May is National Foster Care Month, a month set aside to acknowledge foster parents, family members and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care find permanent homes and connections.
In 2014, there were more than 400,000 children and youth in foster care in the U.S. That’s more than double the number of kids who were in the system in the mid-1980s.
In Alabama alone there are approximately 5,450 children of all ages in foster care, all of whom cannot currently live with their birth families due to the risk of neglect, physical or sexual abuse.
These children are in desperate need of a safe haven, a caring and loving environment. Foster care provides them just that until they can either return home, to relatives or achieve permanency through adoption.
Nearly every community across the state is seeking more foster parents to meet the needs of children and youth of all ages. Foster homes allow displaced youth to live together with their siblings, remain in their own neighborhoods and stay in their same schools.
Often times perspective foster parents have the desire to help, but worry about the financial costs associated with taking on a child. In the Yellowhammer State there are many programs designed to help make foster care more feasible for qualified parents.
This begins with a monthly subsidy, or “board payment,” to go toward housing, utilities, clothing, food and extra-curricular activities. According to Alabama Foster and Adoptive Parent Association, the 2016 monthly board payment rate for the State of Alabama is below:
Ages Beginning 1/1/16
- 0-2 $462.78
- 3-5 $476.69
- 6-12 $488.46
- 13+ $501.30
Additionally, all children who are in foster care receive Medicaid through the state. Meaning, you will not pay for health, vision, prescription or dental costs. Foster parents also have access to daycare for children under five years old while they’re at work, funded by the state’s Child Care Management Agencies (CMA).
Of course there are some basic requirements for all foster parents. According to the Alabama Department of Human Resources website, you could be a foster parent if:
- You are at least 19 years of age;
- You can provide a safe, comfortable atmosphere for the child;
- Your home conforms to Alabama Minimum Standards for Foster Family Homes;
- Your home has enough space for the child and his or her belongings;
- All members of your family are willing to share their home with a child who needs care;
- All members of your family are in good health;
- All adults in the home are willing to undergo a thorough background check, including criminal history.
Here are the steps to take if you’re interested in fostering a child:
- Check and make sure that your home meets Alabama Minimum Standards (link above).
- Download and complete the Application.
- Find the mailing address of your County DHR.
- A Social Worker should contact you within a week. If you do not hear from someone, call weekly to check in.
Foster parenting is a rewarding opportunity that helps shape brighter futures for displaced children. But there is a variety of other meaningful ways for individuals, organizations and communities to get involved and make a lasting difference in the lives of young people in foster care. Call 1-866-4AL-Kids to get more information about becoming a foster parent or learn about other ways you can help.