A Snapshot of Traditional Foster Care
On any given day, there are nearly 424,000 children in foster care in the United States. The average length of stay for a child is 19.8 months. This timeline increases another 1 – 1.5 years if the child is awaiting adoption. Additionally, foster parent retention rates continue to decline. Yet, children entering foster care continues to rise in correlation to systemic issues, such as the opioid crisis. There are currently more children in foster care than foster parents available to provide support. As a result of the frequent shifting in foster parenting and lack of resources, children in foster care are often reduced to moving from one placement to another. A child on average will move close to one and a half times per year. Frequent moves for anyone would be overwhelming, but for a young, vulnerable life, it is even more so.
With each placement, there is a new adult watching over that child. This means a new set of house rules, a new neighborhood, a new school, new teachers, new classes, new classmates, and new friends. With so much “newness” it’s no wonder that children in traditional foster care fall behind in schoolwork. Even more heartbreaking is this disruption makes children in foster care feel less and less connected to siblings, family, friends, and their community. They become increasingly isolated and grow up never feeling a part of a family or community.
The Village Model of Care Making an Impact
This is where the Village Model of Care at SOS Illinois makes the largest impact. When a child is placed in our care, we create stability in that child’s life from day one. There are no more 14-day notices. The core of our mission, the very thing that makes us different, and the reason we have incredible success resides in the environment we create in our single-family homes.
Our Village homes allow our children to go to sleep and wake up with their heads on the same pillow. This means our children will experience having the same bed, in the same room, with their siblings under the same roof, with the same Foster Parent, using the same house rules, as they attend the same school, with the same group of friends, in the same community. This “sameness” means our children experience a dependable routine. Safety, security, healing, and love are our highest priority. Once a child feels these things, we begin to change the narrative for a child in foster care.
The SOS Illinois Difference for Foster Care
With a model focused on creating the least-disruptive path towards permanency, SOS Illinois’ mission is to provide a loving, stable environment for siblings in Illinois foster care. Key to our environment is our team of caregivers. Our professionally trained, full-time Foster Parents provide 24/7 care and love to our children in our homes. The household is surrounded with support from a full network of case managers, workshop facilitators, administrative team members, on-site clinical therapists, and other Foster Parents. Our team of caregivers all work together to provide the highest quality care to the children we serve.
A Difference That Matters: SOS Illinois Stability and Success
The pillars of our model allow for higher retention rates, meaning that the children in our care are far less likely to move. In 2020, our average length of Foster Parent service was five years, creating much-needed consistency. Additionally, when an SOS Illinois Foster Parent does leave our community, the children in their home do not have to pack up and move. Instead, a new Foster Parent joins our community and moves into the Village home with the children. This difference means children at SOS Illinois are not regularly changing schools, losing peer groups, facing separation from their siblings, and feeling the additional weight of uneasy transition. As a result of this difference, SOS Illinois has celebrated a 100% high school graduation rate for over a decade, compared to the national average of around 50% of teens in foster care.
Supporting the Future of Foster Care
For over 30 years, SOS Illinois has achieved many success, but we haven’t done this along. We have done this with the support of our generous partners, donors, and friends. Building the future of foster care is a community effort; and we are thankful that you are joining us in our pursuit towards healing and hope. By joining us as a Dream Maker, you can help us ensure that we have the resources we need to keep our mission alive for years to come, creating pathways to lifelong stability. If you’d prefer to get involved on-site, becoming a Foster Parent, Relief Parent, or Child Welfare Specialist means you’ll be a key player on our Villages, providing care, building confidence, and accompanying children in foster care on their journeys towards their “forever home.”
In whatever way you get involved, know that your role is crucial to helping the children in our care truly feel as if our homes are a place for them. Your contribution will mean our children will grow up centered, stable, connected to family, and as part of a larger community.