- The Washington Times
Sunday, April 11, 2021

U.S. demand for foster parents is “at an all-time high,” an advocacy group says, as the influx of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border is breaking records.

Some will need American foster families, but there is already a shortage, experts say. The group iFoster Inc. in Truckee, California, says the nation has about 438,000 fostered youth. The federal government put the number at 424,000 in 2020.

“Despite child welfare’s efforts to prevent the removal of children from their parents, the number of children in foster care has been increasing,” the group states. “Currently, we are at an all-time high as the demand for foster parents is far higher than the supply and factors like parental opioid addiction are forcing more children to be removed from their homes.”

Amid the current surge of migrants crossing the southern border, nearly 20,000 unaccompanied minors entered the U.S. in March alone, a monthly record.

“How many of these thousands of minors coming across our southern border do not have family members in the U.S. able to take care of them in a loving home?” Marguerite Telford, chief of communications for the Center for Immigration Studies, told The Washington Times. “We have been told over the last few years that there is a foster care shortage. The crisis at the border will expand the shortage and children will be the ones who pay the price. This border crisis will be impacting America in so many ways for years to come.”

For now, the children are being dispersed to border detention centers, some with harsh conditions, and then transported to other sites. One such destination is the Fairplex in Los Angeles County, which plans to take in 2,500 children.

California, where there are an estimated 55,000 kids in foster homes, already faces a foster family shortage. The Foster Care Institute says homeless youths are increasing while foster parents are declining.

Bonnie Preston, acting regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the children are fleeing gang violence and discrimination and will need U.S. homes.

“These people have to be vetted and it takes time,” Ms. Preston said, according to PressTelegram.com in Long Beach. “If the sponsor doesn’t check out, HHS will work with the county Department of Children and Family Services and local nonprofits to find a foster family or even a person willing to adopt a migrant child.”

John DeGarmo, who directs the Foster Care Institute, wrote an article in 2018, titled “The Foster Care Crisis: The Shortage Of Foster Parents In America.”

“The shortage of foster homes across the nation can in part be attributed to the increase of children being placed into care,” Mr. DeGarmo wrote. “In some parts of the nation, there has been a sudden and large increase of children placed into care due much in part of an increase in parental drug usage and substance abuse, with Heroin use being the chief drug increasing among parents.”

NBC News reported in December: “The nation’s foster care system has been especially overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic, with experts and state agencies saying more children are entering the system, and fewer families are willing to take them in for fear of spreading COVID-19.”

There are a multitude of nonprofits trying to recruit parents into the foster leagues.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has a pitch: “Become a foster parent to an unaccompanied refugee or immigrant minor! The URM [Unaccompanied Refugee Minor] foster care programs are separate from domestic foster care programs in that they have been developed by agencies with expertise in working with foreign-born children. Foster families are oriented towards the particular needs of refugee and immigrant children.”

Online and TV ads appear across the nation from groups and government agencies seeking foster parents for American kids.

Alaska’s Office of Children’s Services says on its website: “Will you be the difference for one child? You don’t have to live in a big city to be a foster parent. You don’t have to have a big house, a fancy car or lots of money. What you need is a home. What you need is a heart that can open to a child who needs you. Won’t you become a foster parent today? A child is waiting.”

A YouTube ad says more than 2,000 Alaskan kids need foster homes right now. Another ad features Alaskan foster parents repeating the slogan, “For One Child.”

Imprint News.org, a nonprofit website devoted to youth and family news, said some agencies are searching Craigslist to find families.

ImprintNews reported in 2018 that “a shortage of foster parents continues across the United States.” The site carries an ad that reads, “Are you interested in becoming a foster parent? Love Hope Foster.”

Anu Family Services, a private nonprofit providing help for kids and parents in Wisconsin and Minnesota, also has an ad: “Did you know there are 1000s of kids in our community that don’t have a safe place to call home? You already have what it takes to be a hero to a child. Please consider being a foster parent.”

iFoster Inc. presented sobering facts about foster care graduates: “Within four years of aging out, 50% have no earnings, and those who do make an average annual income of $7,500. After a foster youth ages out, homelessness and unemployment become a huge issue. Despite there being more than 34 million entry level jobs nationwide, many foster youth aren’t prepared to be independent and don’t have the skills or resources needed to access the opportunities that could launch them into employment.”

• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at rscarborough@washingtontimes.com.

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