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May proclaimed Foster Care Awareness Month

County Executive Paul Wendel Jr. has issued a proclamation declaring May to be Foster Care Awareness Month.

Wendel asked all citizens to do something positive that will help change a lifetime for children and youth in foster care. In Chautauqua County there are 134 children and youth in foster care being provided a safe, secure, and stable home from a compassionate and nurturing foster family, including 25 through Gustavus Adolphus (GA) Family Services.

According to a news release from Chautauqua County, research has shown that:

¯ A child enters foster care every two minutes.

¯ More than 430,000 children and youth are in foster care on any given day.

¯ Most kids in care — 61% — enter the system due to neglect.

¯ The average child in care is about 8 years old.

¯ Children spend, on average, 20 months in care.

¯ Kids in care are predominantly white (44%) or African-American (23%).

¯ One in every five kids in care is Hispanic or Latino (of any race).

¯ More than 117,000 children and youth are waiting to be adopted.

¯ Nearly half — 45% — of kids in care joined a household of non-relatives for their most recent placement.

¯ More than half — 55% — of kids in care are seeking to reunite with their main parent or caretaker, according to their care plan goal.

¯ Former foster children are almost twice as likely as combat veterans to suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The latest semi-annual report issued by the New York Office of Children Services stated that there were 15,393 children in New York’s foster care system on Dec. 31, 2019.

“A hero is defined as someone who puts others before himself or herself. I can think of no one more fitting of this title than a foster parent,” said Leanna Luka-Conley, county deputy commissioner of adult, children and family services. “Those who open their hearts and homes to children are inspirational. Even during a pandemic, abused/neglected children need the safety of protective custody, and foster parents continue to open their homes and hearts.”

There has also been a shift in the type of foster placement. Licensed family foster homes have declined, while relative placements, often referred to as kinship care, have increased. More than ever, grandparents, aunts, uncles and others are being called upon to be the safe haven to children and youth.

“There are enormous challenges faced by kinship providers,” said Luka-Conley. “Grandma can never be adequately prepared to transform her life to be there full-time for her grandchildren. Relatives who weren’t even aware that a cousin/niece/grandchild had been born are now being asked to care for a child brought into the world with drug exposure and an entire array of challenges. The pandemic has brought on additional challenges such as sheltering at home, tele-commuting for work and jumping into home schooling.”

“Foster homes are always needed in our community, we want not only to be able to keep kids together with their siblings, but also in their communities,” said Ericka Garcia-Allison, director of community based services for Gustavus Adolphus (GA) Family Services. “Fostering is an amazing journey, but you don’t have to do it alone. We are here to help you through it and support you as you open your heart and home every day.”

Those interested receiving additional information regarding becoming a foster parent can call the Chautauqua County Department of Health and Human Services at 661-8051 or Gustavus Adolphus (GA) Family Services at 708-6161.

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