Have you ever considered becoming a foster parent?


In the state of Maine, the need is high right now. According to specialists, the state is at a critical point where the number of foster homes in our area has led to longer waiting times for kids in residential facilities and ERs.

May is Foster Care Awareness Month.

Folks like Suzette Johnston, Family Resource Specialist for the Bangor KidsPeace office in Bangor, say they hope more people consider fostering kids, especially older children.

Paper foster care family of three with gold key

"As kids start to get a little bit older, people tend to shy away from fostering those older kids. A lot of people want to foster  0 to 4-year-olds. So there's a huge need for foster parents for that 8 and up range, especially teenagers."

Johnston says when folks get involved with fostering, they both give and get so much from the experience.

"Providing stability, you know, a listening ear; being able to let kids know that they do have somebody there for them, somebody that's listening to them. Really getting to know the kids that are in your home. Really making them feel that they have a safe place to land at the end of the day."

mother and little daughter play at sunset

"It's really just a very amazing experience. You're providing a child with a safe, stable loving home. I think that's really the eye-opening thing for a lot of foster parents, to just watch these kids experience things they've never experienced before. Maybe they're experiencing something like being on 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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Johnston and her husband spent a decade, 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.

"You really need to be open-minded and definitely flexible. You know, things can change in a moment; whether that be visits, a court hearing, you know, always being respectful to the family of origin. You know, that's really important. At the end of the day, these are people who lost their kids, too, and really being cognisant of that. And also being able to ask for help. To be able to reach out and be a team player."

Foster Care Awareness Month, Suzette Johnston
Foster Care Awareness Month, Suzette Johnston

"Ultimately the goal is reunification, and I think that's really important for people who are going into fostering to know that that's always the goal is to reunify with the birth families. "

For those considering becoming a foster parent, the process may seem a little overwhelming, but Johnston says it's really not that complicated.

Foster Hope Sign, Suzette Johnston
Foster Hope Sign, Suzette Johnston

If you've been a licensed for foster care for over a year, or have paid professional experience working with children, especially with mild to moderate disabilities, there's a great deal of need for folks with those credentials.

However, the state is looking for foster parents of all types.

Aside from needing to be at least 21 years old, the process includes an interview, a home study, and a background check among other things, but Johnston says agencies will usually work with you as you get certified, to help you navigate things.

If you'd like more information Johnston says there are a couple of events coming right up that you could go check out.

Foster Care Awareness Month, Suzette Johnston
Foster Care Awareness Month, Suzette Johnston

Johnston says folks from Kidspeace will be out, answering questions at both the Glenburn Community Festival on Saturday, June 15th, and at the Bangor Pride Festival on Saturday, June 22nd.

Or you can go to the website Fostercare.com  or call the KidsPeace office at 207-299-1414, for more information.

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