Foster parents make a difference, one child at a time

Thursday, May 12, 2016

We're sure you've heard the story about the old man walking along the beach, who spotted a boy in the distance.

Every so often, the young man would bend over, pick something up and throw it into the water.

Drawing closer, the old man discovered the object of the boy's activities. Starfish.

The old man was amused by the boy's explanation.

"The sun's coming up and if I don't throw them back, they'll die," he said.

"But there are miles of beach and thousands of starfish," the old man responded. "What difference does it make? You'll never help them all."

"That's true," the boy said, bending over to pick up another and repeat the process.

"But it will make a difference to that one."

Pundits and politicians spend many hours debating public policies that affect thousands of children in foster care in Nebraska and other states. Nebraska's foster system has been open to criticism in the past.

There were 2,746 children in out-of-home foster care in Nebraska as of the first of May, about a third lower than three years ago as the agency works to return children to their biological families. Whether real long-term improvements have been achieved remains to proven.

"During National Foster Care Month in May, we especially thank the wonderful foster parents who open their hearts and homes to provide a temporary, safe place for children who are not able to remain with their parents," said Courtney Phillips, CEO of the Department of Health and Human Services.

"We appreciate the love and compassion they show for these children, and we know there are more Nebraskans willing to help."

Even with fewer children in foster care, matching them with the adults who can provide the best environment is a daunting task.

"It's important when the court places children in our care that, if they must be removed from their homes, we find the best possible match depending on the needs of the child," said Tony Green, acting director of Children and Family Services. "The more foster homes available to us, the more likely we are to find foster parents who will be best for a child."

Support groups for foster parents are available in 14 cities across the state, and they receive training before receiving children. With chapters across the state, the Nebraska Foster and Adoptive Parent Association supports and advocates for foster families. DHHS foster care employees also work with foster families.

Information about foster parenting is available by calling 1-800-7-PARENT. Or, go to: http://1.usa.gov/1shbVMw.

Most of us are overwhelmed with the thought of taking care of thousands of kids in foster care, but we can be like the boy on the beach.

We can make a difference to one child at a time.

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