots of people and resources at their disposal to help. She says being a team player, and being empathetic to the child and their biological parents/families make the experience as a foster family more successful.

Foster Care Awareness Month, Suzette Johnston
Foster Care Awareness Month, Suzette Johnston
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If you'd like more information Johnston says you can check out a special event taking place May 14th. It's a Foster and Adoptive Family event at Fort Knox. There are posters and yard signs around town with QR codes you can scan. Or you can go to the website Fostercare.com for more information.

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