Thousands of children and youth enter foster care every year, often facing a complex journey. Understanding their most pressing needs can help them flourish. Continue reading to explore these essential needs: stability, connection, and support. We can help these young individuals overcome challenges and thrive.
Stability: The Foundation for a Healthy Childhood
First and foremost, children and youth in care need stability. According to the Children’s Bureau, providing a consistent and nurturing environment is essential for children’s emotional and mental well-being. Providing stability includes regular routines, a safe living environment, and a sense of predictability.
According to a study by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, a secure attachment to a primary caregiver is essential for healthy brain development. Without this connection, children are more likely to experience behavioral problems, difficulty in school, and mental issues later in life.
In addition, a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that placement instability in foster care negatively impacts a child’s behavioral and emotional development.
To address this, child welfare agencies must strive to minimize disruptions and maintain consistent placements for children in care. The SOS Illinois Children’s Village’s commitment to keep siblings together increases stability and is one of the features of its unique and innovative model.
Connection: Building a Supportive Network
Children and youth in foster care often experience feelings of isolation and disconnection. Establishing and maintaining a connection with their birth families and community members is vital for their emotional well-being.
Connections can be strengthened by encouraging regular contact between children and their birth families through visits, phone calls, and letters. The SOS Children’s Village of Illinois actively ensures that children and youth placed in care remain connected to their biological families whenever possible. In addition, we develop tools to help birth parents navigate the sometimes confusing court system and work effectively with the Department of Children and Family Services.
Support: Meeting the Unique Needs of Foster Children and Youth
Children and youth in care require tailored support to address their unique emotional, educational, and developmental needs. A report by the National Conference of State Legislatures emphasized that children and youth in care need targeted services, like mental health counseling, educational support, and life skills training, to help them overcome the challenges they face. Two of those unique needs are mental health services.
Mental Health Services
Children and youth in foster care often experience trauma as a result of abuse, neglect, or separation from their families, leading to a range of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
A report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics outlines the challenges and importance of access to mental health services to address the staggering mental health needs of children and youth in care. Children and youth face significant adjustments when entering care. They may experience trauma, feel abandoned, and be fearful.
Caseworkers and therapists working in traditional foster care are usually responsible for many children, making it challenging to provide the needed attention and services for every child assigned to them. A significant difference between the SOS Illinois model of care and traditional foster care is daily access to on-site caseworkers and therapists.
SOS Illinois caseworkers and therapists are on-site and exclusively serve children and youth in care at the Villages and former children in SOS Illinois’ care.
Access to Quality Education and Support Services
Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and giving children in care the tools they need to succeed in life. However, many children in traditional foster care face challenges in accessing quality education and support services.
Educational outcomes for children and youth in care can be significantly improved by providing resources to address these challenges, including:
- Stability in school placements
- Access to tutoring and mentoring programs
- Individualized education plans (IEPs) when necessary
- Trauma-informed education practices
A major factor that disrupts education for children in care is constant relocation, which frequently involves changing schools. The unique and innovative SOS Illinois Foster Care model raises children in single-family homes, ensuring that children are not required to relocate, so they can remain at a single school. Children living in our Villages have an extremely low rate of absenteeism, with nearly 100 percent of our youth attending 90 percent or more days of school.
Only 50 percent of children in traditional foster care graduate from high school, and less than 5 percent complete a bachelor’s degree. SOS Illinois consistently achieves a 100 percent graduation rate, and 75 percent of those high school graduates choose to pursue a college degree.
Focusing on stability, connection, and support ensures that we create a more nurturing and empowering environment for children and youth in foster care. It’s a foundation that will enable them to build resilience, overcome challenges, and reach their full potential.
Consider Becoming an SOS Foster Parent
Foster care is a challenging and often thankless task, but it’s also an opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of children. By providing a stable and nurturing environment and addressing any trauma that a child may have experienced, foster parents can help children thrive.
If you are interested in becoming a foster parent, consider signing up with SOS Children’s Villages Illinois. One thing that sets SOS Illinois apart from traditional foster care is full-time, professional Foster Parents. The SOS Illinois model places Foster Parents in single-family homes in one of its Villages that up to six children, ranging in age from infants to young adults, call home.
Change a Child’s Life Today!
If you decide becoming a foster parent isn’t the right choice, there are many other ways to support foster children and other foster parents. Donations change lives! You can also help by participating in an SOS Illinois fundraising event. The generosity of donors has enabled us to provide safe, stable, loving homes for more than thirty years.